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Today we welcome, Professional Fitness Blogger and Nutrition & Strength Coach, Mason Woodruff from MasonFit.com! In this interview he shares his fitness and blogging journey, how he grew his Instagram audience to over 5,000 followers organically, and reveals what digital product he is working on behind the scenes!  Tune in!

Read more from Mason in the article below: 

Hello Mason and welcome!

Hi, Kilah! Thanks for having me on your blog.

Great to have you here.  Can you take a minute to introduce yourself and describe where you are currently in your personal fitness/health journey?

Since you’ve asked me to talk about myself, I’m a nutrition and strength coach, blogger and online business owner, and dog father. I like to think I’m in a great place on my fitness journey. After a failed attempt at being the next Larry Bird, I power lifted my way to a bum back and life of constant pain and immobility. I’ve since adopted a more moderate approach to fitness and train 3-4 times per week or when I feel like it.

Other than the typical seasonal fluctuations, I’ve moreor less been the same body weight and body composition for 2-3 years now, and I don’t know if anyone is more proud of such an extended plateau. I say plateau jokingly, of course. I eat flexibly and enjoy foods that I love while training when I feel like it and maintain a body that I’m 90-95% happy with. It’s a great place!

So how did you get started blogging and what keeps you motivated to continue blogging?

I started blogging in 2014 primarily as a creative outlet and potential marketing vehicle for a service-based personal training business. Earlier that year, I’d finished a dietetics degree and decided to pass on the internship required to become a registered dietitian. I originally went down the RD path due to my love for fitness, nutrition, and performance and was disenchanted with medical nutrition and working in hospitals.

If anyone is unfamiliar with the job opportunities for a non-RD dietetics grad, know they’re fairly nonexistent. So it only made sense to get back to what led me to dietetics in the first place, training and working with people in the gym. I got certified through the NSCA and the rest is history.

I’ve always been an uber-nerd when it comes to the world of health and fitness. When I wasn’t studying required material in college, I was reading blogs and watching videos of industry leaders. This was probably the biggest driving force in starting a blog and creating content — to share information that was important to me and I knew could help others.

Fitness changed my life and now blogging and online business have changed my life as well. I know they both have the potential to positively change the lives of others, and that’s what motivates me to continue creating content and spreading the good word.

Can you describe your business and it’s mission?

My mission has always been to simplify what others complicate, stand up to misinformation and dogma, and encourage sustainability and moderation over extremism. I aim to make things as easy as possible and be a stepping stone for more advanced training and/or nutrition strategies. If someone hates cooking or exercising, for example, they need to learn about making better choices with what they do eat and finding physical activity that’s tolerable. We can build from there.

For example- You wouldn’t have a person deadlifting and barbell squatting on their first day in the gym. Why would you expect that same person to go from zero cooking to a completely unprocessed foods diet overnight. Yet, I see plenty of people taking these measures and inevitably failing. That leads to the notion that nutrition and making a positive health change  is impossibly hard, and that’s just not the case.

I recently read that you grew your monthly Instagram following to over 5,000 users with a unique strategy.  Can you describe some of the strategies you used to build an an Instagram following?

For sure. Instagram frustrated me for years, but it’s definitely one of the top social platforms with high quality users and potential traffic. The article you mentioned dives a bit deeper into the exact strategies I used, so I’ll stick to super practical tips here:

