Lucy Wyndham-Read appeared on Marketing Smarts in 2016, having built a virtual fitness empire. 

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At the time, she'd amassed an audience of 100,000 subscribers and racked up nearly 2 million views in just one year by posting free 7-minute workouts to her YouTube channel for LWR Fitness.

Now, three years later, she's grown that audience 10X to more than 1 million subscribers, and her video workouts have garnered more than 128 million views.

Lucy still handles content planning and creation herself, and she also handles all of her social media engagement personally. No mean feat, considering the size of her audience across platforms: not only YouTube but also Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

The best-selling author of several books, including The Fastest Diet & Workout Ever and Body Training for Women, Lucy is releasing a new book for 2020 called 7-Minute Body Plan: Quick workouts & simple recipes for real results in 7 days.

I invited Lucy back to Marketing Smarts to share how she grew such a massive and loyal fan base in the highly competitive fitness industry.

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:

If you want to grow your audience, don't outsource your social media (04:56): "[Social media engagement] is the biggest thing that takes the most amount of time. But it's one of the most important things to do because...those people, I always feel, if they're making the effort to send me a comment and a message, then it's important that I need to find the time to connect back with them. It's called 'social media.' You've got to join in that conversation.

"A lot of people would not bother doing it and might say, 'Well, what do you make from it.' Well, I don't make anything, but what I do is show my followers that I really, genuinely care. I think that's really important. It just goes back to being a good, hardworking, honest person...

"I'm not used to working with businesspeople. I've never done any studying for business (except what I've self-taught). And, how I've excelled isn't with knowledge. It's been about being a good, honest person. I love the fact that social media now is encouraging people to have manners, take time to answer people's questions. Make everyone equal. Not that many people do it, but that's just the way I was brought up."

Building an audience through content is a long-term strategy, so exercise patience (07:25): "I have to admit, I work all the hours. I work Sunday through to Sunday. Literally, the last day I had a full day off I cannot tell you. Probably before social media started. It is hard work, but the great thing is now hard work does pay off. You just have to keep marketing your products. My products are my YouTube videos. Just put stuff up that really works. Get the good content and keep up the engagement. But it takes a lot of time.

"At the beginning, I took a risk that I was doing the work, but I wasn't reaping any rewards at all. You can sow a seed, but don't expect it to flower within a second. Sometimes it might take two or three years, but it will be worth it."

Know your audience, then trust your gut (09:13): "The devil is in the details. I just put so much [work into my videos]. Other people can just whip up a video, film it, put it straight on. I like to have nice overlays, graphics, a timer in it. But then it stands out from the crowd. And I just think that's really important.

"I go with my gut. I'm like 'you know what, I know this is good, so I know people will like it.' And I just trust and don't analyze and take too long thinking 'what if, what if.' I'm just gonna run with it. I just believe in it, I'm gonna run with it."

Earn the attention of a loyal fan base and they'll promote your content for you (10:00): "You know what's really interesting? The marketing now is my online community. They do all the marketing. That is the crazy thing. They are going 'oh my gosh, love this new video.'

"It was funny, the other day I was posting up a video on YouTube, so I went to put it in the Facebook group. I'd literally just posted the video up like 30 seconds before, was switching straight over to Facebook, and before I knew it, three people from the group had already posted up the new video. That's where it's crazy.

"It's like your online team. Your followers, the community, because they like what you're doing, they're talking about it. And because I'm fully engaged with them, they engage back, and they engage with each other. So they're already sharing it, then someone else shares it. That's how it works.

"I would never have had this as a business plan five years ago. I would never have even thought about it, but it's just fallen into place, which is so exciting. They are having the conversation. The key is making stuff that is really of value to people."

Make your content inclusive (25:28) "[Diversity and inclusion] are so important. I want to reach out to everyone. I would hate to think someone would come to my website or my YouTube channel excited that they're gonna get healthy and fit, and then realize that I hadn't included them or I hadn't thought about them and they'd have to walk away upset. That would break my heart.

"So that's why I need to make sure I've got seated workouts, I've got workouts for someone who's perhaps diabetic, if someone's younger, if someone's older, if someone's a complete beginner. Everyone needs to be included."

To learn more, visit lwrfitness.com, and subscribe to Lucy's YouTube channel. And be sure to get your copy of 7-Minute Body Plan, which launches in the United States on January 31st.

You can also follow her on Twitter at @LucyWyndhamRead and participate in the discussion at #LucysSquad.

Lucy and I talked about much more, including how she selects which social channels to maintain and how marketers can navigate office holiday parties without undermining their fitness efforts, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.