Shooting Fitness Videos: 2 yrs and 50+ videos later

What I learned creating videos for Gary Vaynerchuk’s personal trainers

If you’ve followed Gary Vaynerchuk in the last two years you’ll seen he’s gone from medium husky, to lean to jacked. (I’m kinda a little jealous.) During that time, Gary has hired two personal trainers to help him stay accountable and make fitness a priority.

I teamed up with his first personal trainer, Mike Vacanti, during May of 2015. In a year of crafting videos on nutritional education, motivation films and full library of 100+ exercises, his Facebook audience grew from 8,000 followers to over 50,000. The kicker is 90%+ of that growth was organic, meaning most of those videos were never boosted. We even managed to produce viral video that generated over 8 million views. (Cue Chipotle feast celebration!)

Now Jordan Syatt (@SyattFitness)is Gary’s new personal trainer and we are 5 months into producing weekly videos. So far his following has more than doubled on Facebook and it growing exponentially faster each week. The engagement on each video is insane and we couldn’t be more pumped!

Jordan and I at Venice Beach making them vidz

Now, I’m no DRock but if you are a personal traininer or online strength and nutrition coach looking to start out at creating video content, let me share some lessons I’ve learned along the way that will hopefully save you time and $$$$.

1. The camera doesn’t matter as much as you think; but sound might.

Consistency and quality of message will far outweight finding “the perfect camera.” If you are going at this solo to start and maybe looking to hire a video producer down the road, don’t waste anytime debating between this Canon or Sony, or HD vs 4k. As long as the quality is acceptable and your information brings value you are doing it right. Even though I can’t recall a single comment on video quality, I do recall commenting on sound and being able to hear, so get a good mic. We use a Sennheiser G3 wireless lav ($600) but you can do with a Rode Mic Pro or if you are using your cell phone camera, you can use the Wired Lav Mic or a wireless option to clip on you. We shoot with a Canon 5dMarkIII and 24–70f/2.8 II but if you are starting out, you really could get away from a Canon 80D and Canon 10–22 f/3.5–4.5 (Casey Niestat style). If you have a budget and are looking for a different setup, leave a comment below or email me.

“Yea but I’m only getting like 150 views”

2. It’s going to take longer than you think to get ‘views’.

If you are self producing video content and not spending money on Facebook to promote it, it’s going to take longer than you think. I should clarify both Mike and Jordan had already spent YEARS creating written content, instructional videos shot on cell phones and made key contacts with industry friends/mentors before they hired me. Aside from Mike’s viral video which essentially doubled his audience in a week, there was simple steady growth from video to video.

Check out the video above and below. The above video was shot with $7,000+ of gear on Venice Beach, California and the video below with camera + lens on a fire escape in NYC. Guess which video hit a homerun on Facebook?

The video up top was great and beautiful and information was great. I was sure it was going to be a homerun. But the video below actually hit over 130k views on Facebook and did way better than the one above.

No matter how hard you try or how many hours you spend editing, its hard to predict which video is going to be a homerun vs get average engagement… and thats ok!

The key is consistency over time. Don’t even look at the analytics until you are 25–50 videos in. Mike Vacanti did 100 episodes of a YouTube show comparing food. By no means was it a failure but the quality of content and information should’ve gotten so many more views than it did. If he had obsessed over views at that time instead of focusing on just delivering content, he might second guessed what he was doing but he instead stayed the course.

If you are going the organic route and don’t have the fund to boost these and are still growing your audience at the same time, one strategy I would suggest reaching an influencer. Use social (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat) to engage and develop real relationships with fitness professionals with larger followings. Share their content, engage with them on twitter and focus everything on producing really quality content (good information). If there is a relationship and the content is stellar, you might be able to ask them to share or they might share it without you asking. You’ll see that peice of content really take off and you’ll benefit from that boost with the next few pieces of content.

If your intent to give the very best advice you can and to help people, the views and clicks will happen, maybe not as fast as you’d like, but it will.
As long as you are growing, you are doing it right.

