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  • Writer's pictureCorey Burns

The Ins and Outs of Social Media

What Life was like Before

In just about every facet of life in America, there is a social media component. It has completely changed the landscape of most industries and dance is no exception. I’ll start with a “prior to social media” because I’m old enough to remember what life was like before.

  • Prior to social media, to observe a child dancing, you would attend their studio class or annual performance. Burns Dance Studio would have “parent watch days.” Now you can catch glimpses of classroom activity because videos and pictures are posted on social media accounts.

  • Prior to social media, to become a professional dancer, you would have a paper resume, headshot and attend auditions to get jobs. Now your social media presence is considered largely important.

  • Prior to social media, dance studios ran ads in newspapers, yearbooks, and made flyers to pass out. Now advertising on social media feels essential.

  • Prior to social media, you really didn’t know what activity a kid was doing or where. Now, most families celebrate the successes of their kids’ activities on social media for all of us to enjoy.

  • Prior to social media, professional dancers largely relied on conventions to network and teach content that would parlay future jobs and revenue streams. Living in NYC and LA was basically required to book jobs. Now social media is how dancers are seen, found and known.

  • Prior to social media, the rise to fame as a dancer required more longevity, perseverance and consistency. Today, just one viral video can make all the difference in the world.

Things have clearly changed a lot.

Increased Opportunities

My opinion of whether social media has been good or bad for the dance industry is only shaped by the fact that I grew up without social media and now use social media. I would say that from the entertainment perspective, social media has been a HUGE asset for dancers. Expressing yourself through the art of dance is timeless, and social media has only increased the opportunity for dancers to do that. We can also see humor and levity in this crazy world. One popular social media meme that I chuckle at is the one where dance dads are showing off their “I don’t dance, I finance” shirts. While it is a bit on the sexist side (a lot of moms pay for dance, too), we get the point. Social media has been very good for allowing dance studios to share the information and talents of the students/teachers in hopes to draw more students to their programs.

This has also opened up avenues for parents to seek out opinions and information about dance studios. It is not uncommon for a parent to use social media to solicit recommendations for dance studios. Then an army of studio supporters begin commenting and offering information. It is the new “word of mouth” advertising. We are using social media to create value and interest in our products. We can also keep up with trends and adapt our business models.

When social media first became a force in the American landscape, we obviously enhanced our social media presence. At conferences and conventions, studio owners were coached to make sure your websites were updated and social media outlets were fresh with regular posts. It was a race to get “likes” and “followers,” which as you may know, Facebook uses to determine if our posts go in your feed. Whether true or not, they made it seem that you would lose business to others that had these platforms going full throttle. Marketing firms reached out to dance studios, karate dojos, and gymnastics centers to “manage our social media.” They did not want to work on commission. 😊 Creating content outside of regular studio operations became necessary. Any chance studios can get to put their name in front of potential clients is a win. That is the main goal of marketing. However, to some extent, it is very hard to use social media to express what is done in dance studios.

The Filtered Version

This leads me to the negative side of social media in the dance world, at least in my opinion. Let me explain. When you open the “process” of students learning to become great at dance for all to see, it can be very difficult to interpret. I’ve often said there is “observing” and “interpreting.” As I watch people post on social media, we see pictures with awards, friends, championships, and family. RARELY do we see the actual practice drills or conditioning. The “process” to excellence - the grind - is not always posted. Unless you follow successful coaches or athletes, you don’t usually see it. Occasionally you see “tough loss, but I’m proud of how the team played” post, but most often the posts are celebratory. We show the good life and the fun. As these types of posts get into our newsfeeds, it generates likes and followers, and we are excited to see people enjoying our posts. I say “our” because I use social media, too. I enjoyed the fact that my family and friends outside of Aiken could see what my kids were doing as they grew up (respecting their wishes, of course). As our social media habits form, we get more of “what we like” in our feeds. Social media platforms want you to keep coming back to them.

Bodies on the Floor

All of that to say this: how we use social media does not show the hard work, persistence, struggle, failure and exhaustion it takes to be really good at something. It’s like showing the report card without knowing the classwork, homework and extra study time. Who posts C’s and D’s? As more kids get into social media, they get inspired to try new things. This is great until there is struggle and parents have to manage a situation. That is the downside of social media in my opinion. And as kids get on social media at younger ages, they are observing and interpreting using their own schema, and without proper guidance, have a hard time with managing expectations for excellence. We see this lead to college majors being changed, and multiple job changes early in careers. I am reminded every year around college signing days about the number of kids in sports and dance that aren’t able to continue after high school (or in some cases during high school). We have “followed” these kids and seen all of the good stuff, why are they not able to continue? Did they lose passion? Did they try out and not make it? Did they not have good grades? We will never know because that is not posted.

We can all be proud of our kids, we can all ensure that the activities they are doing enhance their self-image, self-esteem and overall confidence to make it in the real world. I want our Burns Dance Studio posts to celebrate all the things that go on within our program. But our kids’ value and worth can’t be left to posts on social media and wishes to go viral. I should post a picture of the bodies on the floor after we run dances full out multiple times. It is HARD to be in the top 10% of anything!

Building True Self-Worth

We can’t tie our parenting success to our social media image. We will never be able to use social media to create and sustain the value of our families and children. In the end, America is a capitalistic society where the value you bring to others determines your success, whether you work for a major corporation or are self-employed. The higher your capacity for stress, tolerance, intelligence and determination, the higher your potential is for success. I hope the activities our kids do, and that we celebrate on social media, build those traits within them. I hope the social media content from Burns Dance Studio inspires all kids to want to dance with us recreationally or competitively, and if desired, take their passion to the next level. I know the hard work our students put in pays off in ways social media will never be able to convey.

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