7 Instagram Strategies Top Fitness Brands Are Using in 2016

7 Instagram Strategies Top Fitness Brands Are Using in 2016 Lucy Hitz Blogger Extraordinaire Simply Measured

On social, fitness brands are strenuously vying for our attention as we try to make good on our New Year’s resolutions: eat better, work out more, change the numbers on that dreaded scale.

How to Build a Social Media Calendar

Instagram, in particular, is a promising social network for brands focused on self-betterment and empowerment due to its highly visual, “curated” environment. The following seven smart fitness brands are leveraging Instagram’s strengths in a variety of strategic ways as 2016 gets rolling. Which of these strategies can your brand implement as you put together your own power posts in 2016?

Quality, Not Quantity

Of course, whether you believe in this adage largely depends on what your brand’s goals are. If you’re sheerly focused on high engagement numbers, you’re going to want to post more frequently.

But it might be time to consider a new approach in 2016, one that allows for a more carefully constructed selection of fewer posts which reliably generate significant engagement (and deep consideration by Instagram users) each time. This is the way we’ve seen Lululemon behave on Instagram in 2016 so far.

lululemon chart

Instead of overloading their Instagram users with post upon post, the fitness apparel brand makes each post count.

This, for instance, was Lululemon’s top post from 2016 so far.

You don't find time, you make time. Keep your goals top of mind. #thesweatlife 📸 @kondifitness via @the.mermaid.diaries

A photo posted by lululemon (@lululemon) on

This post includes many replicable elements to note:

  • It uses the proprietary Lululemon #thesweatlife hashtag
  • It tags popular Instagram influencers in both the caption and the photo itself for envy-inspiring discoverability points
  • It combines a striking photo and strong caption voice to capture attention in user feeds immediately

What Your Brand Can Try: 

  • Use 2016 to develop and/or strengthen your own brand’s proprietary hashtag
  • Tag, tag, tag — this is a great method of getting new eyes on your content. This also means developing a more robust influencer partnership program, whether through an agency or more directly
  • Focus more on quality than on pumping out a ton of “okay” Instagram posts

Tag a Pro (With a Lot of Followers)

Andddd we’re not  done with the subject of tagging quite yet. Tagging popular Instagrammers (and sponsored athletes) is one of Reebok‘s key strategies, as evidenced by their most engaging post on Instagram in 2016 so far.

Strength comes from believing you can do it. Let's see it! 📷: @colleenfotsch #BeMoreHuman #GirlsWhoLift #backsquat #motivation #betterthanyesterday #keepgoing

A photo posted by @reebok on

Colleen Fotsch, pictured and tagged here, has 81,500 followers of her own on Instagram — that’s about 15% of Reebok’s 544K follower count. That’s about 15% more people who might be seeing Reebok’s content come up in their Discover tab than otherwise would. These kinds of partnerships are invaluable for fitness brands.

What Your Brand Can Try: Partner with a well-followed athlete (or other respected Instagram influencer if you’re not a fitness brand), and focus your content around this athlete at least once a week for a month. At the end of the month, look at the numbers to see how your follower count, engagement, engagement as a % of followers, and other key metrics improved (or didn’t) during this testing time period. Then decide whether to invest further or back away.

Consistency Is a Major Key

I feel like this is something DJ Khaled would say on Snapchat, but it’s true. Take a look at Gold’s Gym‘s top three Instagram posts of 2016.

Top Posts

Gold’s Gym is using the #NewYearNoExcuses hashtag and inspirational captions to hit the New Year with vim and vigor, and encourage followers to do the same.

How to Promote and Measure Hashtag Campaigns

What Your Brand Can Try: Choose a brand new, unique hashtag and a surprising brand tone to capture attention on Instagram. Track the effectiveness of your new proprietary hashtag throughout the year and utilize mentions of the hashtag as a means for proving campaign and brand awareness effectiveness.

Takeovers Work

Fitness lovers (and newbies) really appreciate the community-building strengths which fitness brands can bring to the table — we even discussed this on this week’s #SimplySocial podcast.
Weight Watchers does a fantastic job of building this community, and part of how the brand does it is through influencer takeovers on Instagram. This is Weight Watchers’ top-performing Instagram post of 2016 thus far.

