The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association is the fitness industry's only global trade association representing over 10,000 for profit health and fitness facilities and over 600 supplier companies in 75 countries.



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Online Advocacy Leads to Offline Change

Tweeting and sharing updates on Facebook attract more members to your club. Correct?

Assuming that your social-media initiative is well executed, it provides you with improved access to them, a faster and more effective way to engage them, and a free platform to discuss what matters most—to you and to them.

What might happen, one has to wonder, if your social-media offerings also included updates on the industry’s advocacy efforts? Think about it.

What if, in addition to content about their own companies and objectives, more club owners and other fitness professionals were to share information about the industry’s efforts to kindle positive bipartisan policy changes—e.g., adequate funding for physical education, tax incentives for club memberships, programs that promote greater physical activity?

Is it possible that the industry could, then, begin to grow by leaps and bounds?

In 2012, a Pew Research Center study reported that political activity on social networking sites had increased significantly since 2008, and, moreover, that such discussions tended to lead to further involvement in political issues.

According to the study, 39% of adults engage in political or civic activities on social networking sites. Among other things, they post their own thoughts on social/political issues; “like” or promote comments others have posted; repost such content; ask people to vote; encourage others to take action; link to political articles; participate in groups that work to advance a particular cause; or they educate themselves about elected officials, political candidates, and others. However, “likes” and “shares” have become so easy to execute, and multiplied so profusely, that many have begun to question their value. But, in fact, when it comes to advocacy, they’re more effective than you might think. In the Pew study, 43% of social-media users decided to learn more about an issue that they first heard about via social media, and 18% took offline action on a social/political issue after learning about it the same way. Those percentages add up to some pretty impressive numbers when you consider that Twitter has some 200 million registered users, while Facebook has more than one billion worldwide.

What effect would it have on the industry’s advocacy efforts if 18% of social networkers knew more about the positive impact that health clubs have on the economy and healthcare costs? That’s an exciting thought. Another thing to consider is that, while social media prompts voters to get involved offline, it has also engaged lawmakers in a major way. While the content they produce may be a bit more guarded, and/or moderated by a staffer, nearly all of the members of Congress have Twitter accounts.

Search for your senators or representative on Twitter, and you’ll undoubtedly find their official Twitter feed.

In doing so, they can communicate with you in real time, and, by tweeting back, you can engage your representatives in an active, two-way conversation. You also can let your friends and colleagues know what lawmakers are saying and doing, and encourage them to get involved in health-promotion initiatives. So, get online! Start tweeting! Begin sharing your thoughts about efforts to make club memberships more attractive and affordable for every American. Social media makes it easy to share information with “friends” and “followers,” and, at the same time, to keep abreast of what other advocates are saying.

Don’t know where to start? As a first step, follow IHRSA’s public policy team on Twitter (@campaign4health) and Facebook (/campaign4health). If you’re a health club or health promotion advocate—we’ll be sure to “follow” you back.  


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