7 Rules for Posting on Social Media for an Audience

A typical scene around Jackson Square in New Orleans
If you follow me on any of my other social media outlets (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pas de Chát podcast), you will see and hear that I took an important break from my teaching, choreographic, and media work while vacationing in The Big Easy. While I did post a few work-related items, most of my sharing consisted of personal experiences and artsy items I found while running around the charmed streets of New Orleans with my husband and friend, J-Ro. It wasn’t always this way, but I now feel funny when I use social media mainly for personal use. I’m so attuned to creating content for all of you guys that I feel odd when I revert back to more typical ways that I used social media before I began freelancing in 2011. As I head home (I’m writing this from the airport) and start revving back up into work mode, it has gotten me thinking about what I post and how I share across multiple media platforms. So, instead of keeping this knowledge to myself, I figured I’d share it with all of you. Keep on reading for a comprehensive list of 7 Rules for Posting on Social Media for an Audience.

1. Be sure to offer a variety of emotional content to appeal to a wide audience. Remember that people relate to people, so letting the public have a view into your private experience can be an extremely relatable asset to promoting your dancing, work, business, and ventures. Unfortunately, it is a harsh reality that many people hiding behind the privacy of a computer screen can become very judgmental of a person based off of the information they share on social media. If you only ever post updates about your successes, people may start to think that you have an over-inflated ego. If a majority of your posts are sad or depress, people may start to ignore your content because they don’t want to absorb your negative mood. If you focus your posts on writing disgruntled messages, people may assume that you are dramatic and unstable. Creating a range and variety of publishable content is a job within itself. You can write a legitimately upset or angry post on your social media here or there (see #7), but be sure that you offer a range of life experiences for your audience to relate to. In summing this up, be sure to come up with a game plan pertaining to the regularity of posts, range of content, and how often you plan to post about certain life happenings.

2. Post daily, but don’t post too frequently. This is one of my ultimate challenges, as I like to share a lot of content. Frequency of publishing engaging material has no perfect formula. It really comes down to seeing what your friends and audience respond to best. If you post too often, followers may feel like you are spamming their feed and unfollow or de-friend you. If you post too infrequently, your public may forget to look for your content or you may fall out of the algorithm that many social media sites rely on to share your relevant content with others. Play around with the amount of posting that your audience seems to respond to and tweak your posts and content from there.

Rehearsal to Performance of my new ballet (Photo: Eduardo Patino)
3. Try to add a visual to as many of your posts as possible. It is easy to share visual content on platforms like Instagram, where you are required to post images anytime you share . This isn’t a requirement for other outlets like Facebook and Twitter. As human beings, we are much more visual when it comes to exploring content. Think about what first draws you to read articles in magazines or on websites. Images. If you are able to upload visually relevant images along with your content, you will be that much more likely to catch the eye of followers who are scrolling through a handful of other artist's feeds just like yours.

4. If you are feeling angry, hurt, disappointed, or any range of adjectives that could be described as emotional, have at least one sleep before you write any public posts. When you are emotional, you tend to respond by reacting without reasoning. This is often the last thing you want to do. If you sleep on your reaction for just one night, you will likely wake up more rational than when you went to sleep. From there, you can decide whether you still want to follow through by sharing your original reaction, you can temper your original post into something more censored, or you can choose to scrap the whole thing altogether. You don’t want to end up in a situation like the talented choreographer David Dawson found himself in recently. After a London critic wrote a poor review of his work, his stager (who sets his ballets on companies) wrote an emotionally charged comment on the piece sparking great controversy. Mr. Dawson chose to tweet that he would attempt to avoid working in London’s dance scene in response, then almost immediately deleted the post. As he learned, even if you post something for just one minute and delete it, there is such a thing as a screenshot. Trust me on this one!

