By: Riley Carlton
Last summer I had the pleasure of doing a social media and digital marketing internship under Cory Gregory, the co-founder and former executive vice president of MusclePharm. The experience throughout my internship was completely invaluable. To be in a position to learn from the self-made fitness and business professional was unreal.
Cory, who was once a coal miner, ultimately traded in his hard hat in order to pursue his dream in the fitness industry. Along his journey of personal training, body building shows, and power lifting competitions, Cory somehow found the time to become a social media and digital marketing mastermind. Throughout his ventures with MusclePharm, Cory acquired more than 690,000 followers on Twitter, and 200,000 followers on Instagram. He intrigues his followers with his #SquatEveryday training programs and constant motivational content. Besides his unique social media content, it is Cory’s overall approach to social media that has built a loyal following. As much as I tried to be a sponge during my internship to absorb Cory’s knowledge bombs, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to gain more insight on his social media and digital marketing methods.
Riley Carlton (RC): What originally drew you to social media and digital marketing? Because it seems like you were way ahead of everyone else in the fitness industry.
Cory Gregory (CG): It’s kind of interesting. So there’s a lot of people that have a way bigger following than I do, it we have different intentions. My intentions were all for creating consumer loyalty for the business. So the way I got in to social media is kind of a funny story. I was sitting at this UFC event with Tapout president, Dan “Punkass” Caldwell, and I asked him what is your advice to me as I move forward with MP? He asked if I was on social media, and at the time I was just on Facebook and wasn’t doing much with it. So Punkass says, “Look one thing I did really well was embedded myself in the brand. You’re already gonna be the face of the brand, so I’d get so ridiculously tight to the brand so that you get get the customer no matter what happens within the company.” So I went home that night and signed up for Twitter.
RC: Why do you think social media is important in building consumer engagement?
CG: The concept for me, started with this company called Beverly International. Now they were way before the whole social media thing, but what I loved about them, was I could call down there and they would just answer any questions I had about diet plans or whatever it was. So between them and Bill Phillips, I used to think if Bill Phillips had Twitter when I was your age, and I Tweeted at him with a supplement question and he responded with an answer, but then maybe added a workout I could try, I would Bill Phillip’s supplement for the rest of my life. It’s all about the loyalty you create over time. So ultimately my concept became leading with value before I ever ask the consumer to buy anything.
Twitter literally flew out to have a meeting with my office because we were spending no money with them and all my guys were just killing it. So Twitter was like, “what’s your marketing plan, like how are you guys doing this so successfully?” And my answer was, listen…….They tweet at me and I Tweet them back….
RC: “I’ve been seeing this phrase “brand activation” come up during the launch of your new marketing firm, Activ8. Can you talk a little about the role of social media in brand activation?
CG: So what Activ8 does is, take a business or team or whatever the brand may be, and we tell them exactly what their message to consumers needs to be on social media, advertising, clothing, ect.., or how to utilize their sponsored athletes better. So basically we take the brand, dive in to all of their social media platforms, and then determine what social media plan they should use, what the artwork and design should look like, and then either they can implement these plans, or they can pay us to do it for them. So social media plays a huge part in activating a brand.
RC: So from your experience and recent work with Activ8, how much have you relied on consumer research and data to develop social media plans?
CG: So that’s one of the biggest things we’ve talked about as far as choosing what is the very best platform to reach the consumer. So at MP surprisingly we never ran any analytics. But that was my wheelhouse. Fitness is my hobby, it’s my passion, it was my job. However now with Activ8, the consumer research is essential because we have to determine what is and what isn’t working on their social media. So then after the research, we’ll have a base to measure the progress. We’ll also be using the research to measure their website analytics.
RC: What do you think the most important upcoming trend in social media is?
CG: So first, my opinion is that Snapchat, which is obviously huge with your age group and just in general will be a big trend for a while. And second, the common denominator for everybody that is a single figure in fitness that makes a lot of money is YouTube. YouTube has basically become a TV network for people. If I could go back and do it all over again, I would’ve started putting myself on YouTube a lot earlier, because that’s the ticket. I can’t see it changing anytime soon.
RC: So I’ll wrap it up with this question here, what advice do you have for an aspiring social media professional?
CG: I would say, and it’s hard to find, but you need to find someone who is already doing social media really well and learn from them. So that, and you have to basically have your own editorial calendar. You need a blog, and you need to run all of your social media like you are your own business. It doesn’t have to be super cheesy, but it’s practice. And then also, check out different brands that you like and seeing how they go about doing social media and just take some notes on it for the future. So you just have to be more intentional about checking out brands and studying outside the classroom because you’ll gain a lot of knowledge in the real world as well.
All in all, this interview with Cory provided me with great insights. The most important insight I gained was the importance of staying engaged with consumers and actually taking the time to respond. The next insight was the trend of video content. Consumers love videos and graphics. The last insight I gained was the importance and benefit of developing your personal brand.
You know the most interesting man from the Dos Equis commericals? Well that’s basically Cory Gregory when it comes to the fitness industry. I highly encourage you to check out his life story, because it’s really something special.