How social conversations went from ‘fit’ to ‘fitter’ in five years

I’m someone who is naturally curious when it comes to observing human behaviour; this curiosity often manifests itself in me people-watching from the safety of a coffee shop, or ‘accidentally’ overhearing terse words between a husband and wife on the train. But when I get the chance to listen in to conversations on scale, that’s when things get really interesting.

Social listening is a great way to gauge public opinion on a particular issue, and you very often see blogs and opinion pieces on how crises and big announcements play out through social media conversations. That said, monitoring conversations for attitudinal and behavioural shifts over time can sometimes be overlooked when thinking about an opportunity for your brand or product.

As well as a self-confessed voyeur, I’m also a fitness fanatic and so the surge in popularity for fitness influencers, sports brands and healthy foods has definitely not gone unnoticed. Having some data to substantiate this groundswell is extremely satisfying for me!

A report published recently by social intelligence firm Crimson Hexigon shows that as a nation, we’ve stopped moaning about fitness and started doing. Back in 2010, 57% of the conversations around exercise were people saying they dislike it. The sentiment shifted hugely in the space of just 5 years, so come 2015, the negative nellies were confined to just 21% of the conversation. Compared to 2010 when only 34% of the conversation about exercise was about getting it done, now a staggering 64% of that chatter is about having just completed some exercise. You could draw a couple of conclusions from that; that more people are out there doing it (and shouting about it on social media), or that we’ve become prouder than ever to shout from the rooftops that we’ve just finished a session in the gym, or a run, swim, yoga class or bike ride.

And us girls (sorry boys!) are absolutely no exception. In fact, it seems that women are fuelling conversations about participating in sports and activities more than ever, perhaps influenced by the Sport England #ThisGirlCan campaign. I mean, I won’t lie. I’ve seen the ad a hundred times and I still get goosebumps and want to fist pump the air at the end every time. The rise in the total level of conversations from women about exercise increasing would seem to be a huge marque of success for Sport England, and even for the fitness brands that followed suit with female-empowering campaigns.

But perhaps most interestingly for brands, and arguably more important to the future of our nation’s health, is that it is the younger generation who are leading the charge. Making up just a fraction of the conversation in 2010, social chatter about exercise in the under 17’s saw the biggest area of growth when compared to 2015. Perhaps this shows that this age group is more open to the advice being offered online by a growing number of fitness brands and influencers. Of course this trend should be treated cautiously and I’d really hope that brands wanting to ride this wave would be mindful of this age groups’ vulnerabilities; peer pressure, body image, the desire to stay on trend, FOMO – the list goes on.

I feel that all of this serves as a reminder that attitudes and behaviours do change, and that they can change quite quickly in a relatively short period of time. As individuals, we have more ways to tell the world what we’re doing and feeling than ever before. As PRs, we should never underestimate the power of stopping and listening in.

Victoria Coppin
Digital Account Director

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