5 Steps To Building A Fitness Community Online

Let’s face it, if you’re reading this you probably already have a Facebook account. At least the chances are high if you; 1) are on the internet, and 2) are reading a blog post. Just because you have a Facebook account, however, doesn’t mean you know the best way to go about building a network online. I’ve had a Facebook account for a long time, but there are a lot of things I didn’t know about building a network online for my interests. I have come a long way (am still learning) and want to share 5 steps I’ve taken to building a fitness community online.

Why build an online community based around fitness and health?

Quick answer: Most of us don’t have a BFF that is also a personal trainer or dietician. But more than that…

  1. Knowledge is power and a network has more of it than an individual. When you have questions (What is a pood? How do I cook with coconut oil? Where do I find a good sports bra?), your network will have answers. Or at least, they will link you in the right direction faster than you can say, “High Intensity Interval Training”!
  2. Influence & Support. If it was true in junior high, it’s true today: you are influenced by those you surround yourself with. However, if you’re the only one in your existing sphere to make health and fitness a priority, you’ve got to get influenced elsewhere. My online running community is an awesome influence for me! Having a fitness community that is interested in your latest run or WOD helps keep you motivated to get it after it.
  3. Reality checks. Bodies vary. Your ideal diet may not be mine. Your ideal workout won’t look like mine. My body, even if it were as fit as it could be, will NEVER look exactly like some fitness model. Building a real community online that you trust can help you be patient with yourself and your results.

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5 Steps To Building A Fitness Community Online

Here are some tidbits that I wish I would’ve known a couple years ago.

  1. Screen Shot 2013-02-18 at 8.22.31 AMFind a Few Bloggers You Like. Then see who they like to read. Here’s the thing about bloggers: they’re conversationalists. They WANT to hear from you and engage with you. That’s why we’re putting our hearts on our sleeves thoughts on the internet. Find a blogger whose opinion you value and who has similar interests/goals and engage with them. Leave comments. Like their Facebook page and follow what they’re doing. If you let them know, “Hey, I’m here following you”, there is a good chance that they’ll respond personally and be willing to answer your questions or give you some ideas or tips. And where one blogger is, more can be found. A network of bloggers (like FitFluential) can be a great place to find MORE people eager to engage.
  2. Screen Shot 2013-02-18 at 8.23.23 AMTweet. Well, first of all you have to be on Twitter. I thought the whole thing was stupid a year ago. Then, I realized that in order to be taken seriously as a social media marketer and blogger, I had to join. It didn’t take me long to realize that Twitter is awesome for networking! My favorite bloggers to read have been found through Twitter. I now have a regular list of Tweeps (Twitter People) that I love to message and follow. I’ve gotten some of the best information on running and health through Twitter links and hashtags. Once I was comfortable with Twitter, I started joining in on scheduled Twitter Chats – which has helped me to find more people with similar interests and even win some free stuff, believe it or not (like a $150 Gift Card to Lorna Jane!!!!).
  3. Join a Group. Yahoo or Facebook or Ning communities are likely to have a group for your interests. If not, start one. There are a number of niche communities online (using either Ning social networking websites or even Yahoo groups) or groups within Facebook that can provide you with excellent resources. I’m in a few different Facebook groups made up of SoCal trail runners who are constantly posting about running meet ups, the latest shoe or which hydration pack worked best, etc. I’ve met some of these people in person at races! I know they’re experienced and I trust their advice/recommendations. If you CrossFit, check out AMRAP4Life.
  4. Screen Shot 2013-02-18 at 8.15.46 AMSearch for Local Event References: Search blog/twitter/facebook profiles that reference a local event or your city/region name. This is a great way to find some people nearby. Building a fitness community online doesn’t mean you ONLY engage with people on the internet. However, sometimes the easiest way to find these people is through searching your online networks. This is how I found out about the local Road Runner Sports stores (and got another gift card) as well as local running groups and Barefoot Ken Bob.
  5. Join in & Share: You don’t have to have something brilliant to say to comment on someone’s blog and let them know you liked their stuff. Similarly, you don’t need to have a brilliant blog to share your interest in fitness via whatever social media channel you are comfortable with. Going back to plain ‘ol Facebook; if you post about trying to get out for a run on your Facebook page, I guarantee you that friends who like to run will start to pay attention. Just by sharing what you’re doing you’ll attract others with similar interests. You never know if one of your cousins is also passionate about Pilates unless you bring it up! If you already have a blog, then you know that you’ve got to give some love to get some love. Reading and commenting on others blogs and sharing the posts you really like (on your social networks or via email) will go a long way toward others returning the favor and engaging with you.

Some cautionary words.

  • Haters gonna hate. If you’re excited about trying something new and you share it online, there will always be a contrarian who feels obligated to inform you that running a marathon is bad for your body and you shouldn’t do it (or that being vegan is bad, or that being paleo is cruel, or that doing CrossFit is dangerous, or that….). Ignore.
  • Experts are everywhere. At least they think they are. Most bloggers are like me; i.e. NOT doctors or professionally trained nutrition and exercise specialists. We share what has worked for US and sometimes, we can become pretty convinced that our way is gospel. This is the internet, people, so take what you read with a grain of salt and use your best judgement.
  • Don’t be the “needy girlfriend”. If you want to start a blog or twitter account, don’t send a “Please follow me! I followed you!” message to everyone on the internet; it screams of insincerity. Don’t force it. Community is also about giving and taking. If you feel inexperienced and don’t have a lot to give in terms of knowledge or advice, than give encouragement and support. Everyone appreciates that!

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What are your tips for those turning to the internet to find a fitness family?

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