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Live From Burlingame, It's Fitmark Bags

Mark Samuel, the founder and CEO of Fitmark bags, toyed for a while with the idea of taking his weekly YouTube #askfitmark show to a live feed on Periscope. But he’s an avowed Facebook fanatic -- and it’s not because his wife works there, he swears. So, since the day last summer that Facebook enabled celebrities such as The Rock and Serena Williams to deliver live feeds on their pages, the marketer of gym, travel and "meal management" bags (outfitted with food and vitamin containers) has been anxious to get going real-time himself.

“You can ask my team here, all I’ve been talking about for the last six months is ‘I can’t wait until they release it to brands,’” he says.

On Monday morning, one of those team members told Samuel that they could, indeed, go live. By noon Pacific, he was doing his schtick from the company’s office in Burlingame, Calif.: answering questions from a few of Fitmark’s more than 300,000 followers, giving away product, and bantering with his cameraman-cum-sidekick, Hector.

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“We just went live with it, off the cuff, and we still had 35 comments as I was delivering 10 minutes of content,” Samuel says, promising that the show will get better over time. “I can’t wait to see what we can do.”

Facebook Live is like QVC for the little guy -- and a lot more cost-effective and targeted than the splashy 40-foot billboards he passes on Highway 101 every day, Samuel notes. “You’re livestreaming to people who are your fans, who are opting in to your brand and product. What better way can you do that? And at minimal cost.”

The live feed will also give him the opportunity to interact with his community and reinforce its mission to “deliver a customer service unlike any other, which we’re known for,” he notes. Then he challenges me, “with fingers crossed,” to find a negative comment about Fitmark anywhere on Facebook.

He should know, he suggests, because he’s made it a point to write every one of the posts himself since Fitmark launched on Facebook the same day it started selling in 2012. “I’ve not only been part of the evolution of our social media and content,” he says. “I’m the one doing it.”

From the beginning, he knew he wanted to “create a social experience that would gain traffic and momentum quickly.”

Among the things that fitness enthusiasts love to share, besides pictures of their ever-improving bodies, are shots of the food they eat and the consumer products they use that reflect their lifestyle. As the community has grown, the content has moved from more general posts about fitness to more brand-specific content.

Some of the posters are clearly the brand “ambassadors” -- “north of 250 but south of a thousand” -- who get freebies and advance notice of promotions. “They post for us on their own accord,” however, Samuel says. “A lot of them have a heavy social influence and we, of course, reap the benefits.”

And while an employee manages the ambassadors full time, Samuel stays heavily engaged with them through emails and phone calls.

Wednesday at 2 p.m., Samuel went live again, responding to queries, making endearing asides and garnering 1,600 views and 173 comments over 14 minutes of interaction (although the feed was a bit choppy in my neck of metro NYC).

Samuel’s animated, sometime breathless style reminded me of someone. Who, though? Blake Castle, who has been doing live workouts using his resistance bands for years, came to mind.

Samuel suggested another possibility: “Gary Vaynerchuk" -- the gesticulating Internet personality and social media guru. “He’s passionate about what he’s doing, and I think that’s the biggest thing I picked up” after someone sent him links to Vaynerchuk’s "#AskGaryVee" show a couple of years ago. 

Fitmark is also active on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. But Facebook will be Samuel’s go-to marketing vehicle for the foreseeable future.

“I think they are going to do things that will continue to change the game for all things social media,” he says with a fervor that's fitting for someone whose favorite phrase, if our chat is a fair sample, is  “I can’t wait until …."

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