5. Stay engaged and interact with your audience as best as you can. It is easier to be responsive to your audience when you are in earlier stages of building your social media following. As your following grows, you may find that you are receiving more comments and requests for personal feedback than you can handle. It is important that you continue to maintain some semblance of interaction with your audience no matter how great their reaction may be. While I average anywhere between 2-10 messages from an array of dancers, readers, and listeners a day, I do my best to respond to each of them (even if a few months later). Don’t let these interactions take over the entirety of your work and free time. But do be sure to respond directly to as many people as you reasonably can. It is important to remember that these friends, followers, and fans are the reason that many of us get to thrive in the work that we do.

Courtesy of @thefatjewish on Instagram
6. Remember, anything that you post today could eventually be dug up years from now. Yes, most of us go through fun party phases where we might want to share our fun and debauchery. Yes, many of us share diverse and, sometimes, divisive perspectives. Yes, a majority of us have regretted posting something and deleted what we shared the following morning. The one thing that most kids and young adults don’t understand is that social media somehow morphs from a platform to share with friends to a platform for professional associations. Keep in mind that we sometimes share things that feel acceptable and culturally appropriate in the moment, but may reflect poorly upon us when a potential employer looks up your information, when you become the face of an organization/movement, or you react too quickly to a particular situation (see #4).

7. Make sure you are presenting your most genuine self. This is, perhaps, the most challenging task for anybody using social media to enhance or promote their work. Projecting confidence and sharing exciting experiences should absolutely be a part of your social media behaviors. But people are drawn to experiences that they can relate to more than things that are out of their social reach. If you can make yourself relatable by sharing genuine thoughts, successes, challenges, and experiences whilst throwing some unique and intriguing content out there, you will find that you can easily maintain and grow an audience that is emotionally invested in your life’s work.

Cheers from NoLA!!!!


Springtime: A Time for (Contract) Renewal

My new work, Diagnosis, premieres this Saturday in NYC (Photo: Eduardo Patino)
It's been a busy, busy few weeks here at Life of a Freelance Dancer! Other than teaching, I have been hurriedly preparing for the world premiere of my new work for the Columbia Ballet Collaborative's 10th anniversary production at Columbia University in New York City this upcoming weekend. If you want to see some extremely intelligent and talented dancers, follow this link for tickets. Shows are at 3 pm & 8 pm, and additional choreographers include American Ballet Theatre soloist Craig Salstein, Emery Lecrone, Claudia Schreier, and more! Additionally, I will be speaking this upcoming Tuesday, April 18th, at Gibney Dance for their Dancer's Economic Empowerment Program (DEEP) about negotiating contracts for professionals. The event is free and starts at 6:30 pm, so stop on by, say hello, and learn something! You can RSVP by clicking here. Beyond all of this excitement, I am also honored to have recently been featured in Inside Dance magazine's March/April issue in their Teacher4Teacher segment. I've only been focusing on my teaching and choreographic career for a short period of time, so I was taken aback when they asked me to share my thoughts and experiences thus far in my career. So far, this spring has been quite good to me and I am extremely thankful for everything that has come my way!

Teacher4Teacher feature in Inside Dance Magazine
Speaking of spring, this season is a great time of renewal. The sun stays out later, plants and trees begin to blossom, and people generally have a sunnier disposition on life as their habits move from indoor living to outdoor recreation. Dancers are no exception to the rules of renewal when it comes to springtime. If a dancer works for a unionized company, this is when they will find out if they will be reengaged to dance another season with their company. While some dancers will be let go from their positions, others may choose not to sign their contracts in hope of renewing their inspiration, getting a fresh start, or gaining the chance to progress beyond their current status in the rank-and-file of their current institution. Whether a dancer wants to leave their current company or was blindsided by news of non-reengagement, they need to determine how they will go about continuing their career, if they wish to do so.

