March 13th 2019 won’t live in the infamy it should. From mid-morning through most of the day Facebook along with its cousins WhatsApp and Instagram malfunctioned across most of the world. The stream of happy birthday posts to my facebook wall was rudely interrupted as users couldn’t post or comment. If you logged out you couldn’t log back in. Instagram influencers were forced to take the day off from influencing. Rediscovery of a world offline briefly returned us to a time before Facebook or its forgotten predecessor MySpace. For other this social media armageddon meant an anxiety fuelled day of addiction withdrawal.
We have grown used to the ubiquity of social media platforms. We treat them as utilities, like phones and the internet, feeling entitled to our accounts. Despite being unable to access online interaction for half a day, we have quickly forgotten and settled back into routine.
The social media platforms we now treat as utilities could go away. I know you’re thinking Instagram isn’t going anywhere so what’s the point of this discussion? Facebook fixed the issues and plugged everyone back in. Though the likelihood of Instagram disappearing soon is remote don’t feel too safe about lasting access to your following on any single platform. A company could become embroiled in such deep ethical scandal that user exodus could reach a tipping point, depopulating the platform and rendering it ineffective as a means to reach followers and potential clients. Large scale companies can go bankrupt. Smaller platforms are bought up by larger rivals, changing how they operate. Technology change occurs more rapidly than ever as do generational interests and means of sharing and consuming information. There are no sure things in social media.
Several issues could arise directly affecting you with little to no recourse in restoring your “influence”.
Your Account Could be Banned
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and virtually every social media platform can and will ban accounts in violation of terms and conditions. Often those terms aren’t enforced clearly or consistently. Many fitness professionals wander into dangerous social, political, or ideological territory with posts and comments. Our world has become more sensitive to comments viewed as sexist, fat shaming, and other offending topics. Politically incorrect posts or comments risk the ban hammer.
Some accounts have been targeted by campaigns to spam report attractive female personalities in the effort to get accounts banned from Instagram. Many reputable fitness professionals use sexy pictures to promote themselves. This isn’t territory exclusive to the unqualified, detox tea selling, waist trainer shilling, fit influencers.
Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram, Youtube owned by Google, and Twitter are private corporations. No matter how entitled we feel to a social media account, they can kick us off. Poof bye bye followers for any reason they deem appropriate.
What about those fit pros who bought followers? Follower counts are social currency for the youngest generation of social media users, validating who they should follow. There lies great temptation to skip the slow build of organic following, crafting an illusion of popularity and authority. Buying followers breaches terms and conditions and may result in a banned account.
Posting a video without permission to use the background music or some other copyrighted material also risks banishment.
Consider how many accounts the average person follows. How quickly would they notice you’re not there anymore? Starting a new account wouldn’t result in the restoration of your following anytime soon as people wouldn’t necessarily know you’re missing in a vast sea of fitness pros, nor assume to look for you elsewhere. The effort to build a single platform following could be nuked in one unlucky swipe.
Your Account Could be Hacked
A client recently had his Instagram account hacked. He was lucky and got it back. Others aren’t as fortunate. Permanently losing your account creates the same problems regardless how you lose it.
You Get Shadow Banned
Shadow bans can temporarily cost you organic reach with potential followers. Your hashtags become undiscoverable. Shadow ban causes aren’t clear but breaking terms and conditions and using banned hashtags appear to be among possible reasons. Accounts that spam extremely high volumes of “likes” may also be shadow banned. Some banned hashtags in 2019 include #adulting, #attractive, #books #dogsofinstagram #fitnessgirls #kansas #lean #models #puppydogmondays and #swole. This bodes poorly for attractive, Kansas based, dog loving fitness girls. Misuse of these hashtags can lead to temporary or permanent bans. Banned hashtags aren’t officially announced, many are innocent and commonly used among fitness professionals, and therefore easy to be trapped by. Stay current on known or suspected banned hashtags.
Major Changes to Social Media Algorithms
What appears on a follower’s feed is guided by social media algorithms, carefully guarded secrets of the platform. Those algorithms frequently change, often with massive consequences to businesses on a platform. Facebook reduced organic reach for business pages to near zero, necessitating payment to boost your posts just to be seen by your own followers. As a result facebook is considered a dead vehicle to build new following. Many businesses shifted to Instagram only to face the same eventuality. More accounts and content compete for space on your feed. Social media companies profit from companies paying to get your attention. Anticipating algorithm changes aren’t easy, but be assured as platforms become more popular and saturated organic reach to grow new followers will become harder.