3. “I don’t know how to edit & add subtitles/music/unicorn glitter!!”

Ok let me stop you right there. This is just a skill, one like benching or sumo deadlift. You’re excuse can’t be the same as a client “I don’t know how to do it, so I won’t take the time to learn”

If you have a Mac, start with iMovie. You could even edit on your phone and upload both to YouTube/ Facebook (which I hope you are doing). If you have windows, there has to be an equivalent where you can chop up the video and mess with the sound. Don’t get caught in the trap of looking at computers and software etc. You could be using that time to write guest blog posts and creating nutrition videos. Just crank them out.

If you have some money to spend, I would go with a simple Mac and Final Cut X. Very simple and a ton of free Youtube videos on how to edit.

My true belief is that videos editing, writing and marketing are skills that everyone will need to have sooner or later so buck up and dive in.

If you are hell bent on focusing time to create fitness content and don’t want to work on your weaknesses, working with a local college student that has their own gear might be a little more afforable than finding a freelancer in the city. Or make a friend, plan to do a few videos together with the promise of compensation after X. Whatever you do, please don’t screw the video person. This gear and skills cost money and there is a reason you don’t want to edit. Send me a message if you are looking for someone to edit.

4. “What do I even say, it’s already been said!”

Unload your “common fitness knowledge” into your own videos. Yes there are a million “3 Mistakes your Making in the Squat” and “How to Count Macros” but God forbid these people find you first and have those questions? What are you going to do? I know Mike and Jordan would happily take them. If not John Romanello or Greg O’Gallagher or a long line of other guys putting out information that’s already been said. Yes it’s already been said but not the way you might say it.

It’s ok to take time to study the model of others but it’s in your best interest then put on blinders and do you!

A. Listen to your community and create video content based on their questions.

B. Speak to them through your voice (more on that below)

C. See what comments & questions people outside of your fitness circle have.

As you grow you’ll keep getting the same questions, wouldn’t it be great to send them to a video YOU made instead of typing out an answer or sending them a video that another fitness professional?

5. You don’t need a ‘call to action’ every video, but they do help.

Gary’s philosophy of Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook is true. That is give, give, give and then ask. I think every audience and following is different but one thing we notice is when we ask people to share AND have text on screen in the video, it tends to get a few more shares. That being said, I do think the content, message and delivery have to be one point and resonate with that person to share.

If you have your ebook/ free download/ landing page I don’t think there is an exact formula but I would be cautious of playing that card every video. It’s almost like listening to a podcast, soon you start to tune out the end becuase you know its the ad. And if people get in the habit of ignoring the end and you come out with something new, they might not even see it. My not scientifically proven advice says to sprinkle the CTA’s over the course of time and be strategic when you do.

6. How do I get good, find my voice/style?

This my friend is the million dollar question. Just as an artist or photographer or fashion designer does, over the course of time you’ll find your style. You’ve certainly found your coaching style. You have a certain way to like to write your programs and distribute macros to your clients, right? And just like your clients didn’t start out with huge biceps before they did their first hammer curls, you aren’t going to hit a homerun on your first video. Or second, or twelfth. Just as you ask your clients, stick with it and be patient. You’ll start to find your style an hit your strides. One piece of caution: It’s ok to be influenced or inspired but don’t try and be someone else; be you.

In summary:

  1. Get a good enough camera and spend a little on the mic.
  2. Stay the course and crank out the videos.
  3. Learn to edit or delegate within your budget.
  4. Build content for your audience, even if it’s already been said.
  5. Call to actions work, but use them strategically
  6. Just start and you will find your style.

The great Arnold Schwarzenegger once said:

“You can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets.”

Get cranking, don’t worry about perfect but make sure your content is on point. Look to your followers for inspiration and put helping them at #1. Everything else will fall into place. Upgrade gear as you go along if needed.

If you have any questions shoot me an email, follow me on Instagram or leave a comment below.