Welcome to the jungle
Social media is an ever-changing environment. At the beginning of my social media journey, I knew basically nothing. I was never very active on twitter because that platform didn’t resonate with me. Facebook was a completely different platform than it is now, and the stuff that I now post on my InstaStory is what I posted on my static feed many moons ago.
Building a strong social media following is basically a full time job. You have to diligently post every day around the same time, constantly update your story, create compelling content, on top of, you know, actually living your life. Some days, it feels like a necessary evil. In a world that is increasingly digital and tied to the tiny computer we carry around in our hands, having a presence on the interwebs is important.
The first thing I do when I try out a new instructor is google them or find them on Instagram. I want to get an idea of who this person is before I drop almost 40 dollars on one class. You can bet that clients do the same thing. When clients look you up, what do they find? First impressions, even digital ones, last. What is your brand and how do you communicate that?
First things first
Let’s establish the major difference between a brand and an influencer. A brand is a larger idea that serves a larger purpose. A brand has a mission statement, a mantra, a specific way in which they want to impact the world. In the words of Lin Manuel Miranda, brands “wanna build something that’s gonna outlive [them]”. Influencers, on the other hand, while they might have a specific purpose, are people that brands use to shine a spotlight on their particular product. An influencer is like the cool kid in high school. They pick up on trends and spread them far and wide to their following. Both are incredibly important and ultimately the relationship is symbiotic. Brands use influencers for visibility, and in the same way influencers find more highly engaged followers by partnering with brands that align with their aesthetic.
If you are a studio, this is an obvious choice. You are a brand. You probably have people devoted to creating content for you. You most likely have a marketing team that specializes in digital outreach. If you are instructor, it’s a harder differentiation. You can be a teacher and a influence or a teacher and a brand. Neither is right or wrong. It truly depends on what your goals are and why you are engaging in social media.
Who are you? What do you want?
Once you answer those questions, the rest falls into place. Everything you post, whether a brand or influencer, is in service of those two questions. While I’m sure your corgi is the cutest thing in the world, if he isn’t somehow in a picture that forwards the message of the brand, then probably keep him to Snapchat.
On Creating a Community
Ultimately, every person wants to be seen. Every human wants to feel heard. Every human wants to feel like are a part of something. It’s hard wired into us to search for authentic community and belonging. One of the great benefits of social media is that we have the opportunity to connect with people around the world in seconds, and by doing so, create a global community of like-minded individuals. If you are doing the work of facilitating a space in which people feel heard, the community creator, then you must continue the work of hearing all the people who engage with you.
Start to engage with other users in your community. That looks like: responding to every comment and DM, engaging students on your story, asking questions and responding to the needs of the community you are building. Like their photos and comment on their posts. People want to feel like they matter. Show them that they do.
Building the initial community takes time. Using hashtags that are relevant to your brand and the particular piece of content will help your post get discovered. A general rule of thumb is that the hashtag should have somewhere between 5000 and 500,000 uses. If you dip below the lower end of that spectrum, you risk not being discovered at all. If you surge above, you risk being lost amongst the sea of post connected to the hashtag.
Easy ways to publicly engage your community:
1. Ask questions in each posts
2. Use the poll feature in the story to ask questions and get realtime response
3. Run challenges or contests
4. Post in your story people that tag you or post about your class
5. Respond to every comment
On Content Creation
Content creation is hard. When you create content, it needs to come from an authentic place. Honestly, the hardest part can be getting over the awkwardness that is asking your friends to take dope pictures of you. If you want to step your game up, start with a photographer who is looking to do TFP (meaning, he/she will take your photo to build his/her portfolio and give you a copy of all of the images).
Fstop is a great resources for creatives. The next level is paying a professional photographer to capture exactly what you're looking for. Ultimately, start to develop your own eye so that you can start to be self sufficient in the content creation world.
All of your content also needs to look like it belongs together. One great trick I’ve learned is to go out every other week and capture a bunch of content, edit it all together, and then upload it to a great planning tool called Planoly. You can move around potential posts on the grid to perfect the overall flow.
How are you using your story? If your fixed grid acts as more presentational version of your brand, the story is the way for people to see the real behind the scenes aspects of you. It's a great way to engage community and get them interested in your story.
Editing can seem overwhelming if you’ve never encountered Photoshop before, but fret not! There are hundreds of apps that more or less mimic Photoshop in more user-friendly way.
If you happen to have Photoshop/the Adobe Creative Cloud, look into these editing apps for your phone:
Social media opens up the doors for so many different ways to build relationships and community. It’s given students a way to connect with the teacher outside of the studio. Ultimately, I’ve found that people will come to whatever modality of class you teach because they like you, as a person/brand/energy. They will DM you with things they’ve tried on their own. They will shower you with support and good vibes on all of your endeavors. They will engage with you and keep coming back to class because they love who you are (the taco eating, yoga teaching, corgi loving, adventurer). Do what you can to respond. Show your students that you care. One comment can go a long way.
Social media also opens up the doors to build relationships with other instructors and brands. The fitness community is incredibly interconnected and that is made clear by the overlapping followers. I personally believe in a culture of inclusion and mutual support (as opposed to viewing others as competition). The more we can lean on each other, the more we can collaborate, the greater reach and impact we have. Reach out to other instructors. Ask if they want to do some sort of collaboration or challenge.
The Importance of Being Intentional
As a brand or an influencer, I’ve found that I must be incredibly careful with the other brands I partner with. It’s awesome that brand a will reach out for collaborations either via email, the contact submission form on a website or DM, but you must discern which partnerships are the most beneficial to bolstering the overall mission of your brand. If you say yes to every company that approaches you, you lose your own voice and become merely the mouthpiece of others. It all comes back to those two questions: Who are you? What do you want? If in every single piece of content you answer those questions, there is a high chance that the authentic you will shine through.
Social media is a powerful tool that you can use to build community, continue relationships, develop a brand identity, and create sponsorship opportunities. Like any journey, the hardest part taking the first step. Once you do, you’ll find the flow and the frequency that works for you. Happy creating!
Kristin Calabria is a yoga instructor and fitness blogger based in NYC. Learn more about Kristin and read additional posts on her blog.