Be authentic and share your failures as well as your successes. Be a human online. Show your journey, your humble beginnings, all the mistakes you’ve made and how you struggled as you got to where you are now. Also be a human in the way that you write and communicate with others. No one wants to talk to a formal paper. Write like a real person, show your face, show a little bit of your life behind the scenes and build connections with people.
We often use the term “Influencers” to describe people with significant social media followings on platforms like Instagram, Twitter TikTok, Youtube, Linkedin and Facebook. Influencers have become today’s media titans, sought after for everything from product placements to timely trends. What’s the difference between influence and impact? Fans and followers? Sizzle versus staying power?
In this interview series, called, “How To Cultivate Community In A Click to Connect World” we are talking to influencers about how they define success and what we all need to discover about the true nature of influence. As a part of this series I had the pleasure of interviewing Robert Dodds.
Robert Dodds is the founder of Nothing Barred Fitness an online coaching service and fitness guide aimed at parents and those without much time to devote to getting in shape. Robert’s client base has been built by organically growing an engaged and active following on social media, mainly on Twitter. His website is: nothingbarredfitness.com.
Thank you for making time to visit with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. How did you discover your career path and what got you to where you are today?
Thank you for having me!
I discovered my career path through a love of fitness and wanting to do something that could make a real difference to people. I wanted to get a sense of pride from my work and give people the tools they need to be happy in, and not limited by, their bodies.
I got to where I am today by consistently posting content on social media, my own website, and reaching out/engaging with other similar people on their social media channels. I managed to sign up a few clients at first, and they had great results. Eventually people started to take notice, and my following began to grow.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned along the way that influences how you operate now?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is not to try to spread my attention everywhere. There’s only so much time in the day. You need to focus your efforts in a small number of places to gain traction. Trying to be on Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, write your blog etc. is too much and you’ll dilute the impact of your work because your efforts aren’t strong and consistent enough in any particular place.
I started off trying to do everything. In the end I’ve mainly settled on Twitter, my blog and my email list. That way I can be consistently present in a few places,, rather than sending a trickle of my efforts to every platform — and never getting anything going.
We’re all searching for some good news. How are you using your platform to make a positive social impact?
Social media is often associated with negativity or “toxicity”, but if you follow the right people it can be a really positive place, even a community of likeminded individuals all cheering each other on. Lots of people mention how they love “hanging out” on “fitness twitter” and many people have even met up in real life too. One member of the community relied on his car for work. When he couldn’t afford the maintenance, a few fitness influencers and myself pulled together to set up a Go Fund Me so he could get his car repaired and not fall on hard times. Aside from things like this, I use my platform to put out helpful health and fitness information that helps people to transform their lives for the better.
Many of our readers are influencers as well. Others have tried and have yet to succeed. What words of advice would you offer to aspiring influencers, knowing what you know now?
Show up every day — you have to be consistent. It takes a long time to gain traction, but the growth is exponential once it does start happening. Don’t quit after 2 months. Just because results have been really slow at first, doesn’t mean they won’t speed up significantly eventually. Remember, every single huge influencer once had 0 followers.
You need to be clear about exactly why people should follow you and what they’ll get out of it. Once you’ve done that, actually deliver the value that your bio says you do — every day. Be a real person and help people. You’ll be rewarded.
Success is often a matter of perspective. I’ve always resonated with Henry David Thoreau’s quote, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” How do you see success — or define success — for yourself now?
Success for me is simply helping as many people as possible to improve their health and fitness, which will in turn improve all areas of their lives.
I’ve seen and worked with enough people now to know that unbelievable transformations are possible. I love working with people like this. I get an immense feeling of satisfaction from knowing I’ve helped someone change the entire trajectory of their life. My mission now is to do it at scale.
What are your strategies to make room for who and what matters most?
I am a family man. What matters most to me is my family. With the nature of my work heavily involving social media and my phone always being within reach, it’s important that I don’t let it encroach upon all areas of daily life. My work is enjoyable, but I have to set boundaries so that I can enjoy the benefits that my work allows me, and actually spend time with my family and live life too.
I try to have hours of the day with no screens, and limit what I do on weekends and in the evenings. I’ve even had timers on my computer that mean it will turn itself off and lock itself until the next time when I’m “allowed” to use it!
There are also several pieces of technology that allow me to automate or speed up parts of my content creation and engaging with followers, so I can spend less time on social media and more time with my family.
How do you reduce or mitigate stress?
I rarely get overly stressed. Sometimes the never-ending list of things to do can feel stressful, but most of the time I think my work and lifestyle afford me a pretty stress free life.
