How fitness creator Alyssa Pannozzi became a social media trailblazer
Alyssa Pannozzi is an athlete and fitness instructor at the indoor spin studio Rev’d. Pannozzi has a large social media following, with 250,000 followers across her various platforms — most notably Instagram and TikTok.
In addition to teaching 13-20 fitness classes a week and working on the business side of the spin studio, Pannozzi juggles family, motherhood, and a booming social media career with dedicated followers — a challenge, for sure, but a lifestyle that has become distinctly one of the 21st century.
Storybench sat down with the fitness creator to discuss her rise to fame, personal motivation, and her biggest achievements and challenges.
How did you become an influencer and what motivates you to get started with social media?
About seven years when I started working at Rev’d. I’m a full-time fitness instructor trainer at Rev’d and also the Director of Talent there. I’ve been at Rev’d for a little over seven and a half years in a working capacity. When I first started being a trainer, there were a couple of different brands that had reached out and said, “Hey, will you represent our product or will you take a picture with one of our products in the studio, or will you try something? We have a new health and wellness product coming out, would you be willing to try it and test it just because you’re in this (fitness) world?” And it’s so funny to think back because this was literally so long ago, and the products and the brands were so different than they are now. But I just kind of dove into saying yes to everything that came my way and trying all different types of things.
When I really took social media to a new level was during the pandemic. Obviously, we were all stuck at home with not much to do, and I downloaded TikTok one day in May of 2020 and just started making videos and started to catch on and people started to say, “Hey, I want more of that, Can you do a fitness challenge for me? Or can you show me what to do to strengthen my arms?”. I just kind of dove fully into TikTok, and last year in February, I applied to be part of a TikTok program for black creatives and was accepted as one out of a hundred, out of over 5,000 people that applied. But, that’s what took my whole creating journey to a whole new level; having access to the executives at TikTok. It’s still a program that I’m currently in, and that’s when I just decided to take social media seriously.
What was your first viral TikTok and how did that feel?
It was a fitness challenge. Someone had asked me, “will you do a 30-day fitness challenge?”, and I said, “yeah, sure.” So, I just went into my backyard, filmed a video of me doing jumping jacks, and it took off. I started getting thousands of followers and it felt cool because TikTok is something that was so new to me back then. It felt really exciting, but also kind of almost like a big burden. Like, okay, now all of these people are following me. All of these people have eyes on me, so now what? And it was an exciting thing, but also kind of terrifying at the same time.
What inspired you initially and what continues to inspire you with creating this type of content?
I think what’s cool about this type of content is that you can reach so many people. I think anyone that knows me knows that my whole mission is just to help as many people as possible, and you’re almost limited to a certain number of people or a certain demographic of people when you live in a certain city. But social media allows you to take that way outside of where you physically are, to be able to inspire and help as many people as possible. That’s what keeps me going on because it’s not easy, to be honest. If I change one person’s day, I say, I’ve done my job.
How do you plan, create, and shoot your content? What does a typical day look like?
I am probably atypical in that if I have an idea, I need to immediately do it, or I forget about it. There’s a lot of content creators that batch content on Mondays or Tuesdays and then edit on Wednesdays. But for me, an idea comes to me, I shoot it, I edit it, and then I put it out. So, that is my strategy. My strategy is when it comes to me, I need to complete it, otherwise, I’ve already moved on to the next [idea].
How do you align your online presence with your work as an athlete, and how do you think those two things intersect?
I actually have an agent who helps me with my overall personal brand because they intersect and now it’s just kind of become who I am. I think my number one thing has always been being authentic, staying true to myself, and posting things that portray me and who I am. I kind of work under different buckets and pillars. There’s Alyssa, the athlete, this is what I want to share – it’s motivation, it’s inspiring people, and it’s showing people what happens inside of Rev’d. They can get a little glimpse of what they should experience themselves.
Then there’s Alyssa, the person who’s a mom and a wife and has a family, and is someone off the (spin)bike as well. It’s just kind of the fun things that bring me joy, like creating content with my friends and sharing experiences that I gain outside of Rev’d. Number one is just having a clear path into making sure that what I’m putting out on the internet is the same as what you are going to get in person as well – syncing it all together.
