In the world of health and wellness, there are so many awesome people to be inspired by. One person who’s caught (and kept) my attention for months now is Laura Williams of Girls Gone Sporty, an online magazine and social community, and the High Impact Blogging podcast. I’m not sure where I first found Laura online, but once I began listening to her podcasts where she interviews health and fitness bloggers and online fitness experts, I was hooked. I loved that she featured both successful and well-known stars of the fitness world – and also stars-in-the-making. I’ve been inspired by both her guests’ stories and also Laura’s never-fail ability to bring so many interesting people to her show.
The on-the-air Laura is friendly and down-to-earth. When I reached out to interview her for Social Media for Wellness Pros, I was thrilled to find out she’s nice offline, too. Here’s our chat …
My interview with Laura Williams
Melanie: Laura, you’re connected to many, many people in the health and wellness industry. Your podcast focuses on fitness pros doing great things online, and you’ve undoubtedly seen hundreds of Facebook pages, Pinterest accounts, blogs and websites. What are the 2-3 things people are doing to stand out and be successful online?
Laura: It varies pretty significantly from person to person, so I can’t say, “These specific things will make you successful.” But in general, those who do well tend to have similar traits. For instance, they have the confidence to take risks and try new things, they have the thick skin necessary to handle failure and criticism, and they have the ability to persist (and in some cases, doggedly fight) toward success. Finally, most of them are flexible and willing to listen openly to feedback.
You’re a person of many talents and businesses – you blog, podcast, teach, write. How does your Girls Gone Sporty social media presence enhance and support what you’re all about?
At some point (and I wish I could remember where I heard this), I received some great insight about what an online presence “means.” In essence, an online presence isn’t a business, it’s a marketing tool for a business. In other words, my podcast? It’s a marketing tool. My website? A marketing tool. My social pages? Marketing tools. Not a single one of these things in and of itself is my business – it all works together to create a unified voice signifying what my business is about, which in turn enables me to sell products, services and campaigns. I’m very careful about what I put out through social media, and even my personal Facebook page is open to the public because I’m curating marketing material for my business wherever I happen to interact.
Love the concept that an online presence is a marketing tool. What are the no-nos you see people from the health and wellness industry do online?
I’m always extremely turned off by comparisons and program-bashing (fitness or nutrition-related). When you have to denigrate someone else’s efforts to make yourself look good, it just comes off looking petty and insecure. Rather than focusing on what some other person or program lacks, just promote yourself and share why your program is awesome. Obviously if you’re asked your opinion on a specific program or expert, feel free to share your thoughts in a respectful manner, but be professional about it. Also, if you’re using online tools (blogs or websites, in particular) to sell a program or service, please, please pay attention to basic spelling and grammar. Ask family or friends (or even a professional!) to edit your work before you put it online. It’s one thing for there to be a minor error in a blog post or a social post, but if you’re selling a product or service, it should be perfect.
I’m with you on that, Laura. We don’t want our brand to be thought of as sloppy. Have you made any mistakes with your online marketing or social media efforts? Any “lessons learned” to share?
Oh gosh, of course! Who hasn’t? I’d say one of the biggest mistakes I made was just not paying enough attention. I was putting so much energy and effort into Facebook and Twitter because those were the social sites where I had the most followers. In January, though, I actually took the time to analyze my Google Analytics, and I realized that even though I was putting very little effort into my Pinterest page, it was actually generating much of my traffic! So I started focusing on Pinterest – and with time and effort, it’s now neck-and-neck with Google in terms of traffic generation. Had I paid more attention earlier, I could have increased my traffic sooner and stopped wasting so much time on the social sites that weren’t helping generate significant traffic.
That’s a great reminder to check to see where people are finding your site. How much time do you spend in a typical week on social media marketing?
Too much? No, it really depends. When I’m feeling balanced in all areas of my business, I’d say anywhere from 10 to 15 hours of well-managed time, including scheduling Pinterest through Ahalogy and scheduling my other sites through Buffer, then managing the Girls Gone Sporty Ambassador Facebook groups as needed. If I’m not feeling balanced and my time isn’t well-managed, the time spent probably creeps up to as much as 20 hours a week – most of the extra time wasted (there’s another mistake I make!).
But the opposite happens, as well. For instance, for the last month I’ve been feeling incredibly un-balanced because of a lot of things on my plate, and social media has fallen off the radar. Other than managing the ambassador groups, I’ve done very little to keep things up to date. And really, I’m giving myself a pass on that because no one can be perfect at everything all the time!
It’s easy to want to beat ourselves up for it, so kudos to you for the free pass. Are there any fave social media-related tools or apps that save you time, trouble or tears?
Ahalogy is my best friend. For Pinterest scheduling it’s an absolute life-saver. I also really like Buffer for scheduling Facebook, Twitter and Google+ – it’s just so easy! That said, as my husband and I keep launching new websites, I may have to switch over to Hootsuite to more easily handle multiple business accounts.
I use both Buffer and Hootsuite, but I spend most of my time with Buffer. I’m a huge fan! I’m always tweeting my love for them and look for reasons to talk online with their staff. Buffer does an amazing job of helping you with any questions. Speaking of help, do you have anyone helping you with your social media or blogging?
I’m it when it comes to social media! But I do have a number of contributors helping out with Girls Gone Sporty. I have the GGS Gurus who are experts in specific areas who regularly contribute to the site, as well as the occasional guest blogger or ambassador author. My husband, Lance, and I recently launched the High Impact Blogging website (it’s still getting finished out!), so he will actually be a regular contributor and tutorial-creator over there.
If you were limited to using only one social network between now and the end of the year (not counting blogging or podcasting), what would it be and why?
Ohhhhhh – that’s actually a really hard question. What I WANT to say is Pinterest, since it’s such a traffic-generator for our website. But I think I have to actually choose Facebook. Not because I’m a lover of the platform, especially their Pages functionality, but because it’s where I connect with the Girls Gone Sporty Ambassadors on a daily basis. And now that I think about it, I’d actually have a really hard time giving up Google+ and YouTube, because I regularly host live Google Hangouts through Google+, and those stream live to YouTube. Clearly I could do fine without Twitter or Instagram.
What advice would have you for a new health coach or wellness pro who wants to begin using social media marketing and/or blogging to support his/her business?
If your business is primarily offline, see your social sites and blog as a necessary support system, but don’t necessarily go overboard or assume you can replace offline marketing efforts with online efforts. Use it as a way to connect with your clients, share pictures that emphasize your community spirit and offer specials to your online followers. Perhaps use your blog as a way to educate your clients about the field you’re in, or to answer questions you commonly hear clients ask.
If your business is primarily online, social media needs to be a big focus of your business. The online world is ginormous, and if you’re not actively reaching out to others and finding ways to connect with industry leaders and prospective clients, you could easily get swallowed up by the black hole of the Internet. But don’t see your social interactions as a constant self-promotion. You have to GIVE to the community to get anything back, so start creating relationships, get plugged in, answer questions and contribute. And as you do that, share how you can help others through your business.
Laura, thanks for your time and for sharing your advice for health and wellness pros! I’ll catch you on your next podcast …