Let's start by talking about possible options for a dancer that is looking to leave their current company position. First off, a dancer needs to determine if they are thinking of leaving only if they find a better option or if they are absolutely moving on whether they get a job offer or not. When contract time came up my final year at Pacific Northwest Ballet, I already knew I was leaving. I had made the decision to give up my contract nearly 7 months prior to being offered another year of work. So, there was no question by the time that I received my letter of intent that I would not accept a new contract. Most union contracts require management to notify a dancer of intent to rehire by March 1st. Once these letters go out, a dancer has until April 1st to agree to sign their contracts. Typically, a dancer who chooses to look beyond their current position will start reaching out to other organizations for auditions beginning in January or February. While many companies will allow you to take company class or attend a cattle call to audition, most won't tell you if you are being offered a job until after April 1st, when dancers reach the deadline to return letters of intent to their employers. Some dancers choose to tell their director that they aren't returning the following season earlier than this deadline (like I did), so jobs may become available before this date. But generally, a director will tell you that they are interested without making an official job offer until April or May at the latest. If you are thinking of leaving, but haven't made a solid commitment to depart, many dancers will just sign their current contract and continue into the next season. But if you are determined to change your career path, you may take a risk and let your boss know that you won't be returning, whether you have a job offer or not. Or, if you are comfortable enough, you can ask for an extension for your letter of intent, which is much less common.

If you are 100% set on leaving your current company, chances are that you are willing to take the risk to or are already prepared to be a freelance dancer, either for a period of time or permanently. Many former company dancers fall into freelancing for one of two reasons. Either they wanted to change some aspect of their career trajectory by choosing to leave their company and didn't gain full-time employment elsewhere or they were blindsided by non-renewal of their contract. I recently helped guide a dancer with a nice regional company on building a foundation to freelance from after they were unexpectedly non-reengaged from a position with a company they had danced with for 5 years. When presented with the idea that they had no say in this decision, they felt empowered to take full control of their career.
Ali Block, in my new work, gave up a company position to freelance & attend Columbia University (Photo: Eduardo Patino)
Either way, one needs to be prepared to freelance with an appropriate package to offer to potential employers. A cover letter (expressing your background and interest in working for employers), CV/résumé, dance photographs, and a performance reel are a great place to start. Of course, your package doesn't have to be completed to perfection from the beginning. But it should have enough information to offer an employer an idea of who you are. Additionally, each freelance artist needs to have a short-term and long-term plan in place, whether they ever realize these aspirations or not. For many dancers that are blindsided by the loss of a job, their main goal is to use this time as a gap-period between contracts. They hope to gain greater experience in roles that were, perhaps, not available to them in their previous work situation to make themselves more marketable the next time company auditions come around. For others, freelancing is the long-term goal. Whether common items like answering to one boss, becoming bored performing works in the exact same style in every program, or lack of touring were driving forces for a dancer to seek out long-term freelancing, a dancer needs to have long-term goals in place. What do you want to dance, where do you want to dance, who do you want to dance for, how long long do you want to dance, and why do you want to continue dancing? These are all questions that should be on a dancer's mind as they enter the wide wild world of a freelance dancer.

One often disregarded reason that some dancers consider freelancing after leaving or being forced out of a company is because they just aren't ready to retire from the art form quite yet. Maybe they have unresolved expectations, their body can't handle a 40-week workload, they can't admit to themselves that they are through with their art, or they want to finish their career on their terms. A lot of us think or used to think that retirement from dance was a straightforward process. But I can share from experience that I have seen freelancers enjoy long careers, dancers freelance for awhile and rejoin companies, dancers freelance for a bit and retire fully, and dancers freelance for a bit to retire for a period before making a fascinatingly rare comeback. There is great value in the freedom of choice and direction that freelancing can bring you. There is absolutely no shame in using freelancing as a slow end to your performance career.

Independent contracting can work as a great wind up or wind down for a career in dance. Just as long as your are clear in your goals and work to the best of your ability at each job you are working, while being fluid in adjusting goals as time passes. Spring sure brings forth great change. While there are sometimes chilly, gloomy days to cope with, we finish this season with flowers, lush green landscape, sun, and warm temperatures. It isn't shocking that a dancer's season mimics this change. It can be difficult to make decisions about your career or to accept that you are being forced to change the its trajectory. But if you look at these things with a spring-like outlook and put in the effort to understand, prepare, and execute the next step of your career, I can assure you that you can gain great success.

Springtime has finally arrived!