After a year of participating in the online dance community, I have some new thoughts about dance instructors and how they can use the internet.
First, a few statistics from Did You Know?, a video I featured last month:
- In 2008 there were 31 billion searches conducted on Google every month. That’s up from 2.7 billion in 2006.
- There are over 200 million registered users on MySpace (a little of my own research: Facebook reached over 100 million active users in August 2008, 150 mill. by January 2009 and 175 mill. the following month in February 2009. More than 3 billion minutes are spent on Facebook each day (worldwide). Twitter’s numbers are disputed, but I’ve seen ranges from 2.5 to 10 million and I’ve noticed growth in the last month or so as news media and celebrities have joined the conversation. (What is Twitter?? If Facebook is calling someone on the phone, Twitter is the equivilant of text messaging – it is short, fast updating and sharing of information.)
- It took radio 38 years to reach a market audience of 50 million. TV – 13 years. Internet – 4 years. iPod – 3 years. Facebook – 2 years.
- The number of internet devices in 2008 was 1,000,000,000.
The Internet Age
- Internet searches, now more than ever, are how people are finding information. I, personally, have not cracked open the Yellow Pages in probably 5 years.
- Social media is an exploding communication tool and people are spending lots of time at these sites.
- The use of internet technologies and websites is rapidly growing.
Dance Instructors, Get Online
Dancers, instructors, schools and studios will benefit from an online presence.
Antiquated websites aren’t going to cut it for bringing in new customers who are checking you out online first.
While word-of-mouth is still extremely important, people are relying on word-of-mouth found online. Potential customers can learn about you from people they know via social media and they can and will search for the opinions of others elsewhere online. They will look to your site to get an idea of who you are and what you do, if it is outdated they will assume that you are too.
If you want customers (current and potential) to find you, to share your site with others, to stay tuned in to what you are doing, make it easy — be where they are, online and off.
A Strategy for Dance Instructors
You may consider the top three of the following to be most important in my eyes. If you do nothing else, take action in these three areas.
- Be the best you can be. Consistently work to improve what you offer and how you offer it. Look for opportunities to learn from others, attend workshops, and take classes. Never stop learning.
- Get involved in your local community. Dancers cannot live by internet alone. Support dancers and dance artists in your hometown. Come together with other dance schools and businesses to build awareness about an issue or support a charity. Open the lines of communication between you and others that do what you do. Make giving back a priority.
- Carve out your own internet space. Create an interesting and useful website. While it is not the only method, blogs are a great way to keep the content on your site fresh, unique, and engaging. Because visitors can easily subscribe to a blog by email or other means, it is relatively simple to keep your customer base updated.
- Consider extending this online presence to social media sites. You can enhance your online presence by interacting with your peers or those who share your interests. It’s also an opportunity to connect with your current customers and your potential customers, or people just like them, all over the world.
- Do make use of online video and photo posting. As a teacher, your students come first (Don’t sacrifice their class experience for self-marketing purposes. And, please be sensitive in the use of images of young students online.) Some studios post videos reviewing material learned in class. This could be a great tool for students’ home practice and a kind of “functional marketing.” Compiling short videos and providing photos that give a glimpse of special events, classes, performances, or perhaps customers offering thoughts on what makes you/your school special, will create some dynamic content for your website and, when added to YouTube or Flickr (for example), have a wider reach.
- Utilize your current customer base to do some of the work for you (in more ways than one). If you make shareable content easily accessible to your students (and/or their parents), you’ve increased your chances of growing through word-of-mouth. All of the sites mentioned above make it easy to spread and share information but you’ve got to have a presence there to make use of it.
Also, literally, let others do some of the work. Particularly in a studio situation, parents and students are a great resource. I’m sure you are using their skills for lots of things already, why not investigate ways they might support you in creating an online presence as well? Find someone that’s handy with their home video editing equipment. Find a budding photographer to record moments during classes or events. Find someone (or a few someones) who might like to keep content on your site up to date. If you are an independent instructor, don’t discount your student base and perhaps even enlist friends and relatives to do some of the dirty work.
One of the biggest obstacles, I know, is that as a teacher your time is limited.
My advice is to just take one thing at a time, adding and learning new things when and where you can. The benefits to time spent improving yourself, reaching out to your community, and expanding that community to an ever-growing online population will be worth it.
Do you think dance instructors and studios are representing themselves well on the internet?
Are you expanding your presence online? Why or why not?
What else would you add to the strategy?