Studio Owners

The Social-Media Do's and Don’ts Every Dance Teacher Should Know

Getty Images

Dance teachers aren't dummies. As in every other industry, the importance of social media for growing a business is not lost on any of us. It's in knowing exactly how to use it effectively that's the challenge. For a group of artists who work within the confines of centuries-old techniques, it's no wonder we start shaking in our boots the second we hear words like "algorithm" and "digital strategy." What's more, the Wild West of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook is constantly changing. How are any of us supposed to feel like we have a handle on things?

Don't worry—we've got you covered. We caught up with an expert, Brigham Young University School of Communications faculty member Adam Durfee. Named Social Media Innovator of the Year for 2019 by The Social Shake-Up conference, he's spilling on the do's and don'ts that will make all the difference in engaging your audience and growing your dance studio business.


Don't focus on how many followers you have.

Do focus on how much engagement you're getting.

"Social media is a world full of vanity metrics," Durfee says. "People like to talk about how many followers they're getting and how many likes they've racked up. Unfortunately, the truth behind this is that most, if not all, vanity metrics can be purchased and have very little meaningful value for a business. Followers don't automatically equate to business. Savvy social-media professionals, instead, focus on engagement with their audience. Instead of trying to drive new people to like your page, try to get your followers to care about your organization. Getting them to talk with you online and share your content is far more correlated to future business than is volume of followers."


Don't set a standard for number or frequency of posts.

Do set a standard for the quality of your posts.

"Social-media practitioners often get desperate when it comes to posting," Durfee says. "They worry about slipping metrics and lack of effect on the bottom line and turn to articles and blogs online talking about how often people should be posting. I just read the other day that people should be posting at least four times a day to ensure reach! If we're here to myth-bust, this one should be smashed to pieces.

"While some organizations do see a boost in social metrics with an increased volume of posts, that's not a formula for success that can be copied to any organization in any industry. Best practice for social media in 2019 is focusing on the quality of posts, not the quantity. One of my favorite examples of this principle in action is Oreo. Choose your favorite social platform and look at their account. They have millions of followers, and yet they choose to only post about once a week. Why? Because they want to share compelling, high-quality and interesting content with their fans. That's how they keep people engaged. If you're running social media for your business, ask yourself simply, what content would this audience be interested in? Is it behind-the-scenes? Is it the latest news? Is it new ways to use your product? If your post wouldn't get you to stop scrolling and take a look for a moment, then don't expect your audience to, either. You can be your own test subject!"


Don't try to build virality.Do try to build a community.

"Very few things in social media make me cringe more than the concept of 'virality,'" Durfee says. "No one can promise virality. Going "viral" shouldn't be a part of anyone's plan. If there were a formula to get viral reach on a post, the same companies would be achieving it every day. Unfortunately, the internet community and the algorithms that serve it are a fickle bunch.

"Instead of trying to create the next best post, think about creating the next best post for your community. The ideal social-media community is made up of your real-world customer and fans. Oreo is not out there trying to get people who have never heard of them to follow them. They're creating periodic, high-quality content meant to delight their followers—who are made up of the people who regularly consume Oreos.

"Social media should be about connecting your real-life love group with your online presence so you can talk and build your relationship outside of the touch points of day-to-day business. If you're running a dance studio, this is your students, the parents of the students and those who teach and work in your studio. These are the people who need to love what you do. Find content that brings them together. Consider creating groups online (like the ones available on Facebook) for people to engage in regular conversation and use the front-facing page to give your target community a peek into what is going on in your world. If you can become a part of a person's community, then you can count on their business and eventually that of their friends. This takes time, but good practitioners know it's the key to using social media effectively."


Don't post all your content everywhere.

Do tailor your content to post it where it belongs.

"So often, people will take one post for social and cross-post it on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, etc. and check it off as 'doing social media,'" Durfee says. "In reality, social media is a community of people who logged on to a specific platform to see messages tailored to that platform. When I teach social media, I tell professionals and students to come up with a 'foundation idea.' For dance, this might be showing an audience what it's like to choreograph a routine. Then I tell them to shape the posts to match that idea so each is unique and emphasizes its medium. For example, maybe I write a blog post where I interview a choreographer. Then I put snippets of the final choreography on a story in vertical video format. I post 30 seconds of the interview on Instagram and, in both the story and Instagram, ask people who are interested to follow the link to my story on the blog. Then I create a horizontal version of the video to display on Facebook and YouTube where the medium prefers landscape orientation. Then I include a live behind-the-scenes of the making of the video and interview on my Snapchat. Finally, I ask my Facebook group to take a look at the video and give me their thoughts and ask how they go about choreographing and take part in the discussion. This way, I'm creating unique content around one idea and those ideas come to life in the way their particular mediums want them. While this may be harder, this is quality. This is the social media that keeps businesses alive and thriving online today."