It's amazing to me how comforting it is to receive permission NOT to be perfect or all together every minute of the day! You don't have to try to be perfect in your weight loss either, friends. When the cookie in your office break room gets the best of you (seriously, where do all these holiday cookies keep coming from? Aren't they stale yet?!), you just have to pick yourself up and try to do better next time. My advice is weight loss isn't made or ruined by one meal or one weekend .It’s important to remember that through all of the progress we're ALL worthy of the time, effort and energy we're putting into ourselves. So never be afraid to start, or restart your progress! Thank you so much for spending today #BeyondtheScale with me! I'd love to keep sharing motivation, recipes and support with you at @TradingCardioforCosmos on Facebook and Instagram! -Alexis (@TradingCardioforCosmos) #weightwatchers #WWTakeover #WWFam #BeyondtheScale

A photo posted by Weight Watchers (@weightwatchers) on

By pairing a long, content-rich caption with a popular Weight Watches member’s voice and an inspirational image, Weight Watchers strikes Instagram gold here.

What Your Brand Can Try: Choose one of your active Instagram followers, someone who frequently engages with your brand and has a sizable Instagram following of his or her own.
Ask that person to send you an email or message about what makes him or her light up when it comes to your brand’s world, fitness or otherwise. With permission, of course, and tagging that user, include this text in your caption and build an image around what that Instagram user revealed — instead of the other way around.

It’s a Lifestyle, Not a Product Arena

We understand that you want to show off all that your brand has to offer, but remember that Instagram is about selling a lifestyle, not a product. For instance, this is ClassPass‘s most popular Instagram post in 2016 so far.

Good morning 🍳 #breakfast #treatyoself

A photo posted by ClassPass (@classpass) on

No, not the sleek photos of folks working out at different studios, not the influencer-tagged posts — a picture of baked eggs and bread. This tells us that as long as the photo is appealing in the user’s feed, it doesn’t have to be directly tied to what your brand does to generate the engagement you’re looking for.

What Your Brand Can Try: 

  • Hold a brainstorming sesh: who is your target audience on Instagram? Which kinds of activities and people are they interested in?
  • Look at the analytics to get a roster of your most followed followers, and look at the type of content they post for inspiration

Moving Pictures FTW

Whether it’s a 15-second video or GIF blend, experiment with moving pictures in 2016. Indoor cycling mega-brand SoulCycle is doing it — and this post just happens to be their most engaging of 2016 so far.

Make it your #reSOULution to find YOU in 2016. Find your rhythm, your strength, and your community. Set a goal and let Soul inspire you! Plus, have a friend ready to give Soul a try? From January 5th through January 18th, their first ride is on us! Spread the word, give them a nudge, and help them stick to that resolution! (more info through link in bio)

A video posted by SoulCycle (@soulcycle) on

By pairing this “get pumped up” content type with a giveaway for new SoulCycle clients, this post encourages engagement (especially when it comes to friend tagging).

What Your Brand Can Try: 

  • Invest the time and resources into putting together a series of super-short videos for Instagram specifically, and see how well they perform next to your other, more standard content
  • Pair your video with a giveaway for new users, directing folks towards the link in the profile. You’ll wind up with a whole new list of people to target in social campaigns — because their friends have tagged them in your comments section

Above All, Inspire

Whatever you do on social, show the results your product can achieve. This is Flywheel Sports’ most popular Instagram post in 2016.

Talk about motivation! Get inspired to book your bikes for the week – here's @mkfeldman, back on the bike 8 weeks after giving birth! What's your fit goal for 2016? #fitpregnancy #motivation #healthy #builtforlife #pregnancy #fitgoals #2016 #flywheelsports #active #inspire #fitness #borntofly #beforeandafter #nyc

A photo posted by Flywheel Sports (@flywheelsports) on

This before-and-after picture is the best marketing Flywheel could ever dream of: it shows
how their offerings helped a real person hit a personal goal.

What Your Brand Can Try: 

  • Ask yourself this question: how can what you offer help a person achieve their personal best? Do you have examples you can show on Instagram? If not, how can you get them? Focus here.
  • Look at the analytics to understand the impact of this new post type

Want more insight into how the best-in-class are thinking about social strategy in 2016? Download our quick-and-dirty 2016 Social + Digital Marketing Predictions below.

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Lucy Hitz

I’m the Content Marketing Manager here at Simply Measured. I manage our blog, produce longform content, head our co-marketing initiatives, and host the Simply Social podcast, among a few other things. I love yoga, The X-Files, peaty scotch, hiking, and poetry. If I were a social media channel, I’d want to be Instagram, but I think I’m Twitter.