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Managing Social Media Marketing for Endurance Coaches

BY Jen Rulon

Social media can be great but overwhelming when you’re just starting. So focus on the positives, brush off the negatives. Plan your content in advance and schedule it out, and if you have to hire out.

Social Media. You can either love it or hate it.

I have felt both in building my business over the last nine-plus years. Still, I have loved my ROI, as I have gained athletes from all over the world and the U.S., from California to New York to Canada, Mexico, Switzerland, New Zealand and Australia.

So, there is something to it.

When I started, though, I was on social all the time and it took too much time. I was getting all my social media together, such as Instagram, Facebook posts, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and other platforms. I screamed as I spent almost two hours organizing, posting, and cleaning up photos!

I needed to change something because this wasn’t healthy for myself, my business, and my relationships with family and friends.

When Training Peaks came to me, they asked me this question: “How do you manage social channel(s) while running a business? And what would go into hiring a contractor of some sort to manage it?”

I had to honestly think about it because I have struggled with social media for the last couple of years. I was going through some changes in my life, weren’t we all?! In 2020, no one was doing triathlons, so it was hard to figure out what to share and promote. During this time, I was asked to write a book, “Self-Motivation Strategies for Women,” and Dirk Friel and I did a podcast about it.

As I was thinking about how to share my thoughts with y’all, I wanted to break up the article so you take the knowledge and apply it to your own business. So here is what we are going to discuss. The positives and negatives of social media, how you can manage your social media for your endurance business, and how to hire a contractor to manage it. Plus, I will share with you the companies I have used.

The Positives of Social Media

As we know, there are some fantastic connections from social media. Some of my “Insta-Friends” have become best friends. I think about how I connected with the iKor crew in 2019, and then the rest became history. Now they are lifetime friends.

  • Gathering Relationships: Isn’t it amazing how many people you connect with on social media. Then you head to an event and FINALLY meet after so many years! That is one of the best things about social media.
  • Finding Communities: The triathlon world is HUGE on social media. And so is CrossFit, Zumba, Running, Cyclists, Swimmers, etc. Connect with people that LOVE what you love to do. Y’all will have this incredible bond!
  • Building your Business: If you have an online and/or brick-and-mortar business or an athlete/influencer, you need to be on social media ASAP. Even though you may have a brick and mortar, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t build your brand online.
  • Building Your Clientele: To grow your businesses and clients with products or services: Get on social media NOW. Don’t oversell. Be you. Be your brand. Check out Gary Vaynerchuk’s “Jab, Jab, Right Hook.” I have made many mistakes on my social media, and the one thing that I have to remember is that people don’t want a hard sell. Before you start plugging your business, they must trust you, so start educating and entertaining your audience.
  • Building your Tribe: Similar to finding the communities, BUT what I love about making my brand on social media, I have seen people who will share my journey with me! I have two accounts. I have my team account, Rulon Racing, where I will plug athletes and share all their wins, and then I have my business account, Coach Jen Rulon.

The Negatives of Social Media:

Yes, social media has negatives, and I think most of us know what it is. But let’s look at what I see from social media, as you may also have different ideas.

  • Time Suck: Look at my introduction from above. I was on social media for almost two hours trying to put together my FB, Twitter and Instagram; three accounts! It’s a lot. Put a timer on the phone and give yourself 30 minutes, morning, noon and night.
  • Fake News: Fake News. Fake Photos. Just too freaking much. What do I mean by “fake?” You know the setup camera, with someone drinking a shake? Or the incredible body, only to discover they are “starving” themselves. I want to be inspired. Educate me. Let me laugh. Please show me a GIF! Talk to me about something fun or what you have been doing in your triathlon world. But be real!
  • NOT always raw and honest: There are so many photos showing the “perfect” look, stride and non-belly, but posts should be more unrefined and authentic. People want to be inspired by vulnerability, the rawness of a human being. A lot of people have a fear of being vulnerable. Trust me. You will get MAD PROPS from your followers for being raw and honest!
  • Crappy Photos: Instagram is about quality photos and clean videos with a story. But as Instagram algorithms change, Reels are starting to blow up, as they want to compete with TikTok. So, if you are going to do a photo, make sure it is a quality photo with a story. Let me explain: If you have a great shot of a race, share the details about the race. Maybe you had an epic fail or perhaps you crushed it. People want to hear the story behind it!
  • The Karens(!): Unfortunately, they are out there. We have to deal with it or block them and move forward. I still deal with them. Don’t let these negative commenters suck the life out of you.

