Social Proof for Personal Trainers: 5 Essential Tactics to Grow Your Brand

If you've ever studied online marketing, looking for simple ways to really grown your online sales, you've likely come across the term "social proof."

It's one of the most important techniques you should learn to master (especially as a personal trainer) if you're serious about moving your business to the next level.

And since you're reading this blog, I bet that's exactly where you are at!

Social Proof for Personal Trainers

What is social proof?

Social proof is the idea that people like to follow the crowd.

Everyone else is doing it and it worked for them. It will certainly work for me too!

People want to fit in. They never want to miss out. And they often believe, consciously or subconsciously, that if enough people are doing something, it must be right, or good, or effective.

For example, we see this take place in the world of sports all the time. A team that dominates their competition seems to attract fans like flies. Nobody cheers for a loser. Everyone wants to back the winning team.

We all know this as “bandwagoning.” It happens because people want to be part of the winning group; it’s a type of social proof.

Why is social proof important to you?

To understand the power of social proof for your business, let’s first return to our sporting example for a moment.

Sports teams are businesses. If more and more people become fans of their team, that team has scored big (excuse the pun) because more seats will be filled in the stadium,more merchandise will be purchased, more concessions will be consumed, etc. all leading to a huge increase in revenue.

A winning team looks like a fun one to follow, therefore more people cheer for it and spend money on that business. The same goes for you...​

When your business appears to be 'winning,' you will attract new fans, followers, and paying clients.

Maybe you think you're immune to social persuasion like this, but think again. Before buying something online, what will you usually do? You look for proof from other customers that the product or service you want to buy will do its job and produce results.

This might entail checking reviews, a business’ social media following, or the engagement on their blog. If the business has hundreds of positive reviews on their products, thousands of social media followers, and a blog full of comments and page shares, it has social proof. It has credibility.

And I'll bet you’d feel pretty comfortable buying from them, wouldn't you?

That’s the power of social proof, and personal trainers have the most to gain by taking advantage of this human phenomenon. With the right social proof, you can expect traffic increases, higher conversion rates, and most importantly, more satisfied clients whom you've been able to coach to success.

Now, here are 5 specific ways social proof can work for you:

5 Ways You Can Use Social Proof to Build Your Personal Training Business

1: Prominently Display Customer Reviews

social proof customer review

The popular site Copyblogger.com shows off its customer reviews on its home page

This social proof is self-evident. If you switched places with your clients for a moment, and you were the one looking for a personal trainer, the first things you’ll look for are great customer reviews.

You want to see people saying, 'He really helped me lose the weight I’ve been struggling to get rid of for years!'

A recent study found that 84% percent of people trust customer reviews just as much as if a friend had personally recommended the product or service. That’s powerful, and it’s another evidence of the power social proof has on our society.

So ask clients for a testimony of their great experience with you. There's no shame in showing off the great work you've done to HELP people.

And once you have those reviews, find ways to get them out in the public eye. Reviews on places like Google, Yelp, and of course your own website will be the best spot.

2: Show Off Those Before and After Pictures

Show off how you have transformed peoples' lives

Before and after pictures can be one of the best forms of your social proof.

They’re a physical representation of the success people have enjoyed because they chose to work with you, and that will mean a lot to those searching for the same results.

To take advantage of this social proof, when you ask for client testimonials, request they include before and after pictures. Even better, require a "before" photo as soon as a new client begins working with you - just make it part of your intake process so that this crucial step is never overlooked.

Before and After photos

Hitchfit uses before and after photos everywhere on their site. If you don't have any on your website, how are prospective clients supposed to trust you?

Also have your customers post their photos on social media with an attribution to you, thanking you for the role you played in their triumph. This kind of action might require an incentive from you - What can you offer a client in exchange for this sort of promotion? (e.g. a gift card, a t-shirt, company swag, etc.)

3: Build Better Social Media Engagement

Having a large number of followers on your various social media platforms will make new leads more likely to work with you. Yes, these are sometimes called "vanity metrics" because it feels better to have 10,000 followers than it does 1,000, but there is real value here too...

Having greater social media followers builds up your reputation that you are a credible authority in the fitness industry. And that’s because it’s part of the bandwagon, follow-the-group philosophy that is innate in humanity.

Obviously, your follower count is not an accurate measure of your true success, but it does get people's attention. I can't tell you how many times people have commented on the "social share count" that's proudly displayed on my website. People believe that a bigger number means that you're a bigger star.

social proof

This is an example of how I use social proof via engagement, by showing the amount of shares the home page of my website has. When new visitors see this, they know I have credibility in the industry, and that's an invaluable first impression. (Pro tip: I use App Sumo to make this happen)

Warning: Please don’t go buying fake followers. I know it's tempting to drop a few bucks to suddenly have thousands of followers at your fingertips (and yes, lots of people do this!), but it can bite you in the butt...

For example, fake followers throw off your Facebook insights, making your audience virtually useless if you ever try to use it for Facebook ad targeting. Don't do it. 

And remember, it’s not just about your total follower count. Create engagement on your social posts, blog, and/or podcast. The more comments and shares that your content receives, the more credible you will appear to new visitors (who become your next clients!).

4: Flaunt Your Number of Clients

canva social proof

Canva is an excellent example of using your customer count as social proof

Similar to your social media following, this social proof is an evidence of how many people have trusted you to the point of handing over their money, which is a MUCH stronger indicator of trust than simply clicking a "like" button on social media. 

If you have enjoyed a sizeable client base, don’t be afraid to tout that statistic.

When I first began my online fitness business, my homepage displayed the number of people who had completed my most recent online workout. The goal was to show prospective clients that they would be in a good company when they began working with me. You can do the same...

Ask visitors to, "Join the 679 other new moms who have regained their pre-baby bodies using the Supermom Fitness Program!" (obviously speak to your specific niche). Any new mom reading that will at least consider joining - nobody wants to be left out. Use human nature to your advantage.

5: Celebrate Your Awards and Recognition

social proof recognition

Gunnar Peterson, a popular personal trainer, shows off his recognition by some of the top publications in the world

If you were looking for a fitness trainer, would you choose the one who has twice been rated “Best Fitness Trainer in the County” or the one with no awards at all? Not a hard choice, right?

In fact, just last week I got a request to provide online training services to a man who had read about me in some fitness magazine. When I told him that I don't work with men but that I'd be happy to refer him to another coach he declined because he wanted to work with someone "who was top in the business."

A flattering comment for sure, but even more, it points to the power of awards and recognition.

Dave Smith

I intentionally link to every award or significant recognition I receive (all on my "About" page)...I'm building confidence in those who are just getting to know me!

This social proof carries significant weight because an already established, trusted third party is giving you their approval and support. Display these badges proudly, whether the awards seem "big" or "small" - every little bit can help prove that you are an authority.

Also, you may have seen other fitness professionals list the popular, well-respected websites they have written guest posts for or have had their work mentioned by. If you have done something similar, let the world know.

Show Off Your Social Proof

Social proof is powerful and is NOT as difficult to achieve as you might think. Take another look at the 5 options listed above and commit to mastering just one of these on your website today. 

You're bound to see your traffic, leads, and conversion rates make a healthy jump when you add any of these tips to your marketing arsenal.

How else do you use social proof? Let us know in the comments and share these excellent tips on social media below!

About the author

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Dave Smith

Dave Smith was chosen as Canada's Top Fitness Professional for his innovative online fitness coaching found at Make Your Body Work. He now teaches other fitness professionals how to build their own profitable online businesses. Learn more at the Online Trainers Federation.