BRANDING FOR FEMALE MUSCLE COMPETITORS AND MODELS
By Bill Dobbins
BEING HEARD ABOVE THE NOISE
Thanks to the Internet and social networking services, it is easier than ever for individuals such as female muscle models and competitors to promote themselves. But the fact that thousands are taking advantage of these opportunities means there is a great deal of “noise” – that is volumes of information competing to find essentially the same audience. So it is easy to broadcast information designed to promote and brand your career, but increasingly difficult to get anyone to pay attention.
But this is certainly possible. Fitness model Michelle Lewin has more than 12 million Instagram followers, which gives her a trendies platform for publicity and promotion. And there are others whose followers also number in the millions and many more with hundreds of thousands of fans and followers.
When people nowadays talk about “branding,”they mean developing a clear identity for a person, product or service and finding the means to communicate this brand identity to as many people as necessary in a way they will recognize and remember it. Think of how recognizable the brand Coca Cola is all over the world. But the power of brands ebbs and flows. Consider that fifty years ago Cadillac was a luxury brand with the kind of prestige now associated more with Mercedes Benz.
Establishing a brand is one thing. Continuing to maintain it is another.
ACHIEVEMENT VS. CELEBRITY
There are people who become major brands by great achievement and success. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a major brand name around the world because of what he has accomplished: champion bodybuilder, major movie star, governor of California. Kim Kardashian, on the hand, is a mostly just a celebrity – somebody who is famous for being well known. She has demonstrated that simply attracting a large number of “followers” can be extremely lucrative.
A few years ago, Paris Hilton was a major celebrity. You don’t hear much about her nowadays. Celebrity and be ephemeral. Successful movie stars like Arnold or Sylvester Stallone, tend to have much longer careers than pop celebrities because their movies remain available to remind audiences of who they are for many decades into the future.
As stated above, in the fitness/bodybuilding world, there are many women with more than a million followers on the various social networking platform and a large number with hundreds of thousands. These women are often able to parlay their fame into income, using member websites, advertising promotions, product sales, personal training, and/or YouTube monetized videos. There is no single way to capitalize on fame and create a career. Each individual needs to find her own path.
In the world of aesthetic muscle, doing well in muscle contests has always been a major factor in becoming famous in this world. This was especially true when the primary source of publicity was the bodybuilding magazines. Readers looked forward to each monthly edition of Muscle & Fitness, Flex, Muscular Development, MuscleMag and other publications. Being on the cover of a magazine could jump-start and promote a career. Joe Weider was able to help promote and sustain the carers of people like Arnold or Rachel McLish and Cory Everyone by frequently featuring them in his magazines. And he realized that promoting competitors with major titles made his job much easier.
MAGAZINES VS. SOCIAL NETWORKING
Nowadays, what magazine coverage that still exists – Muscle & Fitness and Flex are now online only – does not have the impact of Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or various websites. The advantage of this new situation is you no longer have to wait for the recognition of a “gate keeper” – a publisher or editor who is needed to give you access to appearing in the pages or on the cover of a magazine. The disadvantage, as discussed above, is that you are in danger of just adding to the noise and getting drowned out by the huge volumes of information already flooding the Internet.
So how do you get the best chance of being successful in this environment? Given all the different platforms out there, achieving high rankings on search engines, and the fact that this is all a moving target and the “rules” for success are constantly changing, books could be written on the subject – which would have to be amost instantly rewritten in order to stay up to date.
But in terms of your own personal brand and identity, there are some basics which are less subject to change.
USING YOUR OWN NAME
One is the use of YOUR NAME. Your name is your brand and should be included in your email address, your websites and all your social networking accounts. Using your name makes it easier for people to find you and reminds them of who you are. An email address like firstname.lastname@example.org is cute but it could belong to any number of muscular females and doesn’t help much to brand yourself.
On the subject of names, it is common for women who marry in our culture to take their husband’s last name or use a combination their maiden and married names. My advice in terms of branding is not to do this. Especially, if you are already fairly well known. Movie star Elizabeth married eight times but never changed her last name as far as her career was concerned. And when Pamela Anderson married Tommy Lee and became known as Pamela Anderson Lee, she quickly had to change back when the marriage ended.
Keeping your married and business identifies seperate has one other advantage – when you travel and check into hotels, you can use your married name to maintain a great degree of privacy. Fewer knocks on the door or unwanted phone calls in the middle of the night from ardent fans.
