4 Modern, Social Ways to Increase Gym Membership and Retention

CaitlynFitness Training Business

Runners High-Fiving After a Race

As a fitness enthusiast (okay, gym rat), I have seen far too many good small fitness gyms go out of business. It is sad for people like my grandma, who was only comfortable at “her” gym, that has now closed. Now she no longer has a fitness community, and likely is one of many lost opportunities for business for the other local gyms.

Social Media for Gyms

Let me begin by saying that this article isn’t about social media marketing. It’s about increasing gym membership (and keeping current members) using social marketing that uses social media as a tool (along with other digital tools). Social media communities are a natural extension of real life communities. That’s what makes them work. Yet, we as business owners have learned by now that it is not a magic bullet to business success. It is difficult in most cases to get results that make it worth your while trying to engage customers by simply posting on social media.

There are specific ways to increase gym membership and member retention that don’t involve the “typical” way we think of utilizing social media. But, these four tactics are based on the same premise: a fitness gym is one of the types of businesses that draws people to live in certain neighborhoods, gives them a connection to their community, and makes them feel at home. It’s only you (the fitness gym) and the coffee shop that have the opportunity to get your customers to engage with you every day. That’s a huge opportunity!

Between Instagram and Facebook, post inspirational photos and helpful tips and links to encourage members to stick with their workouts, try new things, and exercise correctly. In most cases, you need to give members a reason to visit your page daily or weekly in order to get any traction on social platforms. The easiest way to get engagement on Facebook is via advertising, although that requires an advertising budget, and some ad platform expertise.

Below are four marketing ideas for gym memberships and retention that can be executed according to your budget. They take the foundation of human social behavior, and social media, to create member communities, motivation, and attentiveness. Try one at a time, and see what works for you. Below are four ways in which you, the fitness gym owner, can use social media to engage existing, and attract new, members to your piece of the community.

1. Newsletters

Running promotions and sending them via snail mail is still a great strategy. Target people who just moved in, around the holidays for gifts, or around January 1 for New Year’s Resolutions. Postcards with no promotion usually get thrown out, but if you make it a coupon, you’ll get at least a few bites. Here’s some advice on structuring a successful discount. A more personal idea (and possibly less expensive) is a paper or email newsletter. Make it appear professionally-designed. Include a recent weight loss or other success story, a promotion, and reasons to join your Facebook page or other social media (and how to find you there). If you have great reviews online, tell about it. Which leads me to…

2. Get Reviews

Yelp and Google are the ideal places to get reviews. Create (or claim, if one got created already) your Yelp page and fill in all the information fully. Upload photos of the gym, and happy members using the gym. Upload an image of a class schedule if you like (with a date, so folks don’t show up to an old class). The intention with images on Yelp and Google profiles is to show activity at the club.

For Yelp, if you don’t have a website, you can link to a Facebook page. For Google reviews, it is best to have a website (because you will get judged by Google searchers as amateur if you don’t), but not necessary. You should also fill out a Google My Business listing.

Getting reviews can be tricky, because it is unethical (and sniffed out by Yelp) to solicit or incentivize for “good” reviews. But it is okay to ask for feedback on Yelp or Google. You can even incentivize that, as long as you don’t suggest or require that they make a good review in order to get the incentive.

Don’t fear bad reviews! They are an opportunity. The key to your success is understanding what members want, and giving it to them. Every business has that crazy patron that will make a bad review, but readers of reviews understand this. When you do get a bad review, most people are reasonable… so you should respond to each and every one putting your best warm customer service first. Reviewers will often change their bad review once they feel like they’ve been heard, or the issue was rectified.

3. “Share” Discounts

You’ve seen these… get your friend to sign up, and you both get a discount. You’ve seen it because it works. (If you haven’t seen what I’m talking about, then you are missing out on cool things like Uber, Stitchfix, and Hellofresh.) It’s a win for everyone! Consider giving away a free month (or more if you membership is only $10/month) to your members if they get a new member to sign up. You’ll also need to give a discount to the new person. That discount can be slightly less than the one you offer the member (this is based on the psychology of it all working).

4. Team Up

I’ve frequented at least 20 gyms and yoga studios over the years as a member, and the CrossFit gyms by far had the best social media for gyms. One of the reasons CrossFit, for example, is so successful, is because its like going and hanging out with your friends every day. Members watch each other get better, cheer each other on, and even form social groups outside of the gym. I still keep in touch on social media with both CrossFit gym owners and members, and almost daily wish I lived close enough to each one to go back. I miss working out with those people! You see the larger fitness chains learning from this… setting up increasingly more team- and group-oriented fitness achievements extra-curricular to the normal day-to-day goings-on of the club. Examples include doing a local run or race as a group, doing group morning runs leaving from the gym, and organizing a 30- or 90-day fitness challenge. This is another area that social media naturally fits in… use it as a means of communication to and among these group members.


Melanie De Caprio is a digital marketing expert at her company New Sky Strategies. If you have more questions about marketing ideas for gym memberships, or other businesses, she can be reached at melanie@newskystrategies.com.