How 'The Body Coach' Joe Wicks harnessed social media to build a fitness empire

Personal trainer Joe Wicks built an international brand using social media. His next challenge: conquering America.

In just three years, Joe Wicks – better known as "The Body Coach" – has gone from regular personal trainer to international online celebrity. Like many brands, he credits a quickly growing social media presence for his quick rise.

Wicks now faces the challenge of transferring his celebrity status across the pond. While he’s built a significant following in his native England, he’s working on building his brand with an American audience. His new focus coincides with the launch of his book, Lean in 15, this week.  

Wicks has experimented with many social media platforms in the past 36 months.

"I’ve jumped from Twitter in 2013, to Instagram in 2014, and started getting into Facebook and YouTube a little, and one day I just got on Snapchat and I love it," Wicks said.

The trainer has more than a million followers on both Facebook and Instagram. His Twitter account boasts more than 150,000 followers, not to mention 100,000 YouTube subscribers.

In the two months before Wicks’ U.S. media tour, he and a team that includes his brother Nikki, Manifest New York, and his UK agency Carver PR, have been working to get him in front of American eyes in the most natural way. On Facebook alone, his U.S. following grew from about 10,000 to 75,000 in that time.

"We’ve never done an ad [on Facebook]," said Nikki Wicks. "We let the content go as far as it’ll go with organic reach. If it goes really far, we know it's good, and then we’ll promote it in America."

He attributes part of his social media success to his accessible personality and humor, as well as the sheer volume of content. On Instagram alone, Wicks posts several times a day with a mixture of recipe videos, personal photos, and content promoting his book and online program.

"My social media following grew because of my online personality. You have to be yourself and have fun, and that’s what I’ve done," Wicks said. "I work as hard as I can and get out as much content as I can. I was giving out hundreds of hours of content and people were so excited they were pre-ordering the book three or four months out."

Nikki said the difference is giving something valuable to fans. Wicks will post a recipe or short workout video or even a simple motivation for the people following his fitness program.

"It’s entertaining, but more importantly, it’s actually useful content. There’s value in it," Nikki said.

The trainer’s top platform is Snapchat. He said that’s where his audience can really get to know him and follow his story in real-time. For the book launch, Wicks is documenting his trip to the U.S. and giving followers a behind-the-scenes look at his media tour alongside his usual short cooking, workout, and motivational videos.

"We approach Snapchat like it's a TV show, and we treat it like a TV show," Wicks said. "It helps the people who follow you get connected with you and invested in you and believe in you."

Wicks and his team had a personal bet going about how many followers he will gain from his trip to the U.S. – he put the number at 200,000 – but Wicks said his personal goal is to help people.

"I try to inspire people with the right message at the right time," he said. "[The message is] have fun, live your life, don’t cut things out, socialize, and make the right food choices."

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