When Takia McClendon started City Fit Girls with her co-founder Kiera Smalls, she didn’t have a detailed marketing and social media strategy to build their community — or even the hashed out goal of creating one of the largest fitness communities in Philadelphia (and if she has her way, soon to be the country). It started with her and her best friend, working out and being healthy together, and documenting this for their friends and family on — you guessed it — social media.
But over the past four years, she’s built an incredibly engaged fitness community and business, an impressive social media following, and newsletter engagement that would make anyone jealous — all while keeping true to her and Kiera’s voice and their community.
Last month Takia spoke to Brazen Philly about her experience and shared advice on how others can build engaged communities around their companies, products, and work. Here are the highlights.
On Using Instagram
City Fit Girls’ audience is primarily 25-35 year old women who are interested in health and fitness. This is gold on Instagram, where this demographic tends to spend a lot of time. Here’s some of her advice on how to best engage with Instagram:
Deliver consistent content. City Fit Girls organizes a group run every Wednesday, always take a group photo (usually while making funny faces), and always posts this to Instagram. It can feel repetitive when taking the group photo, but people love seeing themselves — and share this content with their friends.
Be yourself. Their tone is how Takia and Kiera talk with their friends on Instagram. It’s real, and that’s helped them connect with people on Instagram.
Highlight the people in your community or who you work with. People love to see the people behind an organization, and it makes it all so much more authentic.
Interact with the people following you. City Fit Girls go through their hashtag photos and comment on them, sharing the love back with their community — and giving them props for a good workout.
Use hashtags to find people who should know about you. Identify which hashtags are already being used by the audience you’re going after, and start talking there. For example, City Fit Girls uses #run215 and #myphillyrun, as well as ones around specific local races. But it’s important when doing this not to be salesy; you want to engage as a human, not pitch to people.
Instagram business pages are worth it. You get a lot of data from them and can see where your followers are and what demographic they fit into. They’re free, but they do make it harder for people to see your posts.
Don’t be shy about sharing posts from you and your other founders. Takia’s found that people want to know their stories as founders and leaders in their community.
Making the Most of Facebook groups and Facebook pages
Page: 3,856 likes, 3,893 follows
Group: 1,895 members in Philly
To start, what’s the difference between a Facebook page and a Facebook group? A Facebook page is you talking at people — there’s little engagement, and Facebook has made it hard for people to see content on these pages with their algorithm. Groups are the way to talk with your community and your community will see your posts. Groups also tend to get you many more eyes than Pages.
Here are some tips on how to distinguish your messaging in the two different mediums:
Use for announcements to your community – and ask for engagement. “We’re doing a run tomorrow. Tell us if you’re coming.”
To get your community engaged, try asking new members to introduce themselves, and comment back welcoming them. Encourage others to too. You could also consider running a contest for a small giveaway. You’d be surprised how much engagement you can get for a small effort.
City Fit Girls follows the rule “what would we want in a group”. They don’t allow fundraisers in their community, for example, since with a running group, that can end up dominating the posts.
Remember, it’s more important to have people engage with your content then to get a ton of likes. Don’t assume you know what your community wants — let them tell you, and ask them what they want.
Monitor the competition. Follow pages similar to yours, and see how they’re using their pages to promote their work to new members.
Monitor your numbers. Check your stats. See what posts work best, and what times and days you have the best response.
Drive engagement. Give shout outs and kudos to your competitors and your members. remember, social media is supposed to be social.
Don’t sweat duplication. Sometimes your content will duplicate over your Facebook page, group, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media tools. That’s okay. Those who will see all the messages are your most engaged members, and they won’t care.
Changing Your Game with Newsletters
Adding a newsletter was a game changer for City Fit Girls – Takia pointed out that it’s a double opt in to sign up, so you’re attracting people who really want to get your newsletter. Plus, most people see their inbox as sacred grounds – if they want you in there each week, then you better deliver some interesting content.
Here are some tips on how to create great newsletters:
Focus on providing really valuable content. City Fit Girls first started by providing updates in their newsletters, but quickly pivoted to provide training schedules — content their community was highly interested in and not getting from City Fit Girls in other ways.
Find a way to make people look forward to your newsletter – and miss it if it doesn’t arrive. City Fit Girls provides their readers with workouts and recipes for the week — things they need as they plan out their lives. If a newsletter is late, Takia hears about it from her members.
Add a personal touch, such as an introduction or message from you. City Fit Girls includes a personal intro from Takia, Kiera or both of them, and they’ve found that by adding this — and showing that they’re human beings — their members often write back to the newsletter.
Inspired to join City Fit Girls or your local fitness community? Do it. You can read more about Takia and City Fit Girls, and sign up for their newsletter, here, and find out when the next Brazen Roundtable is by checking your local Brazen calendar.