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By Amanda Vogel MA

If you’re still ignoring social media as a marketing/communication tool for your fitness business in 2018, you need to catch up. With few exceptions, strategically using social media is now part of most people’s business life. There’s no need to devote hours a day to socializing online, but you should be somewhat active there, posting and interacting at least a few times per week.

Fortunately, it’s not too late for your business to become part of the social landscape. As we move into a new year, you can painlessly get up to speed using these simple steps for beginners.

Be Selective

There was a time when social media experts advised using all or most available social channels. Thankfully, you can probably bypass that advice now. There’s too much on social media to do it all, so the easiest way to get started in 2018 is to choose one or two platforms that will become your main focus.

Which ones? Well, Facebook is the largest social network by far—most of your clients probably use it. Instagram currently gets the most buzz. Consider which platforms you might enjoy and also where your clients and prospects go. (Not sure? Survey them.) For fitness marketing, use what they use.

Seek Guidance

Next, you’ll want to research “how to” or “get started” guides specifically for social media beginners. Do a Google search with terms such as, “Beginners’ Guide to Social Media” or “Social Media for Beginners” or for a specific channel, such as “Getting Started on Instagram [Facebook, Twitter, etc].”

Heads up: Google search results will yield an overwhelming amount of info on this topic. To simplify the process, look for content from trusted social media authorities—a few I recommend are HootSuite, Social Media Examiner, Sprout Social, Mari Smith and Hubspot. Iconosquare and Later is especially useful for learning about Instagram. And of course, blogs published by Facebook, Instagram, etc., will also be helpful.

As part of this step thoroughly read through 3-4 “getting started” guides, checking first that they are quite current (preferably published or updated within the last 6-12 months).

Stay Up to Date

If you haven’t already, download apps for your chosen social networks onto your phone. You can use the apps to quickly check social throughout the day. Be sure to keep the apps up to date (set your phone to do it automatically).

Staying up to date ensures you hear about the latest features as they’re released. It’s much easier to adapt to updates as they arise versus having to play catch up later on. Most social networks have a blog—easily found through a Google search—where you can also check on announcements and tutorials related to new features.

Plan and Prepare

Finally, even if you’re a beginner on social media, you can still put yourself ahead of the curve. How? Plan your posts.

It’s as simple as it sounds: arrange upcoming posts into a content calendar (like a monthly calendar, Google calendar or Excel spreadsheet). Start by looking ahead 1-2 weeks, mapping out what days/times you will publish a post, on which social channels, and what the post content will be. Using something like Google Docs, write all the captions and create or decide on accompanying images in advance.

Having a system saves time and makes it more likely you’ll follow through on your commitment to stay active on social media. When you’re busy and don’t know what to post, it’s tempting go back to ignoring social. Preparing ahead of time safeguards against any relapses.