  • In the beginning, limit the personal posts. If you’re after an Instagram audience that follows you for your content, they don’t want to see many photos of your personal life. If you’re a high-level athlete or fitness model, this may not apply to you. But for the most part, you should provide value with every single post. If it doesn’t benefit your followers in some way, it’s not going to help you grow.
  • If you’re going to follow someone, like or comment on a post, or interact with anyone on Instagram, make it genuine. In the early stages, you’re going to have to legitimately follow people and create interactions and engagement. It takes a lot of time but once you reach critical mass or enough social proof that your profile is worth following, you may not need to do this.
  • At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I feel Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans applies to growing an Instagram as well. Once you’re over the 1k followers mark, there’s a mix of social proof, hard-earned followers, and a body of work that’s worth paying attention to.
  • Speaking of a profile that’s worth following, you’re selling your feed. If someone clicks onto your profile, they need a compelling reason to scroll through and find value before following. This also takes patience and consistency. If your last 9 posts were phenomenal, but the 9 before that weren’t, you may lose potential followers. Don’t get discouraged, just keep at it.
  • I mention frequency in the article, but I feel 3+ posts per day should be the minimum if you’re serious about growing quickly. This will also motivate you to create and build your content library. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forced myself to create an infographic because I was out of content.
  • Ask for engagement in your posts. Comments are gold for algorithms and building relationships. The more conversations you can have with followers, the better. Create content that’s worth discussing or sharing. That’s probably a topic worth researching on its own.
  • As a final takeaway, I feel the magic in early growth is through connecting with others in your niche. A super practical tip is to support the content of others with similar followings. This could be through reposting, sharing via Instagram story, or supporting off Instagram via other social channels or something like that. Also, if you’re crushing it on another platform (let’s say Pinterest), use that as leverage to grow your Instagram following. Hint hint: If someone approached me to help them with Instagram in exchange for Pinterest success, I’d be more than happy to entertain the discussion.

Do you recommend Tailwind, Hootsuite, or manual posting on social media?

I’ve used scheduling platforms in the past and think they’re okay. If you have a massive content library, using something that repurposes and reschedules posts makes a lot of sense. Otherwise, post manually and spend time actively promoting your new content.

The exception to this, in my opinion, is Pinterest. I’ve been using Tailwind with a lot of success over the past few months. Since posting frequency can be crazy high (some post 100+ pins/day), using a scheduling tool is a no-brainer. I’ve seen discussion on whether or not scheduling tools hurt performance. To that, I take a stance similar to my fitness approach — using a scheduler is the only way I’m going to use Pinterest.

Not to mention, Tailwind Tribes are the only group strategy I’ve come across that’s truly worth doing. I know bloggers were crushing it with group boards in 2014-2016, but I think that success has really dropped off. And in my experience, nobody is sharing content from group boards like they are in Tailwind Tribes.

What are some of the projects or strategies you are currently working on to monetize your fitness blog?

Courses and digital products are hot right now. I don’t know how much longer that will be the case, but I’m not one to shy away from a saturated market. If you have a great product, the market will support it. That being said, courses and digital products are extremely difficult to sell in the fitness and nutrition space. Since I’ve pivoted to more food and recipes, I plan on creating a product that is a hybrid between cookbook and flexible dieting meal plan. In my mind, it will take someone from start to finish with how many calories and macronutrients they need for their goals and have a complete meal plan with recipes and shopping lists. One benefit of building an Instagram audience with the tactics above is genuine connections with others in my nice. So, I should have a great pool for potential affiliates.

Outside of the product space, I think ads are the apple of my eye. (Probably all bloggers’ eyes, right?) I’ve seen others raving about companies like Mediavine and AdThrive, and I find their minimum thresholds for applying very appealing as they promise quality. I believe Mediavine requires 25,000 sessions per month to apply and AdThrive requires 100,000 pageviews per month. Gettin’ there!

A few side notes on affiliate marketing for fitness professionals: While affiliate marketing is a viable income source, and the fitness industry is rampant with products to promote, be careful with what you promote. Don’t trade your audience’s trust for a quick buck. If someone buys something that doesn’t work, whether it’s the product’s fault or their own, they’ll remember you recommended it. I use Amazon’s affiliate program to promote relevant products like kitchen tools or a protein powder I’m using for recipes, but I don’t promote much outside of that. I also think it would be much more profitable to partner exclusively with one brand or company that you 100% believe in for sponsored posts or affiliate sales at a higher commission.

Do you have any advice for new or established fitness bloggers that want to monetize their social media or web pages?

While I think we’re all aiming to move away from service-based revenue to more passive streams, the truth it services will have to be a large part of your strategy for a long time. This depends on where you’re at as a blogger or social influencer, but it’s going to take longer than you think to monetize.

If you’re looking to grow an online coaching or in-person training business, I have two articles you might enjoy:

  1. How to Generate More Leads and Personal Training Clients
  2. How to Sell Personal Training (the sales process we deployed in a commercial gym setting to sell over 2 million dollars worth of personal training in 2016)

And if you’re dead set on making money without trading time, check out my article about 6 Non-Service Income Streams for Personal Trainers.

You can read more from Mason and follow him on Instagram here: 

Thanks Mason!  You Rock!

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