The beginning of the year is a time for fresh starts, goal-setting, and new commitments. One of the most common resolutions is to get to the gym more consistently. However, this promise often fades before we see spring.
Health clubs and the fitness professionals are increasingly employing community management tactics to improve customer satisfaction and retain members. What can online community managers learn from this approach?
Simple Online Community Lessons from Fitness Pros
Lesson #1) Make It Easy
According to fitness pros, you will use the gym more if it is close to your house/job, easy to park and check-in, use the locker room, and find the equipment you want to use. Make is easy for your customers or members to find information and engage with your organization and others in your online community.
Lesson #2) Community Plays a Large Part
One of the biggest reasons that people join and remain in fitness classes is a sense of community. It is easier to stay committed to being worked to exhaustion if you have other members and instructors around you with whom you can struggle, laugh, gripe and ask advice.
Lesson #3) Onboarding is Important
In the same way that the first few weeks at a gym are a critical retention period, it is very important that the first few months of an online community experience are positive. Create an onboarding process that may include assigning ambassadors to welcome new community members, special groups for new members, and a high-touch email communication plan.
Lesson #4) Educate
Similar to the fitness industry, the more relevant and helpful information you can provide to each customer segment, the more likely your target audience is to understand your value and see your organization as a thought-leader in an area that matters to them.
Lesson #5) Celebrate Small Wins
Working out is all about motivation. Give your customers or members a sense of accomplishment by recognizing small wins in your community. You can use badges and leaderboard tools built into your online community software to celebrate little victories such as the long-time member who is just now getting engaged online or the most popular blog posts for the past month.
Lesson #6) Maintain Comfort and Civility
Putting yourself out there and getting to the health club can be tough. It also takes a certain level of comfort in an online community to speak up with a comment, post a blog article, or ask a question in a new discussion. Be aware of the tone of your community and avoid letting the nastiness of a handful of individuals degrade the value of your community for others.
Lesson #7) Listen and Know Your Members
Successful workout programs are not about the fitness company or facility. Health club management and personal trainers can't take patrons where they don't want to go. Similarly, successful online communities are not about your organization. Listen to your members or customers. Find out what they want to achieve and design your online community, its content, and its features around your members' goals and abilities.
Lesson #8) Hold Offline Events
Some gyms hold happy hours, parent nights out, or single nights designed to build community among its members. In the same vein, your members or customers will feel more comfortable visiting and participating in your online community if they already have relationships with other members. In-person events are a great way to develop those relationships.
Next time you are fulfilling your New Year's resolution at the gym, look around at all of the different ways that they are building community. Ask you trainer, instructor, or the guy who works the front desk about how they get people to come back. You may find that recognizing community building strategies in your offline world will give you ideas to keep your customers or members engaged in your online community.