It is also a good idea to maintain at least two email accounts: one personal and another professional. Your personal friends and family can use the personal account and it is less likely their messages will be overlooked when your professional email volume is very high.
In terms of Internet promotion, there are three basic rules: post everywhere, post often and post effectively. Because this is a lot of work, there are ways of posting to more than one platform at a time. And programs that let you schedule posts for future times. You can find out about these by running searches. In terms of effective posts, you need to consider to what degree they present you as a unique and interesting person and how compelling the photos and videos you post are.
I see Facebook accounts where the photos posted are all mostly selfies or pictures of children, family or dogs. If you have a purely personal FB page, that’s fine. But for a professional, promotional page or group, for an Instagram account, this approach is not going to appeal to fans or create new followers.
Remember, on Facebook you can have personal, fan or group pages. Each operates differently and gives you different advantages.
The best approach for editing and choosing photos is to decide on the number you want to include. Of course, being the Web you here is no physical limit to the number of photo you can include. But too many is too distracting and it is better to decide on how many to post for maximum effectiveness. And once you have determined this, whenever you add a new photo use it to REPLACE a photo you are already using.
The quality of photos also counts. If you post a photo that gets 130 likes and another one only 35, that should tell you which of the images is attracting the kind of attention you need and help you when it comes to selecting additional photos.
Everyone needs to consider that is special and promotable about their individual identity. What do you emphasize to attract interest from fans? Some have particularly outstanding body parts – legs, arms, back, abs or whatever. Others have particularly aesthetic faces or bodies. Maybe you have a very special story. You used to weigh 300 pounds or survived a serious illness. You have several children but continue to compete successfully. You have an interesting of-stage occupation or are seriously involved in some kind of charitable activity. You have been competing for years and never lost a contest. Your story helps define your brand.
The Internet is not called a WEB for nothing. Every aspect your digital presence should be connected to every other part. You Website should contain links to your Facebook pages, Instagram and Twitter accounts. Trade links with other websites and colleagues in the bodybuilding and fitness worlds. In the past, these cross-links have been a major factor in Google search engine ranking. That is probably not so true today, but these links and connections are still important.
SEARCH ENGINE RANKING
Search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing each of their own algorithms for establishing rankings. These are generally kept very secret but there are websites which attempt to track and evluate how this is done and when it comes to making yourself more visible to Internet search you can look up this information.
Posting to a blog is a good way to keep your fans and sponsors up to dat on what you are doing. Content created for a blog, test and images, and also be shared on different social network platforms. There are a number of blogging platforms as well. I use www.wordpress.com which is simple to use and free. It can also be used to create websites. The Wings of Strength website was created using Word Press.
Nowadays, you can no longer rely on magazine covers and coverage to promote you brand and success. The Internet gives you lots of ways of making yourself more famous – but all your competition is doing the same things so this takes a lot of hard, smart effort. By all means, try to include your own name as much as you can for websites, emails, and all the social media platforms. Include links to any articles written about you. Post a lot of photos and video, make use of YouTube and your ability to monetize video, and try to make all content as interesting as possible and of the highest quality. The fact that everyone can shoot photos nowadays doesn’t mean those photos are equally effective in terms of promotion.
Figure out which of the social networking platforms your fans are using to connect with you and focus on those rather than the ones where you see less fan interest.
You shouldn’t rely solely on selfies for photo promotion, but they are great for documenting your activities, such as when you go interesting places or interact with interesting people. Use your smart phone to show your fans where you are and what you are doing in the course of your daily life.
Competition has always been the primary way of promoting your career as a bodybuilder or fitness competitor. A championship title sets you apart. However, some of the most popular women and men in the industry have not won major titles. The fact is, whether in music, acting, bodybuilding/fitness some individuals are highly promotable and other aren’t. Why this is true has always been a major mystery.
For pro female bodybuilders, competition success is now more obtainable thanks to the efforts of Jake Wood and the Wings of Strength organization, which promote a number of muscle competition and now owns the Olympia and magazines Muscle & Fitness and Flex
Whether you are highly promotable or not can only be determined by real life experience. The proof will be in the pudding.
The Women: Photographs of The Top Female Bodybuilders (Artisan)
Modern Amazons (Taschen)
BILL DOBBINS PHOTOGRAPHY
BILL DOBBINS ART
FEMALE PHYSIQUE SITES