Also, the habits I already have from being heavily interested in health and fitness naturally lead to reduced stress. Eating a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, getting lots of daily movement, several sessions per week of resistance training — as well as a 7+ hours of sleep per night are excellent ways to reduce stress.
I’m going to try a few of your tips, and I’m hopeful our readers will, too. Now it’s time for the big reveal — the moment our readers have been anticipating. What are your “five strategies to cultivate a large & engaged social media community?’ Please share a story or example for each.
- How your profile looks and what it says matters.
Get clear on what makes you unique. Spell it out. Who specifically do you help? WHAT do you help them to achieve? Why should they follow you rather than all the other millions of influencers?
“I’m a fitness coach” is nowhere near as powerful as “I help tired dads to lose fat and gain strong, so they can be superheroes to their kids”. Be super appealing to the specific type of people you help, rather than being “vanilla” and only somewhat appealing to a larger group.
Make sure you have a professional photo (not a selfie) which shows you in your environment and speaks to your ideal follower, showing them that you know what you’re talking about.
Track the impact of changes you make to your bio if you can. Many social media platforms offer you analytics and insights. Twitter shows you how many profile visits you had, and how many new followers you gained. Using these you can work out your conversion rate of profile viewer to follower. When I was still quite new at this, I decided to track these metrics across the months. When I changed my photo from a selfie in a gym mirror, to a professional photo in the gym, my conversion rate went through the roof.
2. Engage with people who have the audience you want to have.
There are many influencers with big audiences which will overlap with, or may be the same as, your niche. Follow these people and add value to their posts in your replies. Don’t just reword what they said, add value. Be there consistently and some of their followers will follow you. They will sometimes share your tweets and the influencers may eventually follow you too. All of this helps you get seen by potential new prospects. It takes time though, be patient.
3. Engage with your followers.
When you get comments on your posts, comment back. Build relationships. Be a person. Follow people back if they’re relevant to you. People will DM you with questions. Answer them. Before you know it, this will snowball and you’ll have an army of fans.
4. Be authentic and share your failures as well as your successes.
Be a human online. Show your journey, your humble beginnings, all the mistakes you’ve made and how you struggled as you got to where you are now. Also be a human in the way that you write and communicate with others. No one wants to talk to a formal paper. Write like a real person, show your face, show a little bit of your life behind the scenes and build connections with people.
Don’t make content for content’s sake if it’s not true to you. People can spot a fake. For example, I shouldn’t make content about how to bench press 400 pounds, because I cannot do that. I should be open about the fact I can’t do it and help people with things I have actual experience of.
5. Don’t sell too much.
A little selling is fine but try to keep that mostly to your email list. Constant promotional posts is a quick way for your followers to tune you out and unfollow. Give out free help and advice most of the time. Try to keep the ratio of your posts to 90% value, 10% promotions (at most).
What do you do to create a greater sense of connection and community among your fans?
As well as the things I’ve mentioned above, I do things like “ask me anything” posts on Twitter. This allows people to ask any question, not necessarily fitness related, and I try to answer as many as possible. This is a nice way to create new connections, and I’ll often notice people who’s questions I answered engaging more in future.
Generally, I try to reply to everyone that comments on any of my posts, even if it isn’t required. I want people to know that I’m active and around, not just scheduling all my posts in advance and then leaving them to it.
As most of my social media activity is on Twitter, there are a lot of discussions between followers that comment underneath my posts anyway, due to the nature of the platform.
I often tweet about topics that start discussions, e.g. where there is grey area or about things that are a matter of preference. I encourage people to share their opinions, and naturally some debates start in the comments.
As an influencer, you are, by definition, a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I have inspired some mini movements many times! I often run free “challenges” or “kickstarts” — these have been very successful. I invite my followers to sign up for a 7, 10 or 14 day process where I will give them a “kickstart” by challenging them to follow a workout program and digest daily video lessons about fitness and nutrition.
They score themselves at the start and end of the process to see what impact it has had on their confidence, motivation & body image.
These have been very successful. People build relationships within the challenge group, with the participants all encouraging and supporting each other, and sharing their results.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you’d like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He, she or they might just see this. 🙂
I’d love to have a private lunch with Gary Vaynerchuk. The man is so motivating and energetic, and has also made much of his success from social media. He seems like a great guy who I’d love to spend an hour with, and I know I could learn an endless amount of stuff!
What is the best way for our readers to further follow your work online?
The best way to follow my work online is via my blog on nothingbarredfitness.com and my Twitter account (Rob_NBF).
Thank you for these thought provoking insights. Here’s to your continued success!
Thank you, and thanks for giving me your time!