The 25-year-old fitness instructor from Adelaide has built her business on sweat, positivity and content marketing.
The name Kayla Itsines either means nothing or everything to you. The young personal trainer has created a health and fitness empire on the back of her wildly successful Bikini Body Training Guide (BBG), which claims to have a worldwide community of more than 12.6 million. Twelve point six million. That means the 25-year-old has an adoring audience, made up almost exclusively of women, that’s almost 12 times larger than the entire population of her native South Australia.
So even if you don’t identify as Itsines’ target audience, and getting a bikini body ready for summer isn’t a priority for you, what is particularly special about her is that she has used content marketing and social media to help transform women’s lives.
Itsines has 347,000 Twitter followers, her YouTube videos have had more than 5 million views and, at last count, her Facebook page is liked by 7.2 million people. Instagram? This is where Itsines’ great adventure started and where she has possibly had the greatest social impact, posting before-and-after pictures of women showing the results of their labour to 5.3 million followers. Almost all of these posts attract tens of thousands of likes, and hundreds of encouraging comments from Itsines (“go girl!”) and the BBG community.
Indeed, all of Itsines’ social media feeds carry countless inspirational messages and personal success stories. They are the proof of her success. Her posts are written in a personal “confessor” style and punctuated with emojis, and highlight the necessity for all women to be happy. And real.
The BBG 28-minute high-intensity resistance videos have been popular because they encourage women (especially girls) to enjoy a healthy lifestyle rather than spend mindless hours in the gym. Her dietary advice is simple and actionable: listen to your body, and don’t skip meals or certain food groups. She says that having a healthy, balanced diet means not having to deprive yourself. It is a powerful message for anyone who is concerned with body image.
In December 2015, Itsines released an app called Sweat With Kayla, which she says offers “a lifetime of training and education to women all over the world”. As well as including BBG workouts, it has personalised weekly meal plans, automated shopping lists, timers, tracking logs and educational content. She has also published a range of ebooks dealing with exercise and diet. Her 12-week BBG workout plans are about A$70; paid monthly memberships, with exclusive workouts and recipes, are about $20 per month.
On the back of her digital success, Itsines spends a lot of her time travelling the world doing personal appearances. She recently held free Sweat Tour events in London, New York and LA, sponsored by Adidas. A story in popsugar.com.au reported that six Texan women, who only met online through the BBG program, had gone to extraordinary lengths to get close to Itsines at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena. “They flew into LA together – a journey that was over 1600 kilometres – and waited in line six hours prior to the start time of the event to position themselves as close to the stage as possible.”
In a series of written answers to Brand Tales, Itsines said the way she communicates with her audience has made it easy for people to connect with her. “I’ve always been 100 per cent honest and open on my social media account,” she wrote. “I also don’t believe the amount of followers you have on social media defines if you are a ‘celebrity’ or not. I’m just a normal girl [who] has been blessed with the most incredible opportunity to help women work towards being better, fitter and stronger versions of themselves daily.
“I believe it’s not about the number of followers you have, but what you can do to help and make a positive impact on the lives of the followers you do have that is important.”
Itsines said it was important to be authentic on social media. “I think that’s why people feel so relaxed when they do meet me in real life because what I post on my Instagram IS me,” she wrote. “So when I meet new people they’re not shocked by anything, because I have already spoken about it online.”
“I love that all of my clients are all real women with unique stories.”Kayla Itsines
So how does an Adelaide-based graduate of the Australian Institute of Fitness become such a huge success? Through “helping people”, she said. “Shortly after graduating, I started training girls in my own personal training studio and began uploading their inspirational transformations to my Instagram page,” she wrote. “Their motivating and relatable transformations drew the attention from girls around the world who were curious about how my clients and I were training.
“It was my clients [who] inspired me to continue to grow and learn as they were finally feeling the confidence they deserved. I feel so blessed to be a part of so many women’s health and fitness journeys.”
Itsines said social media has been “fundamental” to her business because it’s given her the platforms to motivate, educate and inspire her BBG community. “I think my Instagram profile has an honest and uplifting community vibe about it,” she wrote. “Instead of being focused entirely on me, I’ve based it on the results of others, whose hard work should definitely be celebrated! I love that all of my clients are all real women with unique stories, who are all working hard to achieve their goals.”
Links & references
popsugar.com.au story on Itsines’ Rose Bowl event