You work a lot with other spin instructors and athletes, so how do you feel that you position yourself differently and uniquely?
I’m like a trailblazer in this industry with taking what we do on the bike to social media. A lot of people didn’t understand [spin workout classes] a long time ago. This is such a great question because it is the question that I ask myself every single day: what makes me different? At the same time, there’s space on the internet for everybody, so it’s kind of cool. I believe my main position right now is just showing that there’s a human side to me as a spin trainer as well, and working on different speeds, choreography, and different things that I can showcase as a little glimpse of what you can get inside Rev’d as well.
What brands do you work with and how do you collaborate with those brands?
My main partnership right now would be with TB12. It’s Tom Brady’s brand, and I have a contract with them where I’m required to post a certain amount of deliverables per month. I also collaborate outside of social media with different event activations and partnerships. I pride myself on brand partnerships that tell a story. I also work with BeBOLD Bars, which you’ve probably seen inside the Rev’d Studio as well, but I have a year-long partnership with them because it’s something that I truly believe in. And the same thing, there are a set amount of social deliverables that are due each month, but it’s more just about creating that partnership and showing that I actually use these products and I stand by them.
What brand experience was the most meaningful to you, and what does it mean when working with a brand that aligns with what you want to be showcasing?
Number one for me is that it’s a mutual partnership. I’ve worked with so many brands in the past, and a lot of them will hire you for one TikTok, one Instagram, one story, and it’s hard for me to put together a storyline. The most successful partnerships for me have been the ones where they support me just as much as I support them, and I am helping them and they understand that they also are helping me. It’s all just about telling the true story that Alyssa is actually using TB12 electrolytes because she’s a fitness trainer, she needs to hydrate, and she needs recovery. It’s all about storytelling, and I think a lot of people get wrapped up into the money that you get from it or the clout that you’ll get from working with certain brands. But, I’ve turned down brands because they just don’t align with me and what I feel at my core.
How do you balance your personal life with having a social media following and is that challenging?
For me, it used to be challenging only because I didn’t realize, or I didn’t know, how much I wanted to share, and you don’t know how much people actually care. But I think that as I started to go on and I started to open up more and more, I’m now a million percent an open book. I have had people ask me the craziest questions and I will always answer them because I always say, “If I’ve gone through something or if someone else has gone through something, there is no way that I’m the only person that has ever experienced something. Sharing could actually really, really help somebody”. So, I’ve completely gotten over leaving anything out. It all just depends, like there are parts of me that if somebody asked, I would share, but I don’t necessarily go out of my way to share about it. But mostly again, if I have something to say and I think it could help even just one person, I’m just gonna say it and share it. I don’t have many boundaries so it’s not too hard for me to be open.
How do you inspire and motivate people on your toughest days?
That is probably the hardest thing for me to do. I just remember why I’m doing it, and it happens more often than not, where I’m having a very tough day and I honestly get so much support just from people supporting me, whether they know it or not. If I have something that I have to post or I have to do and I’m having a tough day, it sounds silly, but I just do it. My purpose is to help people, so what I put out isn’t for me. Yes, I have a good time doing it. Yes, the money is great. Yes, it’s a good time. But at the end of the day, it’s just for everybody else, and that is what keeps me going on.
As a creator in the health and wellness space, how did, or how has, COVID-19 influenced you and changed your perception of the work you do?
If anything, it catapulted my career in creating in a huge, huge, huge way. So, I’m thankful for it since at the same time there’s a lot of information on the internet about health and wellness, and sorting through it can be kind of tricky. So I think it just motivated me to work harder to be, I made a TikTok the other day about how when I use Google to type in my hashtags for fitness instructor, the first search that comes up is fitness influencer. And I’m like, what? What is a fitness influencer? What actually is a fitness influencer? If you are not working in fitness, then how are you possibly going to influence it unless you are someone on a fitness journey that you’re trying to share your journey with and in turn inspire others? But I think Covid, gave me even more motivation to just stay true to myself and what I’m doing because there is a lot to navigate out there now.
