How GLL Built An Engaged Social Media Community Of 300k On Facebook & Twitter

GLL is a social enterprise in the leisure sector focused on making community services and spaces better for everyone. Their facilities range from leisure centres and libraries; to golf courses, trampoline parks, and spas. You may also recognise their customer facing brand name ‘Better’. Since it’s founding, GLL has grown to be one of the UK’s largest leisure providers with over 250 leisure centres and more than 10,000 employees.

Leisure venues

Social media accounts

Over 238k Facebook fans

Over 58k Twitter followers

The Background

As recently as three years ago the organisation only had a very small collection of social media profiles representing the brand and if anything, social media was viewed as more of a risk than an asset.

The Marketing team recognised that although there were risks associated with social media, there were also benefits and it was time that GLL joined the conversation in order to keep up with competitors. The first step was to establish a social media strategy to overcome its core challenges.

The Challenges

  • Develop processes and employ tools that would allow other members of the organisation beyond the central marketing team to get involved with social media in a safe way.
  • Devise a social media strategy that would put the needs of the customers first.
  • Build further understanding across the organisation about the importance and value of using social media as a formal channel at GLL.
  • Growing an active and engaged audience across the UK at a local level.

 In a nutshell

“We proposed creating a Facebook page per leisure centre and a Twitter profile per region. The reason being that lots of the cities we operate in have such diverse audiences and needs that if we were trying to satisfy all of them in one channel it would be a bit of a mess. We felt that there were more local voices to be heard and stories to be told that would be missed if we didn’t give centres their own accounts!”

This strategy had to be signed off by GLL’s senior leadership team but for them to get behind the project it was crucial to convey the value of social media in the leisure sector. A presentation focused on how competitors were already using and driving ROI from social media helped to make the case and get buy in.

“Part of the proposed plan covered how we were going to manage such a large project with 350 social media accounts. For this we needed a social media management platform.”

“We spoke to Hootsuite and were staggered by how much it costed for just a handful of social media accounts with little additional functionality for the cost. You are essentially paying for a brand name rather than an exceptional service.”

“We chose SoCrowd as our social media management platform because of the individual logins that the tool provides and the flexibility of configuration that we knew would help to mould to our needs. We wanted colleagues at our centres to be able to access their social media accounts but without having the keys. Internally we know exactly what happened while still maintaining control. This was a big one for us.”

How we got here

“Although it started as a central project, we had to bring in more and more stakeholders to ensure that it was a success. Fast forward to now, I would argue that the social media project is actually woven throughout the business – although people may not have an account on SoCrowd, they have local champions that they can go to with content they’ve created to be uploaded onto the relevant social media channel.”

The social media content created varies greatly across GLL depending on two factors:

  1. The People – each centre has their own mini-culture naturally as every General Manager is unique and bring their own flavour to each facility.
  2. Different Target Audiences – even within a single city, two outdoor pools might have very different audiences. This is the case in London where Better Oasis Sports Centre is pitched as a hub of relaxation in the city, whereas Jesus Green lido is all about sports performance and getting active and the content reflects this.

“It’s about how they define their centres themselves – centrally we can’t control or define this and there is no value in doing so. We just need to showcase these different cultures to allow people to decide which facility is right for them.”

With this in mind the team are often less worried about photos and videos in content being a little unpolished as it can actually feel more real to the audience. An example of this is from a gym in East London where a member was celebrating his 70th birthday and the General Manager used the opportunity to take a short video celebrating the milestone and asking the gentleman to share his fitness tips.

That content is more real and effective than a shiny TV campaign because it’s attainable. It’s so important that the local teams are empowered and motivated to collect this content because as just a small central social media team, they can’t get those kinds of stories.

To complement this local content the marketing team will plan ‘global social media campaigns’ that go out across all locations. This is more standardised content that will have a set of copy, images and offers associated with it. To promote swimming, they recently created 5 videos on different types of strokes with a professional swimmer and were then able to schedule this content to go out across their major channels.

“The SoCrowd calendar helped us to do this as we could see that the start of the week was already really busy with content, so it would be better to schedule it in for later in the week when it would have more attention and a better response.”

“Overall SoCrowd helps us to maintain a consistent level of quality across all channels as content comes to us first for validation before it is made live. This filtering process also allows us to spot great content that could be shared across more than one social media account.”

“Looking to the future, tracking the number of direct messages we receive is key as we are working to have our central customer service team using SoCrowd as well to manage certain customer service requests. The analytics have helped us to provide a realistic expectation of how much content they may need to respond to and alleviate their concerns about being inundated with social media activity. This allows us to have open and honest conversations and involve them in the process.”

“SoCrowd also has the added benefit of allowing us to put rules behind what questions come through to the central customer service team and which are dealt with at a local level to again make the whole project more approachable.”

What they say

James Coyne
Social Media Manager, GLL

My advice for other social media managers looking to start a social media project like this would be to ensure that you have senior management buy-in. Secondly, use your Customer Success Manager, the team at SoCrowd know how to help you get a great project set up so use their knowledge and insight to ensure the project is a success.


  • Built an engaged social media following of over 300k customers and stakeholders across Facebook and Twitter.
  • Established Facebook pages per location that are each driven by local teams with great quality locally-relevant content.
  • The different teams involved in the social media project are able to pull off customised reports and analytics required to make business decisions.
  • All colleagues that want to get involved with social media at GLL can as training, support, processes and software are in place to ensure the individual and the organisation is protected.

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