Most club owners believe that they are leveraging public social networking/media sites effectively as both a marketing tool and a member retention tool, but in most cases, they are not. The truth is, the majority of club owners are only effectively using public platforms like Facebook to push non-targeted messaging out to the universe hoping that casting a broad net will capture many interested prospects. In that regard, public platforms are best served as a marketing tool when fully optimized. While having a Facebook presence is almost as essential as having a company website these days, public social platforms like this are not the environments for member engagement and member to member interaction that result in increased member retention.
The Truth about Attrition
A recent IHRSA survey revealed that 35% of gym members cancel their memberships due to social reasons (intimidated, don’t know anyone, feel out of place) and another 28% cancel due to lack of use. It can be difficult making new friends and connecting with other people in the rush-and-push environment of a health club. And if something changes with your in-club social circle, you may not be inclined to use the club as much. The good news is that unlike other cancellation reasons (cost, change in location, over crowdedness) with the right tool, gym owners really can influence the social aspect and the lack of use issues. That's a 63% increase in retention right there.
Technology to the Rescue
A private social networking platform for an individual club environment is the right tool to help members connect with other members, with their trainers, and with the club. Facilitating and encouraging multi-directional communication (member to member, club to member, member to trainer, etc.) as well as content sharing is the right approach. Think about it this way; online social networking has redefined the way we communicate for reasons of convenience (communication at your fingertips) and for a feeling of control and comfort that comes with a less evasive method of communication. While not completely anonymous, people feel less vulnerable when reaching out to others online as opposed to in-person. With a private platform, your members can make new member-friends and stay engaged even when they are not in the club working out. They can engage with their trainers or other members right on their laptops, tablets or mobile devices and stay connected. Those connections will inspire them go to the gym and use their memberships. Now you’ve effectively and consistently addressed the social needs of your members while heightening usage.
Why a Private Platform over a Public Platform for Retention
The power of a private platform revolves around control and exclusivity. Implementing a private networking platform establishes a unique environment in which club members, staff and owners/operators are all interacting. It allows for a laser focused approach to retention with no “unknown” people or factors. From the members’ perspective, it allows for them to search for other members using their own customized search criteria, enabling them to make relevant connections with ease and speed. Plus, in a private environment, members will be more inclined to share and engage because they will feel a sense of protection and insulation. All of these factors contribute to an atmosphere that will heighten active participation resulting in greater member retention rates.
Expand the Walls of Your Club
Interesting, relevant and topical content-sharing on a private platform can also increase retention. Having a single environment in which you can house member-posted and club-posted blogs, photos, calendars, videos and tips is a powerful force that draws your members even closer. Even when a member cannot come to the club for a favorite class, if the class has been recorded and posted, the member can take that class whenever and wherever they want. That is truly a value-add that keeps members staying members longer.
Let’s face it, replacing a lost member is much more costly than retaining a member. If you can keep them by leveraging cutting edge technology, you’ll always be ahead of the competition and your members will know that you understand and care about what’s important to them.
This article was published in the September'14 issue of Club Solutions Magazine. The author, Sara Bowman is the Director of Sales for GymGroups, a private social networking platform creator/developer. She has been in the health and fitness industry in many capacities serving club owners and members for over 25 years. She can be reached at 832-206-9483 or at email@example.com.