How do you turn a gruelling workout into a multi-million dollar empire? Kool-Aid filled water bottles aside, there’s some serious social marketing strategy at play behind today’s leading fitness phenomenon, SoulCycle.
Founded by Julie Rice and Elizabeth Cutler in 2006, this New York-based company has truly succeeded in assembling a massive and dedicated following, largely as a result of their messaging on social media. Now with 39 (and counting) locations across North America, 50,000 and upwards riders daily, the company’s leadership has established a tribe of riders (including celebs like David Beckham and Kelly Ripa) and massive social networks of raving fans.
What’s the hype all about?
Beyond your typical spin class, riders are led on an inspirational, meditative fitness experience that’s designed to benefit the body, mind and soul. Fitness instructors are hailed as ‘rockstars’, and the brand is finely tuned and perfectly executed across all platforms. You can call this “the carefully cultivated soul” of SoulCycle.
Understanding the social strategies of today’s biggest brands is nothing short of an obsession for me – every day, before ‘hitting the screens’ as I call it, I’m pounding the treadmill; listening to marketing podcasts and making notes on my phone. This is where the inspiration happens – and the application happens on the daily for our clients.
This week’s podcast happened to be Tony Robbin’s interview with SoulCycle CEO Melanie Whelan. As you might know, I work with top-producing Real Estate teams and agents across North America helping them build and establish relationships on social media, promote their inventory, and generate new leads for buyers and sellers. So how are the marketing concepts used in today’s high-end indoor cycling chain applicable to your real estate business?
Ultimately, the “cult-like” mentality that has developed around the SoulCycle obsession can largely be credited to its social media engagement strategy.
They’re killing it on social.
Here’s what we can learn from them:
“Since our launch, it’s all been about how do we build a community and how do we cultivate a community,” said Gabby Etrog Cohen, vp, public relations and brand strategy at SoulCycle. “And we want to make people feel that community digitally.”
By turning instructors into online brand ambassadors, they’ve effectively turned their instructors into mini-celebrities; many with their own cult-like following.
With their own SoulCycle branded profiles, these instructors have amassed TONS of followers on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat; pumping out curated playlists, schedules, motivational quotes, behind the scenes glimpses, and even meal plans.
What you can do: give your team members an IDENTITY online. Let your audience get to know you on a personal level online. In today's world, relationship-building often starts here. Make the first introduction.
Riders post authentic, unprompted testimonials on social media; exposing their networks, and then their networks (and so on) to the SoulCycle experience. Some riders’ stories are even featured in blogs on the primary SoulCycle page, complete with photos and the story of their fitness/health/spiritual wellness journey.
What you can do: Tell your client's stories! Highlight their wins, successes, and journeys on social media. Think beyond the transaction and tell the story of who they are - they'll love feeling valued as part of your online community.
Leveraging Online Exposure to Offline Sales
Thanks to Facebook's sexy algorithm (yes, those two words go together) you'll be constantly reminded of SoulCycle IF you live in a city that offers it, or if you're just into stuff like that.
Their community management game is strong, too. Comment on their profiles, and one of Soul Cycle’s social media team members is there to have a digital conversation with you. It’s a well-oiled machine.
What you can do: Be ON your social media game. Advertise, post regularly, and engage your audience. If you don’t have the time to do it, hire someone.
Tapping Into a Collective Need for Community
SoulCycle’s classes have been referred to as tribes - tapping into today's intense hunger for real-life community. With the promise of connection AND that rock-hard body, all of a sudden that $34 drop-in fee seems like a small price to pay.
What you can do: Think beyond demographics - consider your audience's ideals, values, and interests when you're creating content and selecting your targets for Facebook and Google ads.
Oh yeah, and a sexy brand doesn’t hurt.
Beyond a high-intensity cycling class, SoulCycle is a lifestyle brand.
With words like “WARRIOR" and “ROCKSTAR” plastered on the studio walls and custom Lululemon SoulCycle-branded clothing displayed in the lobby, they've nailed their branding down to every last detail - you can even buy the grapefruit-scented Jonathan Adler candles burning in the studio.
Their look is strong and seamless across social. Urban - yet spiritual.
What you can do: We might not have the same budget as these guys, but hire a professional when you can for photography and graphic design. Your online ‘look’ is your first impression – and it can make or break a lead or sale.
But don’t sweat it
Arguably, one of SoulCycle’s biggest draws is their joie de vivre - LIVE A LITTLE!
With social media, consistency is the key to impact - it can be all too easy to get tripped up with ‘stage fright’ about posting. I'm here to tell you, just do it.
And don't worry about be perfect across all platforms. For those of us who don’t have a social media team on hand, it’s really only practical to focus on only the networks you think are best for finding and building relationships with your ideal customers. Focus your energy on just a couple for maximum impact.
Once you’ve got the social media basics down, turn the music UP, turn down the negative self-talk, and have some fun. :)
Your marketing geek,