Teachers Trending
Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending

Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.


Find a formula that works for your studio

For Melanie Boniszewski, owner of Tonawanda Dance Arts in upstate New York, the answer to profitable summer programming lies in drop-in classes.

"We're in a cold-weather climate, so summer is actually really hard to attract people—everyone wants to be outside, and no one wants to commit to a full season," she says.

Tonawanda Dance Arts offers a children's program in which every class is à la carte: 30-minute, $15 drop-in classes are offered approximately two times a week in the evenings, over six weeks, for different age groups. And two years ago, she created her Stay Strong All Summer Long program for older students, which offers 12 classes throughout the summer and a four-day summer camp. Students don't know what type of class they're attending until they show up. "If you say you're going to do a hip-hop class, you could get 30 kids, but if you do ballet, it could be only 10," she says. "We tell them to bring all of their shoes and be ready for anything."

Start-up costs are minimal—just payroll and advertising (which she starts in April). For older age groups, Boniszewski focuses on bringing in her studio clientele, rather than marketing externally. In the 1- to 6-year-old age group, though, around 50 percent of summer students tend to be new ones—98 percent of whom she's been able to convert to year-round classes.

A group of elementary school aged- girls stands in around a dance studio. A teacher, a young black man, stands in front of the studio, talking to them

An East County Performing Arts Center summer class from several years ago. Photo courtesy ECPAC

East County Performing Arts Center owner Nina Koch knows that themed, weeklong camps are the way to go for younger dancers, as her Brentwood, California students are on a modified year-round academic school calendar, and parents are usually looking for short-term daycare solutions to fill their abbreviated summer break.

Koch keeps her weekly camps light on dance: "When we do our advertising for Frozen Friends camp, for example, it's: 'Come dance, tumble, play games, craft and have fun!'"

Though Koch treats her campers as studio-year enrollment leads, she acknowledges that these weeklong camps naturally function as a way for families who aren't ready for a long-term commitment to still participate in dance. "Those who aren't enrolled for the full season will be put into a sales nurture campaign," she says. "We do see a lot of campers come to subsequent camps, including our one-day camps that we hold once a month throughout our regular season."

Serve your serious dancers

One dilemma studio owners may face: what to do about your most serious dancers, who may be juggling outside intensives with any summer programming that you offer.

Consider making their participation flexible. For Boniszweski's summer program, competitive dancers must take six of the 12 classes offered over a six-week period, as well as the four-day summer camp, which takes place in mid-August. "This past summer, because of COVID, they paid for six but were able to take all 12 if they wanted," she says. "Lots of people took advantage of that."

For Koch, it didn't make sense to require her intensive dancers to participate in summer programming, partly because she earned more revenue catering to younger students and partly because her older students often made outside summer-training plans. "That's how you build a well-rounded dancer—you want them to go off and get experience from teachers you might not be able to bring in," she says.

Another option: Offering private lessons. Your more serious dancers can take advantage of flexible one-on-one training, and you can charge higher fees for individualized instruction. Consider including a financial incentive to get this kind of programming up and running. "Five years ago, we saw that some kids were asking for private lessons, so we created packages: If you bought five lessons, you'd get one for free—to get people in the door," says Boniszewksi. "After two years, once that program took off, we got rid of the discount. People will sign up for as many as 12 private lessons."

A large group of students stretch in a convention-style space with large windows. They follow a teacher at the front of the room in leaning over their right leg for a hamstring stretch

Koch's summer convention experience several years ago. Photo courtesy East County Performing Arts Center

Bring the (big) opportunities to your students

If you do decide to target older, more serious dancers for your summer programming, you may need to inject some dance glamour to compete with fancier outside intensives.

Bring dancers opportunities they wouldn't have as often during the school year. For Boniszewski, that means offering virtual master classes with big-name teachers, like Misha Gabriel and Briar Nolet. For Koch, it's bringing the full convention experience to her students—and opening it up to the community at large. In past years, she's rented her local community center for a weekend-long in-house convention and brought in professional ballet, jazz, musical theater and contemporary guest teachers.

In 2019, the convention was "nicely profitable" while still an affordable $180 per student, and attracted 120 dancers, a mix of her dancers and dancers from other studios. "It was less expensive than going to a big national convention, because parents didn't have to worry about lodging or travel," Koch says. "We wanted it to be financially attainable for families to experience something like this in our sleepy little town."

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.