What have been your strategies for growing your followers and your audience?
My strategies have kind of varied over time. I think my strategy right now is just to keep pumping out quality content. I had a chat with somebody maybe a couple of months ago, and at one point my strategy was just post, post, post, post, post. And I didn’t really care what it was. Now a lot of the strategy is to post strategically. What trends are out there? What trending songs are out there? What is happening in the world? Who can I connect with in person that I also can connect with on social media? I would be lying if I said I posted at specific times, used specific hashtags, or did anything other than study the types of people who are following me and look at the type of content that they’re interested in, and try to produce that as long as it falls within what makes sense for me.
To what extent do you feel that your personal social media strategy intersects with Rev’d as a local business? Do they ever interact with each other, or do you feel like they’re two different things?
I would say they’re almost one and the same. I have an agent and part of what we work on is my personal brand strategy. We’ve studied fitness trainers from around the country that we consider the successful ones that I would like to model myself after. And for me, if you look at my page, all you see is Rev’d. That is very much on purpose. It’s the snapshot of my life that you see. I think a lot of people don’t realize you have a split second to make an impression on a person that for the first time looks at your page. Although it’s not a strategy that I’ve set with Rev’d, It’s my personal strategy of saying Rev’d is my full-time job. It’s my own personal business, if you will. My sessions are filled with people who are like-minded to me and people who want to work hard and people that are motivated to continue to put in that work. If you look at a snapshot of my page, that’s hopefully what you gather about me and in turn, it’s just gonna make you want to come to Rev’d.
What has been your biggest success as a creator?
I think creating those partnerships. To be honest, I didn’t know that creating could be a full-time job. Also, my friends from the TikTok program last year that has continued into this year, and being a part of that program gives me a huge sense of pride because [in terms of black creators in the TikTok program] there’s only less than a hundred people. And in the creator community at TikTok, I don’t think there’s any more than 300 or 400 black creators. So, when you think about the billions of people on the app and the direct access that I have to TikTok executives, training, and people, I think that’s probably my proudest accomplishment. And from there, turning it into, what could be a full-time career. It’s nice because it goes hand in hand with what I do at work for my “full-time job”. The money that I made from it last year is definitely something I’m proud of just because it did take a lot of time and effort.
What has been the biggest challenge that you didn’t anticipate in becoming a creator?
The ever-changing nature of social media. You have to keep up with what’s happening. You can’t always just do what you want to do because if you’re not keeping up with what’s happening, the next thing has already happened and you’re already behind. I find it to be a fun challenge. Another challenge for me is that I am not tech savvy, but if you said to me six months ago, “here’s some footage, go create a video”, I probably wouldn’t have been able to do it. So, it’s been challenging for me, in a fun way, learning how to use apps to piece together different videos and use voice-overs. I’m definitely a creator in the process, always learning.
Do you see yourself as a creator and what does that really mean to you? What does your platform mean to you?
Does it mean anything? No, It’s just me. I’m just me. And again, will I take the money from brands that want to pay me to promote their products? As long as it fits with me, yes, of course.
But I’m just myself, and I’ll go back to what I said before, that the more followers I have, the more people I’m reaching and helping. My dad was on the news in Boston for a really long time, and he always taught me, “yeah, it’s cool to be famous, but if I’m just famous, for what am I famous?”. He would always go read in schools and was the MC at tons of events and growing up, I always watched him use his platform for good. So, I’ve kind of always shaped my life to make sure that, yeah, having 200,000-300,000 followers is great, but if I’m not doing anything with it, then what’s the point? Yes, I’m a creator, but I’m just really me doing my thing.
If you could give yourself one piece of advice from when you first started seven years ago, what would it be?
Just go for it. Don’t care what people say. Just post, post, post, post away, post away.
What is your life motto and your key to success?
My life motto is definitely “on a mission to change lives”. That’s just what I live by. Like I said, if I can touch one person daily, I’ve done my job. That’s truly what I feel. I think it’s just the way that I live is just simply asking myself “what can you do every day to 1. get better and 2. make an impact?”.