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The Role of Social Media in the Weight Loss Industry, Plus More

The Role of Social Media in the Weight Loss Industry, Plus More

I was really happy to see that people responded in a positive way to my last article. This is a follow-up article for 3 Reasons Why Social Media Can Actually Help the Young Generation in the Fight against Obesity.

The year 2012 was a tremendous one in terms of social media contributions. I know we can all agree. I can only name the most important ones such as Facebook improvement in user-app interactions and their own onsite search engine, the rise of Pinterest and the stable positioning of Twitter. I believe a follow-up article is really needed in order to see how the industry itself benefits.

Weight Loss and Twitter:  Dieting In 140 Characters

According to a 2012 diet market forecast nearly 108 million US citizen are on a diet, this being one of the highest values ever recorded in the weight loss industry, a record that will generate approx. $65 billion revenue. If you are wondering who is part of the weight loss industry, then you better hit a search on Google for weight loss programs such as Weight Watchers, Medifast, Nutrisystem, Bistro MD or eDiets. Do not forget the blogs about diets, Fitness Products Companies, Fitness coaches and last, but not least, Social Media Platforms. Everyone has his share of this billion dollar “pie”.

Weight Loss and Twitter #weightloss

But the most brilliant fact is the involvement of social media. However, you must understand that social media does not directly benefit from the industry and it is not directly involved either. Now, if someone had asked me four years ago about a link between Twitter and dieting, I would have laughed hard. But four years later, things stand differently. Twitter is now the second best social media network, with over 141 million US accounts, so it is to be expected to have a great impact in every corner, as people enjoy going public about their lifestyle. This social media platform is now part of our everyday consumer lifestyle from #hashtags to retweets, from replies to shares that spread the word on worldwide obesity and dieting attempts in only 140 characters. Adding more is the fact that only last year there were over 100 top Twitter tools and the numbers will grow by 2013.

Users dealing with weight gaining and obesity issues can use Twitter to lose weight – by using I mean getting instant access to valuable information and recommendations from other fellow users. I did my search on specific keywords using both search engines and social media platforms. Google searches lead me to specific recent blog articles that focus on how to lose weight, how to build your body, how to benefit from weight loss programs and get promo codes and discounts to their products, how to adopt a healthy lifestyle and the list goes on. However, Twitter gives its users an “all-in-one” experience. When searching for “weight loss” on the platform, the user receives what I like calling a “top summary”: Top Tweets, Top Images, Top People, Top Videos. We have numbers showing us that 64% of Twitter users are more likely to buy the brands they follow or are a fan of. Plus, 62% of adult US Internet users watch videos on video sharing sites.

Weight Loss

Another interesting Twitter fact: Science studies that prove Twitter’s efficiency as social media platform in the daily lives of overweight people.

In a recent study entitled “Weight Loss Social Support in 140 Characters or Less”, fellow researchers examined remote social support of weight loss programs through message boards, especially Twitter. They analyzed 75% out of 2,630 tweets which were classified as “informational”, containing updates about new facts and/or skills. Participants loved the anonymity offered by Twitter in comparison to social media platforms that require your real name and coordinates. Found this Twitteresting, yet?

Plus, for the love of research, I have spent myself one hour following my search adventure and it was enough to prove me right: constant updates – at least 20 updates every 1 minute from the people I know – on weight loss tweets only. This means users are very active, they tweet about diets, gossip about VIPs who lose weight, engage in healthy actions. This is a quod erat demonstrandum for Twitter’s power.

A Pinteresting Way to Lose Weight

Everyone was dazzled and amazed by the power pins have in the online environment. I think the power of words is great, but sometimes people remind us that “one picture is worth ten thousand words”(Chinese proverb). So does Pinterest. Users connect with each other through images and pins placed on their timeline. Although the most popular categories are Design and Aesthetics, Baked goods and food products share a 3rd place with interior decors and textile arts.

Pinteresting Way to Lose Weight

This means that pinners are also preoccupied with looks and weight three times more than average Internet users. And why is that? Well, the majority of pinners are female users – to be precise 79% of the total users – and it is only natural that women care more about their body in comparison to men, who represent a mere 21% of the total pinners. What is also interesting and can explain the 3rd place for food products and aesthetics is the average age rate, which is between 25 and 45. Let’s see how Pinterest is doing in the US, where the weight loss industry reached its peak. According to Pinterest infographics, there was a significantly rapid rise in monthly US unique visitors, from 608,000 in May, 2011 to 20,470,000 in May 2012. Quite a rise, I would say. Monthly US page views show that 1.5 n pinners adventure themselves on the platform. Also, the average visit time is 15’50” for US.

