Are You Losing Clients With Unanswered DMs?

Steam shoots from the ears of a man who is frustrated that his direct messages are being ignored by a gym.

Ever booked a free consultation or sold a gym membership on Instagram, Facebook or YouTube?

If you have, congratulations: You’re on the tip of the marketing spear in the post-pandemic period.

If you haven’t, you might be giving prospective clients the shaft.

A head shot of writer Mike Warkentin and the column name "Pressing It Out."

Communication patterns are changing, and it’s important for gym owners to know their audiences and make it easy for its members to make contact.

Three questions:

  • When was the last time you had a phone conversation?
  • When trying to contact a person or business fast, how would you do it?
  • If you see both email and social notifications on your phone, which app do you open first?


Now answer those three questions as your ideal client. Are the responses different?

One more question for you, the owner:

How long does it take your business to respond to inquiries and messages through your gym’s social-media channels?

My guess is that it takes a while. My reasoning is that when I review social accounts for gyms, I regularly see gaps of several days or weeks between posts. Or I see some pattern that indicates the account isn’t exactly at the top of the to-do list.

That was fine a decade ago. Now it’s increasingly risky.

“But I hate posting on social media.”

I get it. But here’s today’s lesson: Social media is no longer just about you and outbound messages to your audience.


It’s About Them Now


Consumers always kinda hated outbound messaging focused on brands. Don’t believe me?

Just imagine watching “The Mandalorian,” “Yellowstone” or “Vikings: Valhalla” with commercials. It’s like thinking about a chocolate cookie covered in dog hair and mustard.

Modern consumers don’t want their eyes taped open while they’re forced to watch ads. They want dialogue and interaction—and they want things on their timelines.

“Unlike traditional one-way advertising communications, social media is a two-way communications platform. Retailers and brands fall short when they fail to understand the personal engagement side of social media.”

That comes from Forbes, and you should read this article in its entirety.

Here’s another chunk of the Forbes piece, and it’s weighty:

“When people reach out to a brand on social for help or more information, they expect an answer within a 24-hour window, (Sprout Social chief marketing officer Jamie) Gilpin notes. That means the social media department can’t just be staffed with a small team, or in the case of an independent retailer, one social media manager responsible simply for posting messages. It requires retailers to adequately staff the customer-service and support function within the social media department.”

Here’s more, from IHRSA’s Club Business International publication: A 2021 Outbrain survey of 8,000 people found that 63 percent of U.S. consumers rate the accessibility of a brand as the No. 1 consideration when purchasing.

Marketing expert Anderson Fernandez, who wrote the article for the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, actually advises gym owners to delete social accounts they don’t monitor carefully to “avoid the possibility of a potential member trying to contact you there and being left with a bad impression when they never hear back.”

Let me restate that:

A marketing expert is suggesting it might be better to delete a social account entirely if you don’t plan to respond to messages on the platform quickly.

Compare that advice to the mentality of a gym owner—perhaps you—who views social media as an annoyance and almost never checks notifications.

That “they can email me” mentality might be costing you clients—the same way a never-answered land line in my gym office cost me clients for about a decade. (Big mistake.)


Do This


You shouldn’t go out and delete your social-media platforms immediately. That would be rash. And you shouldn’t hire an army of people to monitor your accounts. That’s not feasible for a gym.

Here’s your 10-minute basic fix:

1. Go into each of your social media accounts and check your messages. Have you missed anything? Do the same thing with notifications on posts: Have you failed to respond to any comments? Clean up your backlog fast.

2. Add this line to the job description for one role in your business: “Check social inboxes and respond to messages and comments within 24 hours.” This task will likely take five or 10 minutes a day.

3. Brief the person who holds the role on the new standard. If you hold the role, add a daily calendar reminder to check messages. If you hate the idea, read this article from Chris Cooper and remember what he learned: “You always respond to messages fast. There’s always a $10,000 client on the line.”


Got More Time? Do This

Here’s a 60-minute upper-level plan, which might require investment or staffing adjustments:

1. Revisit your client avatar: Which social platforms do your ideal clients use? If you don’t know, ask your current best clients and assume people like them will use the same platforms.

2. Review your social platforms: Are you using the right ones regularly? Adjust as needed.

3. Determine a manageable posting and messaging schedule and carve it into your SOPs. The gold standard: responses within an hour. At minimum, respond within 24 hours.

4. Review your roles and tasks list to figure out the best way to ensure social media isn’t neglected. My suspicion: You could tack “social monitoring” onto the client success manager (CSM) role. Or perhaps you just need to get your current social media manager to respond to messages in a more timely manner.

Whatever you do, consider this your warning that modern consumers are going to make contact via their preferred systems, not yours. Smart business owners will take steps to make sure the right lines of communication are open for their ideal clients at all times.

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