How You Manage Your Social Media for Your Endurance Business

Let me be very transparent as this was a complete learning process. As I told you above, I spent too much time on social media to build my brand and coaching business, which wasn’t 100% healthy.

If you are just starting, here is one of the best pieces of advice that I can give you about social media:

Pick ONE channel and get good, if not great, at it!

When I started gaining traction on Instagram, I stepped away from many social channels, such as Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn. I started recognizing where I gained clients, and that was The ‘Gram. I was on the ‘Gram before it was “cool.”

And in 2017, I was on the Q3 for the coaches’ leaderboard for “Endurance Sports Social Analytics”- Multisport Research. So, I knew I was doing something right.

Set a time weekly and do a “Social Media Dump.” Here are the deets:

  • Look at your Content Calendar. What are you talking about this week? What is the theme? Need a content calendar? Grab my five-week one.
  • Are you doing quality photos and a story, motivational quotes, or Reels? Plan this out.
  • Do you have a theme each day? For example:
    • Motivation Monday
    • TriBack Tuesday
    • Throwback Thursday
    • Soulful Sunday
  • Gather your photos, videos, etc., turn off your phone and all notifications and block out one hour to get them all done!
  • Upload them to either Planoly or Later, two of the most popular social media schedulers, so they will be automatically uploaded.

Bam, your social media is done for the week!

Here is the tricky thing about social media. Don’t forget to engage as well. For example, follow athletes and other coaches. Engage with their posts. Make comments. For example, if you check out Gary Vaynerchuk, again, he put together something called $1.80. I will share this with you because I have done this. It is time-consuming, BUT if you want to grow, this is something you can try. Or you hire it out.

How To Hire A Contractor To Manage Your Social

Yes, hire it out. I must tell you, it took me almost 10 years to give someone my social media, but it has been a blessing in disguise. Here are a few places I have connected with to help me with my social media and other tasks in my business.

  • Upwork: I have found some incredible people on Upwork, but I had to dig a lot to find them. I found a Virtual Assistant about four years ago. After a while, I let her go since I didn’t need her help as much. I have also had numerous web designers help me fix my WordPress website. One thing about Upwork, get specific on what and who you are looking for; if you need someone in the U.S., state that. Suppose you need someone who understands the fitness space, publish that in your listing.
  • Fiverr: Hit or miss on Fiverr for me. I tend to go to Upwork. My success on Fiverr hasn’t been the best, but if you need something cheap and quick, this is the place to go.
  • Friends | Athletes: I love this option. Jump on Instagram or Facebook and see if anyone can help you with your social. Maybe it is an athlete that you coach and they love social media. Please give them a discount with your coaching in return for your social media. I have done this. Make sure you have a plan, though! Have most actions detailed for them so that they keep things on-brand.
  • Universities: Are their universities or a college nearby? Can you hire an intern who needs to work on social media for their job? Just a thought
  • The VA Group: Winner. Winner. Chicken Dinner. I have to plug this group. Incredible. My Virtual Assistant now is legit. We have had some learnings for sure on my social media, as he was an aggressive type. For example, “Follow and then plug my service!” BUT that was 100% my fault as I should have been clear with him about how I wanted to approach social media for my business. I did three interviews with prospects and knew that he was my guy. I swear, I work less and have gained more!

I hope some of these resonate with you about hiring out. Trust me, it took me a while, and I am finally “letting it go” after almost 10 years. #scarystuff

Final Thoughts

Social media can be incredible but also very daunting when it comes to just starting. So look at the positives, brush off the negatives, focus on your content one day a week, and if you have to hire out, make sure you find someone who understands what you are looking for to represent your business.

Make sure you plan for each week and a potential theme for each day, which will also keep your brain organized. And if you need help, ask for it.

Let me be transparent here. I step away from social media on Sundays now. I don’t post anything, not even to Strava! And that indeed has been my saving grace heading into the new week.

And remember, post from the heart as people will recognize when it is genuine versus skin deep.

If you are interested in grabbing my social media content calendar, get on my newsletter list. I share some wins and learnings from social media and how I build my brand.

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About Jen Rulon

Jen Rulon has been a triathlon coach for 22+ years and the owner of JenRulon.com. She received her Masters in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise Science. You can find her knowledge as an author and speaker ranging from Triathlete Magazine, Runners World, on the TEDx Stage, Men’s Journal Online and the New York Times. 

Jen is the author of the book “Self-Motivation Strategies for Women,” highlighting how she has lived her life through passion, grit, and heart but now applies this method to the athletes that she coaches.

She also practices what she preaches–she’s a 15x Ironman Triathlete who qualified and participated in the World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, on October 14, 2017.

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