I could not help my curiosity and again did my search on the platform, this time searching for “weight loss” on Pinterest. What I saw were top-rated images, with medium Like values or comments, but with significant “repins” values (from 171 to 500+). Repins are similar to Facebook re-shares.  So why link Pinterest to the weight loss industry? The reason is e-commerce as the platform throws in a new perspective in the online shopping behavior. On a scale of 1 to 15, food occupies the 4th spot, while books are on 7th, green-lifestyle on 9th, coupons on 10th, consumer goods on 12th and healthcare on 13th. This brings us to 6 products linked directly or indirectly to the weight loss industry such as food products used in diets, books on how to lead a healthy lifestyle, green-lifestyle and eco, coupons and discounts for weight loss programs etc. Six products out of fifteen means approx. 40% value of purchased goods, with an average order value of $179.36 compared to Facebook ($80.22) and Twitter ($68.78). Now all this sums up as part of the $65 billion revenue of the weight loss industry. Pinteresting, isn’t it?

Facebook-Graph-ing the Future: Graph Search and FB Hashtags

2013 marked the year of changes in our friendly platform, Facebook, and among them the introduction of Facebook Graph and Facebook hashtags. Big noise made for both of them, but in the end only one truly showed its potential. Let’s take it one step at a time.

Facebook Graph

This was supposed to be the “internal” search engine of the social platform that would suggest places, restaurants, movies, music, food & common connections you might have with your friends. While this might sound cool and helpful, there are certain problems:

  1. I can’t help wondering, “Do I really have so many things in common with my Facebook friends?”. Maybe I don’t want to eat fast food and instead, go for raw vegan or vegan menus. If over 80% of my friends are “meat lovers”, then the suggestions Facebook gives me would be far below my expectations.
  2. Photo Hunt (as I can access photos of people I don’t personally know, but have common connections with) – Do I really want to do that? Would it help me lose weight or control my diet if I see some photos of slim people?
  3. Do I really want to connect with my past “friends” if I have a weight problem?

At first, when Facebook Graph was launched I believed in its power to help overweight people, or people with specific medical conditions. I thought that we could get better directions for quality places, healthy food & restaurants, medical clinics, important people in the health industry, specific health groups and communities. But on a personal note, it sort of failed to meet my expectations. While for general use, this new feature is great and everybody loves it, for specific use I don’t see it work too well.

Facebook Graph Search Weight Loss

Suggestion: try to search for healthy food and see what the Graph suggests. I am really curious how it works for others. Some have suggestions on how to put Facebook Graph to use. Read here.

Facebook Hashtags

In this very moment, we have Twitter hashtags, Google+ hashtags and Facebook hashtags. It is still unclear how much impact the GooglePlus hashtag has, although it does help users to easily find content and posts in the platform. We won’t dig deeper for now on that matter.

The Twitter and Facebook hashtags have been carefully analyzed in a recent study, as @sewatch shows in their article. Apparently, the F hashtags don’t do much in what concerns the increase of brand exposure. It’s nice to see them in statuses and posts, adding a drop of “coolness” and “color”, but in the end, the brands gain almost nothing from using them.

On the other side, we have results that show just how much companies benefit from using the Twitter hashtags and RTs: over 70% more social engagement from followers and their followers. What more can we say, except for the fact that brand consumers prefer to have 140 characters or less, a link and a fast way to get the info they need?


Is there something we can be sure of in what concerns the role of social media in the weight loss industry? Here are this article’s conclusions and ending points:

  1. It’s 2013 and social media keeps trying to reinvent itself. We don’t know how much this is going to last, but so far, so good.
  2. Twitter still manages to be loved by brand consumers, be it in the weight loss industry or other industries, as well.
  3. The weight loss industry is a giant “pie” and everyone benefits from it. And the “pie” doesn’t seem to mind.
  4. Pinterest just keeps getting bigger and better. And we “heart” it, don’t we?
  5. A company in the weight loss industry might not actually benefit from using hashtags and the Facebook graph this year. But maybe there’s room for more in the near future…
  6. We have more and more studies focused on the health benefits of social media, and a more positive approach of how social networks can actually help people with weight conditions.
  7. There is definitely room for more – my and everybody’s two cents.

Next time, we’ll discuss about some cool new startups entering the industry and how they impact our online lives. If you enjoyed reading this article, don’t forget to tweet it, share it, like it, comment and let us know what your “two cents” are in what concerns the weight loss industry and the strong connections with social media.

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About Roxana Nasoi

Roxana is the Brain at SERPlified, co-founder at RemOath and Digital Marketing Manager at GoRanker. She is also the Upwork Ambassador in Bucharest, Romania. She enjoys dancing tango, reading, travelling, freshly brewed coffee and good company. Sometimes, you'll find her talk "nonsense" on her Facebook page called Diary of a Fulltime Freelancer. She's 100% entrepreneurial blood!