Facebook-connected fitness apps translate into real life success

Fitness applications are growing in popularity — largely because they work well, especially when a user connects the app to their Facebook account. While it’s difficult to measure Facebook-connected fitness apps’ success in terms of pounds lost, developers are claiming that users who sign into the app through Facebook tend to keep using it.

For instance, on RunKeeper, when users share their fitness activities on Facebook, there is a 40 percent chance that they will continue to use the app. Whether it’s peer pressure or the positive engagement from friends, users of Facebook-connected fitness apps tend to keep going on runs, walks, and bike excursions when they sign in through the social network.

Jackie Chang, a partner manager for fitness apps at Facebook, recently spoke with Inside Facebook about how people use fitness apps such as Endomondo and Nike, as well as what’s ahead for the platform — including improvements in timeline and Graph Search.

In the early days of Nike, one of the most popular fitness apps, Chang noticed that users tended to post screenshots of their running accomplishments. This was before the app had Facebook integration. She figured, why not have some way that users can post this directly from their phone without having to go through the trouble of saving a screenshot, then uploading it to Facebook?

Now fitness apps are embracing Facebook. Through Endomondo, users can share photos along with their open graph story to create something visual and engaging. With Nike, runners can hear cheers through their headphones whenever a friend likes or comments on the story created on the user’s timeline. Via Strava, cyclists and runners can connect to Facebook and track activity with GPS devices.

Chang noted that these apps have taken something that has usually been somewhat private — workout activity and fitness goals — and brought that into the social conversation. Through that, it has helped many people stay on track with their goals. The apps focus on positive reinforcement, and that’s what keeps people coming back, she said:

Fitness itself is an activity that is uniquely private, and also uniquely social. There’s a lot of directions on where you could go. It’s very private in the sense that a lot of your biggest goals, like in terms of pushing yourself to lose some weight, can be pretty private in terms of how you want to develop it and you want to track it.

But it’s also very social in the sense that there are people out there who feel the power of building a community and being able to have friends motivate them or hold them accountable for it. We want to be able to develop and facilitate any of those experiences in a rich way and through all the right channels.

Facebook discussed with Inside Facebook some figures on how connecting to fitness apps through the social network has kept people coming back and sharing with their friends. When a user connects Facebook to RunKeeper, there is a 70 percent increase in the likelihood that they’ll go out for their first run, walk, or bike trip.

Earlier this year, Abvio (which makes Runmeter, 5K Runmeter, Walkmeter and Cyclemeter) CEO Steve Kusmer talked with sister site AllFacebook about how powerful that Facebook connection is. Abvio’s fitness apps have seen roughly one-third greater retention year over year among Facebook-connected users.

Nike saw a 77 percent increase in traffic from Facebook after implementing Open Graph actions.

Endomondo, another Facebook-connected app, recently passed the 100 million workout total — 12 million of which have been shared through Facebook since March. One-in-four Endomondo visits come directly from Facebook.

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