The Evolution of Instagram & YouTube Fitness Influencers

The hottest and most coveted job in 2018 is a job that did not exist five years ago. Throughout social media, the term “influencer” seems hard to ignore. For one thing, if someone’s an influencer, they probably are not exactly shy about it. Influencers are ordinary people who have become famous by using social media to create loyal followers. Influencers did not earn their fame from acting or singing or any other traditionally glorified skill. Rather, their “influence” is predicated off how well their audience feels like they can identify with them. Their notoriety, paired with a support system of thousands or millions, has created a new class of celebrity: Behold, the Influencer. While the profession is an easy target for jokes, the rise of the “Influencer” as a respectable career has reinforced the power of social media. It has also changed the landscape of various other industries and marketing platforms. Most notably, fitness influencers have shaped how well-being can be attained by everyday people.

How Did “Influencing” Become a Real Career?

The concept of an Influencer is only possible because of how social media has changed how we perceive and process digital content.

1. Access

Platforms like Instagram and YouTube have connected people around the world. This has permitted new degrees of accessibility that were never possible before. This new level of connectivity has created a global community that exchanges ideas and information. Just like how celebrities spark public intrigue, fitness influencers can do the same thing by projecting their everyday lives and routines.

2. Relatability

Where Influencers have the clear edge on traditional athletes or other celebrities is how they can to relate to their audience on an extremely personal level. Influencers at their core are regular people without a true stand out talent that makes them “exceptional.” Therefore, audiences can develop a deeper connection with an influencer because their lifestyle is more within reach. In fact, 70% of YouTube subscribers identify with YouTube Creators better than with TV or movie stars. This has essentially paved the way for influencers to develop more intimate relationships with their fans than celebrities. Accordingly, any advice or recommendations given from Influencers is more likely to be perceived  positively. This concept has led to the transition to Influence based advertising.

3. Fitness Influencer/Follower Relationship

This tight-knit relationship between Influencers and followers is further evidenced by trends and figures across YouTube. For example, the top 25 YouTubers generate more than three times more views than when “traditional” celebrities or athletes post on YouTube. To become successful, social media celebrities need to find ways to show their content to viewers who will like their content. To achieve this, utilizing data from social media monitoring tools can help influencers decipher what type of content resonates best with their viewers, like Unamo’s Social Media tracking metrics that can let Influencers see the optimal times to post. Influencers have established careers as credible sources for many different industries (lifestyle, beauty, traveling, etc). However, Fitness Influencers have become some of the most powerful across social media. Although Influencers have establish their careers as credible sources for many types different industries (lifestyle, beauty, traveling, etc), Fitness Influencers have distinguished themselves as some of the most powerful across social media.

How Fitness has been Popularized by Influencer Marketing

The very reason that influencers have so much power is directly linked to why they have taken over the fitness realm: relatability. The fitness industry used to claim that achieving a dream body was only attainable for the few who work the hardest, like famous bodybuilders. Influencers have shattered that idea by making fitness achievable for everyone. Therefore, if this person who I identify with can reach his or her fitness goals, then so can I. The most famous fitness influencers did not earn their success overnight. They consistently manipulated their digital image and capitalized off opportunities for public exposure. This can be achieved by assessing data comparing their digital outreach segmented by different types of social media, gauging responses from different demographics, and analyzing related search keywords affiliated with your brand.

How to Become a Fitness Influencer

1. Produce enough fitness content to gain attention and grow a following.

Since the prospect of becoming a fitness influencer has become  “trendy,” they need to create enough content to gain some viral traction. This can be through posting fitness content on Instagram or YouTube, vlogging a fitness transformation, or offering fitness coaching services in person or online.

2. Cultivate your personal brand

Personal branding for influencers is a constant process that must continue to evolve as his or her notoriety does. In order to differentiate yourself as a unique fitness influencer, these individuals essentially turn their image into their own marketing business. Branding is crucial for any business, therefore branding yourself to align with a niche style of health and fitness will make you more identifiable, and therefore more “influential”. Fitness influencers are excellent at  tailoring their brand to appear relatable to their audience while also being perceived as an “expert” in their field.

3. Become a Fitness Brand Ambassador or Sponsored Athlete

The prominence of fitness influencers on Instagram and YouTube has led fitness and nutrition companies to take up new influencer marketing techniques and strategies based around their platforms. These companies use influencers to publicly endorse and market their products, therefore crediting them for the success of their fitness goals. Influencers will endorse these brands through numerous techniques: product reviews or unboxing videos, instructional how-to videos on a product, Instagram posts gushing raving about certain products, etc. Product and brand endorsements is a mutually advantageous relationship: the companies and influencers both gain exposure to new audiences and markets. Simultaneously, when Instagram or YouTube fitness influencers work closely with brands, in reality it is helping them develop their own. Both the company and influencer need to be highly selective when approaching partnerships; any negative public incident could be detrimental to either’s respective image and reputation. The more prestigious the company, the higher the pay out as well as the higher degrees of exposure. Large fitness brands  like Gymshark, Women’s Best, and 1Up Nutrition have built their big name reputations through the use of influencers alone.

Fitness Influencers Turned Entrepreneurs

Many top fitness influencers have become international celebrities: Kayla Itsines, Michelle Lewin, and Kai Greene are as well-known as mainstream celebrities. While many influencers have at least produced their own merchandise or workout guides, a handful have launched full scale thriving businesses based off their powerful personal reputations.

 1. Tammy Hembrow

Australia based Influencer has used her platform to catapult her high profile modeling career and to become the face of the most popular female-directed supplement company in the world (Women’s Best). She has also deviated from the fitness scene by creating her unique clothing line called Saski Apparel. This brand blends high fashion with athletic wear to create a distinct style seldom seen from other designers. She was one of the first fitness-based creators who was invited to share her high profile designs at New York Fashion Week in 2018.

2. Christian Guzman

Christian Guzman has transformed his bodybuilding coaching and YouTube platform in a less traditional way. Guzman originally opened his own gym under his name in Houston, Texas that mirrored his fitness style before launching his own athletic company called Alphalete Athletics. Opening a physical gym as opposed to just providing coaching or fitness guides is a path largely untraveled by fitness influencers, which put Guzman as one of the industry’s most established figures. Granted that he opened his gym before garnering his current reputation, he sites launching Alphalete Gym as one of his most challenging endeavors. Considering all the moving parts facilitating a fitness club require, like finding software to manage your fitness club, marketing your services, and cultivating brand image, much of Guzman’s later success can be attributed to the success of his gym.Alphalete apparel is now making waves as an up-and-coming athletic and athleisure clothing line that offers incredible quality at a reasonable price. This clothing company has gained notoriety by using other Instagram fitness influencers to showcase and endorse the products.

3. Karena and Katrina (Tone it Up)

As two of the earliest big names in internet fitness, these California based fitness influencers created the famed “Tone It Up” brand. Their brand began as a fitness and nutrition community that used social media to motivate and inspire other members. Now, they have expanded to touch almost every sphere of the fitness world. Tone it Up first provided custom meal plans, fitness challenges, interactive community, and daily workouts. Now, their products include fitness gear, nutrition supplements and snacks, a swimsuit and lifestyle clothing brand, and accessories. The Tone It Up girls recently launched a mobile studio as a separate application. Now, members can take online classes from their own instructors. They also hold retreats in which members can take a small getaway with the famed creators and meet other community members.