Welcome to the Social Spotlight, where we dive into what we love about a brand’s approach to a particular social campaign. From strategy to execution to results, we’ll explore what makes the best brands on Social Tick – and leave you with some key insights for your own brand’s social strategy.
Given the surge in sales and the brand’s popularity during the pandemic, you will be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of Peloton these days. But for those who haven’t kept up, let’s start with a quick warm up.
In 2011, CEO and co-founder John Foley introduced his former colleague Tom Cortese to the idea of a technology-driven solution for the home, inspired by the challenge of adding studio bike classes to his own busy schedule. Together, they came up with a stationary bike equipped with a digital screen that users can use to stream their favorite cycling courses anytime, anywhere in their home. By 2012, Foley, Cortese and their three co-founders Graham Stanton, Hisao Kushi and Yony Feng had successfully turned dreams into reality with secured funds and the construction of a prototype.
Eight years later, Peloton – named after the French name for a group of racing cyclists – has over a million networked fitness subscribers (i.e. people with a Peloton bike or treadmill and the digital subscription). And if you only factor in subscribers, that number climbs to over two million. The company recently added a second model of bike and a treadmill to its product line.
Peloton isn’t the only brand for stationary bikes, treadmills, or digital fitness subscriptions, however. Or even the cheapest. This is a great reminder that it’s not always about a brand’s product or service, but how people feel. That’s the essence of real branding. So what factors contribute to peloton’s almost cult following?
Before we delve into, I should admit that I’ve never ridden a Peloton bike myself. But many of my colleagues have. And after my suggestion to put one out for “research” was lovingly (or rather laughingly) rejected by my manager, I knew I needed to get Team Sprout’s avid peloton fans for some first-hand insights.
With the brand’s signature combination of immersive software, beautifully designed equipment, addictive classes, and empowering instructors, it’s difficult to attribute their success to any single factor. But the rave reviews from my teammates had one thing in common:
“For me, it’s about the sense of community. I love that I can still take lessons from people I know and cheer them on during the rides. There is a lot of responsibility in knowing that you are exercising with friends and that they can see your progress and cheer you on too. “- Kim Blight, Product Manager, Sprout Social
For many Peloton users, the friendly competition, connection, and rider motivation is a big reason they keep working day in and day out. Some shared that their peloton bike and the relationships they have built helped them quit therapy. Others have said it saved their sanity during the pandemic. However, this life-changing virtual community doesn’t just live from the streaming service. In fact, where it really thrives is on social.
I am fascinated by Peloton’s use of social media because so much of this community building is actually happening outside of the brand’s own pages – largely due to the online influence of the instructors, many of whom are celebrities themselves. These instructor / influencer hybrids have become ambassadors for the brand and act as the voice of Peloton in the world. Another great community builder is the users who come together through localized Facebook groups, Reddit threads, and what drivers often refer to as “tribes” gathering around commonalities like favorite teachers, sports teams, occupations, and life stages – like you call.
But don’t sleep on Peloton’s own canals. There the brand brings users together by sharing their blog educational content, User Generated Content (UGC), open-ended community questions, promotional content for new rides, workouts and instructors, and motivational messages. You can also find a healthy mix of copies, videos, GIFs, and static images. With a variety of content and formats, these sites feel like a source of knowledge and entertainment to quench the thirst of both the curious and the dedicated.
What you can learn:
1. Rely on your community for product development. While I can’t be sure if these groups and teams were all organically formed or if Peloton initiated the trend, it is clear that the brand observed this behavior (most likely through social listening) and then promoted it through product integration. In early 2020, the company added a new feature called Tags, which allows users to connect with people in the communities they planted outside of the bike and track their exercises.
This isn’t the only time Peloton used social insights to influence research and development. Recently, the brand unveiled a new bike model that cites user feedback as a driver for the new offering.
2. Often provided with UGC content. Peloton loves to highlight the humanity and hard work of its users in the social field. Not only does it offer the priceless rewards for easy recognition, but it also encourages people to keep sharing on their own social channels, effectively increasing the reach of their word of mouth over time.
When member Emily H. was putting her peloton room together, she knew the room would be a family favorite: “We’re a peloton …
Posted by Peloton on Monday 7th Sep 2020
Get started: Following our expert guide on user-generated content, first choose the social networks that will be most effective for your campaign. Then determine your goals for UGC and create a plan for how you will request and deploy it. The community open ended questions that Peloton uses are a great way to get the kind of content you want to share.
What is a Peloton Instructor Mantra that you have taken to heart?
– Zug (@onepeloton) September 16, 2020
3. Empower your employees to stand up for vocal marks. Peloton knows the secret sauce at their service is its instructors. That’s why they’re so well represented in the brand’s social content and that they even help manage their online presence by helping with content creation. In addition to the employees, also consider all the “main users” of your product or service or really each of your customers with a significant following (and thus a potential reach). The reality is, people trust real people’s opinions and recommendations before they trust a brand.
Get started: Give your employees an easy way to share curated content on their social networks and increase your brand’s reach with an employee advocacy tool like Bambu. You might also benefit from identifying some potential influencers among your social followers. Features like Sprout’s influencer detection can be useful for this task.
4. Finally, speak from the heart about the social. That may sound cheesy, but it obviously works for Peloton. The topic of fitness generates many emotions: inspiration, motivation, the desire for self-improvement, but also self-criticism and fear. Peloton leans toward the more positive, ambitious than the fear-based emotions. They also put a lot of emphasis on the connection (we approve). Whether it’s a motivational message, personal fitness performance stories, or an encouraging word from your favorite teacher, meaningful content creates a community and creates a relationship between a brand and its audience.
This also includes expressing yourself on the topics and values that are important for your brand. At Sprout, we talk a lot about the importance of standing up for social issues and standing up for the things that matter to you in order to better connect with your audience. It may seem scary to offend those who disagree, but the loyalty it fosters in those who do is well worth the risk.
“We protect ourselves from knowing the pain of others because it is painful and uncomfortable.” Tunde, your passionate words remind us that we still have so much to do, but that we will go together. Experience Tunde’s Speak Up ride now on request. #onepeloton pic.twitter.com/M7HxIkYQPG
– Peloton (@onepeloton) June 12, 2020