Facebook Strengthens Fitness Ties as Trainers Flock to its Platform

    • Facebook and Instagram have seen a major increase in streaming by fitness pros during pandemic.
    • Facebook holds first fitness summit this week where about 300 people are expected to attend virtually.

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The boost in streams produced by fitness professionals skyrocketed on Facebook and Instagram, hardly a revelation with gyms around the world shuttered by the pandemic.

U.K.-based fitness business coach Rachel Holmes aided hundreds of those fitness pros who pivoted to an online-only existence.

“I think people suddenly realized really quickly that there was no alternative,” Holmes said. “It was really move fast or lose your business. I think that’s what I’m most proud of. I’ve been in this business for 34 years, so a lot of people following me are probably in their 70s and perhaps they’ve done very little with social media. Within a couple weeks, they were experts.”

The first Facebook Fitness Summit kicks off Aug. 18, a two-day event that features a diverse group of speakers from famous trainers like Shaun T to spiritual guru Deepak Chopra. About 300 fitness professionals are expected to “attend” the two-day virtual event where Facebook will highlight its products, including Paid Online Events announced Friday

Paid Online Events Facebook Pages allow users to promote and charge for video streams. Facebook will also highlight upcoming VR offerings on Oculus.

Facebook saw a 75% increase in live videos produced by fitness partners from March through July compared to 2019, according to the social media giant. Instagram Live, meanwhile, saw video streams produced by fitness pros swell 520% during that same span.

“What we are seeing is that we are in an era that’s now a democracy where consumer demand is actually met with accessibility and choice on our platform,” said Devi Mahadevia, Facebook’s director of sports partnerships.

Riz Sunny, a prominent trainer in the Toronto area, wasn’t hurting as much as independent trainers when the pandemic forced the closure of his facility. 

Sunny already had a solid footprint on social media and a growing online training business, one that he ramped up as his gym was idled from March through early August.

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“Not only did we lose a chunk of revenue because of the closure of the gym, but we had to change our focus,” said Sunny, founder of My Bollywood Body and Muscle Mecca Gym. “Every single post was about how to work out at home, how to cope with depression, how to manage your finances … everything. We produced over 120 videos during that time.”

Before the pandemic, Sunny said he received 4,000–5,000 inquiries a week. Recently, that’s jumped to 15,000 inquiries, and he credits Facebook for that bump.

“In a nutshell, Facebook literally did miracles for us,” Sunny said.

Beyond watching videos, interactive home-fitness equipment led by Peloton surged in popularity. 

Tonal, a digital weight training system, already had that part covered since its $2,995 unit has a screen for live and prerecorded workouts.

Tonal utilizes Facebook Groups that includes “Feedback Friday” where users can make product suggestions.

“Facebook has the most reach because it’s where people already were hanging out and forming groups,” said Kate Telge, Tonal’s community manager. “So we just wanted to go where the people already were. We’ve scaled our group from 300 people when I started to almost 6,000 members now. Facebook just seems to have the tools we need in terms of Facebook Live and groups with moderation.”