Editor’s note: Social Side Effect is an ongoing profile series that identifies the intersection between social influencing and entrepreneurship
People follow Ian Merzwinski on Instagram because they like him, the social influencer said as he explained the importance of personal brand building.
“The best thing that you can do is just be consistent,” Merzwinski, founder of Beyond the Physique, said of his strategy for building an online personal training platform through a heavy social media presence.
The grid of photos on Merzwinski’s Instagram page — which holds nearly 5,000 followers — features such content as a recent trip to Europe, a collection of modeling photos and clips from a newly released Hy-Vee commercial he starred in alongside Kansas CIty Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
“When I got picked for the part, I thought that maybe there was a chance to do a scene with him, but I wasn’t completely sure. Turns out, they called me and told me where to stand, what lines to say, and it was directly to him. It was totally unexpected,” he said of the experience, which could further elevate his brand and his business.
Click here to connect with Beyond the Physique.
In between glimpses of Merzwinski’s life, before and after photos highlight his work with a growing list of clients — a strategic approach to advertising Beyond the Physique, he explained.
“There’s a science to it. The more people see [your work], the more they can resonate with it, the more likely they’re going to sign up with you,” he said.
Working in a world of vanity, Merzwinski believes in staying grounded. The social media entrepreneur is heavily focused on using his influence to advocate for other entrepreneurs and startups like Kansas City-based SERV Nutrition.
“I love to kind of just collaborate with people as much as I can, especially with SERV. I’m really good friends with them and I want to grow with them as well,” he said, noting such collaborations could lead to increased business.
“Let’s say their company grows … I want to be the online trainer for them. And it’s just like with other little companies too. I’m just reaching out to people if they need it.”
Originally from California, Merzwinski landed in the Midwest when he attended Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas, which eventually led him to Kansas City after graduation.
“I got a job up north by the airport at Harley Davidson. I was a personal trainer there for a little over a year — maybe exactly a year — and then they closed. That’s when I went full time in my online training. It kind of gave me a jumpstart to do it,” he said.
Though Merzwinski recently moved back to California — after months of prayer and strategic thinking about the longevity of his brand — he couldn’t have built his company or his following anywhere other than the Midwest, he noted.
“I think [Kansas City] is an entrepreneurial city. It’s big enough. It’s small enough. You can reach the people you need to reach, you can meet up with the people you need to meet up with,” he said. “You can do anything you want [in KC]. Whereas in L.A. or San Francisco … I don’t think that can happen. You’re just another fish in the sea.”
But standing out still comes with its challenges, Merzwinski added.
“People throw [the term ‘social influencer’] around just like another type of fad diet. Like, ‘Oh, it’s your new job. Oh, you’re a millennial, you’re an influencer, you’re an entrepreneur,’” he said of reactions to his social media presence and people who don’t take him seriously as an entrepreneur.
“I remember I had one comment. It was a modeling picture and [a woman] was like, ‘You’re not who you think you are. You’re so fake,’ all this stuff and it’s like … ‘You don’t even know me.’”
Merzwinski’s most valuable lesson in social media brand building: Don’t sweat the small stuff, he said.
“People are going to say what they’re gonna say and I’m going to do what I’m gonna do. … I don’t want to be fake,” he said, sharing his belief that to be successful in the fitness and social media landscape, an influencer has to remain genuine.
Such an approach is how Merzwinski will continue to develop his brand and his company — which will continue to serve Kansas City-area clients — as he returns to his roots, he said, noting the importance of making a career out of doing what you love.
“If I can model into my forties …. model into my thirties or whatever and still do the training on the side, I’d love that. That’d be my favorite,” he said. “I love changing people’s lives with my training and then I just love standing behind the camera and acting.”
Click here to follow Merzwinski on Instagram.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.