Are you familiar with the story of how Jordan Syatt told Carter Good to go all in on posting infographics on IG, saw its effectiveness and then pursued the tactic himself? (hint, each has told their version of this story on The Fitness Devil Podcast with us.) Both built followings exceeding 400,000. Along with Sohee Lee, Dr. Spencer Nadolsky, Jordan and Carter popularized this type of content creation, blew up the use of Canva an app for creating infographics, and led fit pros to copying their example. Infographics saturated the online landscape and soon lost novelty and ability to rapidly build following.
As more online trainers, fit pros, and fitness influencers saturate the social media space, its more challenging to gain attention, new following, and hold existing follower base. You can keep your account and still lose the ability to connect. Quality content matters more than ever.
A Newer Hotter Platform Emerges
Facebook is now viewed as an older generation’s platform as the newest users spend time on Instagram, Snapchat, and newer apps. Facebook remains massive but has shown signs of weakness, taking public hits over user info security and other scandals. Yet to be developed social media platforms will emerge and should they reach a tipping point of user adoption, could lead to the rapid departure from existing platforms. Ask former MySpace users about the once dominant and now dead network, eradicated by the emergence of Facebook. Remember Hi5, an earlier facebook ancestor? Platforms have and will continue to vanish. Vine and its 6 second video clips are gone. Consider how Instagram has taken aim at Snapchat duplicating and improving on its story feature. Nothing is certain and no social media platform is secure long term.
What Should You Do?
Here’s the cliche part of the answer. Don’t put all your eggs in one social media basket and as many old school fitness pros will tell you, build an email list. An email list cannot be de-platformed, banned, or hacked away from you. Building such a list should be an activity coinciding with the growth of your business. Barring an EMP setting us back to a radioactive Fallout-esque wasteland of scavenging for food and fleeing mutants, you should always have access to your email list. Staying out of jail helps too.
The flawed logic of trying to be active on all platforms sits at the opposite end of this discussion. Especially true for newer professionals out to create brand recognition, you may want to focus on a few platforms suited to your skills. Content can usually be repurposed and shared through multiple platforms, cutting down on the need to create unique content for each. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube, a podcast, Snapchat, Reddit, a website blog, and god knows what else would be a massive time sinkhole.
Invite your followers to engage you across multiple platforms. Create an incentive for people to subscribe to your email list, often called an ethical bribe. Create a short ebook with useful training info. Entire articles have been devoted to this topic alone. Try to get connected to them off any platform that could be taken away from you, meaning get them to your website and or email. No one is saying don’t maximize social media vehicles, just create a backup access route to your followers.
Double down on your strongest content vehicle. If you are confident on video do Youtube(can now be doubled as IGTV), Instagram posts and story(can be doubled as Snap story), and Facebook live. Then practice lesser skills to be versatile.
I’ve written for years about fitness and nutrition on facebook, my preferred brand builder. I caved and try to be active on Instagram. My twitter exists to follow other fitness pros. I dabbled in YouTube but shifted energy to a weekly podcast with well known industry guests, sharing duties with my co-host Dean Guedo. After years of procrastination I launched a website where I write my own content and began to gather an email list.
What did fitness professionals do before social media? Facebook launched in 2004, Youtube 2005, and Instagram in 2010. Each took years to grow to current form. Some trainers used traditional advertising, but the most successful relied on a few key attributes. Successful trainers did great work, created memorable experiences, knew their stuff, and as a result generated word of mouth leading to referrals. All of that still matters today.
I’ve gotten one client directly as a result of our podcast, a few that found me on Instagram, and a hell of a lot over the years from word of mouth referrals from current and former clients, friends, gym members, and people in my life who know my work and reputation. If the internet went away forever, the relationships and reputation I’ve put 8 plus years into remain strong and will keep my schedule loaded. This does take time and consistent effort and can be enhanced by a skillful social media presence.
Diversify your social media, create content usable across multiple platforms, and do such a world class job with clients you don’t need social media while squeezing a little extra from it.