A blog is an essential tool for communicating with your members and cultivating an authentic, exciting community. There is a psychosocial element built into CFSBK’s business philosophy that recognizes that people don’t just walk through our doors to get fit, but also to be part of something larger than themselves. As an affiliate owner, you have an enormous and meaningful opportunity not just to facilitate athletes connecting deeply with the CrossFit program, but also with other likeminded people. And of course, that connection does nothing but make your business more exceptional, by encouraging retention, loyalty, and investment.
Just like you'd have an interest in knowing the average size of group classes, it's important to pay attention to the kind of digital traffic your gym generates to track the overall health of your online presence (other forms of social media can play a significant role in this). CFSBK’s blog has racked up 2,100-plus blog posts over the last six years, with almost every single post highlighting gym members and in-house events. We average about 15-30 comments per day with regular 40+ days and bizarro 100+ days. Our daily page views total about 3,000 on average, a number that slowly crept up over time through our dedicated commitment to blogging.
Below are some thoughts you might consider if you’re interested in creating and facilitating community through your blog. While all CrossFit affiliates are required to have and maintain one, many prioritize other forms of social media, such as Facebook, in providing information to members. In my opinion, blogging is a better medium because it allows you to curate the tone more, whereas with Facebook, you’re entering a space with pre-existing norms for what’s appropriate.
We feature photographs on each post, so that means that over 2,000 times, someone has clicked on the blog and gotten excited to see themselves or one of their friends on the site. Having new and interesting pictures from and of your affiliate is an invaluable feature of a successful blog. Without regular and professional-looking pictures the page can appear dull and will not motivate your members to check the site regularly. Remember that blogs are visual mediums. How many web sites have you visited and never returned to because they didn't stimulate your eye? Not only do photos enhance every post with something new and visually appealing to look at, but the images themselves help build community by putting faces to names on a daily basis.
In the early days of CFSBK, I used to take pictures from each class, but I eventually started bartering with members who happened to be excellent photographers (offering them discounted memberships based on their workload). We currently have four different photographers that shoot for us—both at normal group classes and at events—and then upload their shots directly to our public Flickr account (which is also quite popular). You'll have to find the right people and make sure that they've got a good eye for movement—and that they're not too intrusive to folks working out. A good photographer should be able to capture candid and interesting moments that flatter their subjects, since we know everyone doesn’t necessarily look their sexiest when sweating under a heavy barbell.
Having dedicated photographers is great for events and outings organized by or at the gym. There isn't anything more motivating to potential members than seeing a picture of over 150 people having a good time at your last Paleo potluck. Get on it.
Workout of the Day
It’s perhaps obvious that you should post your WODs, but it's worth noting that the blog offers a unique opportunity for providing additional notes about the day's programming and workout before your members arrive at the gym. Reading this beforehand gives them an opportunity to start thinking about how they'll approach the day's training, and advises them of the programming’s intent and objectives. CFSBK not only posts the workout, but often some scaling options or notes related to how athletes should approach it. Below you can see a recent WOD posting. You'll note that we provide the sets and reps in addition to explaining larger context for the WOD:
Pause all your reps at the bottom for a 1 count. Work on your tightness and organization at the bottom of your rep.
Fitness: Work up to medium 5
Find your starting 5 for the cycle. Should be perfect with room to grow. If you've got time you can do up to three sets of this starting weight.
You'll be seeing Bench Press on Mondays for the next 6 weeks!
Post loads to comments
Bench Press exposure 1/7
Reps of Consecutive Double Unders
Rest as needed between rounds of double unders. Must complete a round unbroken to progress to the next round. There is a 12-minute cap on this workout, see how far you can get! If you don't have doubles, use this as 12 minutes of practice on technique and efficiency.
Post highest rep round to comments.
Of course, we'll always review the workout in detail at the gym, but the more information you can provide ahead of time, the better.
(In future articles, I’ll address our programming style and why it works for us.)
A few of our coaches write regular content for CFSBK’s blog, and I’ve solicited semi-regular submissions from some of our members. We also share various events in which our members participate (such as volunteer work, art shows, and classes they might be teaching), and keep up with our wider community in Brooklyn. Additionally, our blog has been a critical component in running successful events at our gym, serving as a central hub for information and planning details.
Over time, the blog becomes an important voice for your affiliate and helps establish the kind of culture you want to cultivate. The blog reveals and conveys your attitudes about form and technique, your ideas regarding important components of training longevity, the kinds of habits you hope to encourage in your members, etc. Both through articles, photo captions, and the kinds of links you post, a good blog helps build a common general training philosophy that should complement what happens inside the gym. There is already an abundance of good (and not so good) information and attitudes on the Internet, but don't underestimate how important your individual and collective voice can be.
The Comments Section
As noted in “Starting Classes with Introductions”, CFSBK prioritizes having an on-going, continual conversation with our members. We consistently request that members post numbers from their workouts, and any debriefing thoughts, to generate conversation. The online dialogue generated from these comments provides an invaluable asset for coaching. Reading the training notes of people taking group classes gives you feedback about how people are responding to your programming. It also provides insight into the specifics of how your members’ training is progressing (or not progressing). In the end, both you and your athletes benefit from learning more about their experiences.
In addition to engaging our members about their training, we also often pose a direct question in the vein of our Questions of the Day. Sometimes these questions still relate to training but are more general (i.e., How do you establish pre-lift confidence?) and sometimes they don’t (i.e., What was the most beautiful thing you’ve seen recently?). These non-training related questions enable members and coaches to get to know one another even better, and readers often look forward to these comments just as much the blog’s content.
If your blog regularly gets zero or very few comments, then you have a great opportunity to start a fresh conversation. Aim to encourage a civil, fun, and productive tone. I've found that if that kind of dialogue is the objective, getting people to participate becomes effortless.
Managing the Blog
I am solely responsible for managing CFSBK’s blog, meaning I create each new post on a daily basis. While this can be admittedly a bit of an albatross to bear, there are plenty of ways to ease this into your workflow. One suggestion would be to find a co-blogger and alternate who posts on a weekly basis. Because our blog is such a critical element of our community, I’ve prioritized it with my duties, and solicit help when it’s appropriate.
The blog can ultimately serve as a digital scrapbook for your affiliate—providing plenty of photographic ammunition for loving jokes about peoples’ hairstyles in years to come, and offering members a permanent, written archive of their past workouts or experiences. Ultimately, a well-executed blog chronicles all the successes, events, and tribulations of your members and gym as you continue to grow, while also contributing significantly to that growth.
I hope this has helped you consider your blog and how you're using it. Please share in the comments any related thoughts about developing community through blogging.
CrossFit - "The Blog" with Greg Glassman