By Nina Koch
Instagram is a fun (and free) way to engage your students and increase your school’s visibility. This photo-based social media app is very popular with tweens, teens, and young adults, and it’s easy to use—you simply upload photos you take with your camera or smartphone to your account. With a studio Instagram account, you can post pictures of classes, publicize studio announcements and student achievements, promote your registration days, and so on.
When formulating your studio brand, you want to position yourself as “the place to be,” a distinction minutely parsed—and determined—by one of your key constituencies: kids. Instagram is a way to build up your brand recognition within that hard-to-reach demographic. Business Insider has reported that more than 80 percent of upper-income teenagers use Instagram. Let them do the selling for you! Parents often sign up their children for activities their kids’ friends participate in. Why not establish your school as the dance studio everyone is talking about and wants to be a part of?
Once you set up your account, let your students and families know so they can follow you. Their own followers will see the posts about your school, thereby heightening your visibility with audiences you’d never otherwise reach.
One fun activity to keep your students interacting via Instagram is to hold a photo contest. This is an entertaining and effective way to leverage Instagram to gain what all dance studios rely on for growth: word-of-mouth advertising and referrals.
Here’s how the contest works. At the beginning of the month, post a list of the types of pictures you want the kids to post on Instagram each day throughout the month—for example, the school’s logo or studio sign, a selfie taken while wearing a studio-logo T-shirt, or a shot of themselves in a specific pose. They need to tag the dance studio and use its hashtag on each photo.
At the end of the month, enter the students who posted all the required types of pictures into a drawing for a prize, such as a free private lesson or a gift certificate for your in-studio store. Make sure the giveaway item is geared toward the dancers, not the parents; for example, kids don’t generally get excited about free registration fees or tuition.
Besides being a marketing tool, Instagram builds studio spirit. Kids love to share their excitement and enthusiasm about something they enjoy, and this contest gives them a reason to brag about their second home. (They also love free stuff.)
Here are some photo ideas to give your students for an Instagram contest: a selfie taken in a dance room, with a group of friends, or while wearing a costume; your dance shoes; an award; a photo of you onstage or doing your best dance trick; the inside of your dance bag; your dance idol; a “throwback” dance photo; your favorite dance quote; the “dance taxi” that gets you to and from the studio, whether that be the family minivan, your bike, or public transportation; the studio’s bulletin board; a studio shout-out photo of your choice that includes a request that your followers follow the studio on Instagram.
Have fun with this. Talk it up to your dancers and get them excited and eager to join in. Mention it in your newsletter and on your website, put up signs in the studio, and cross-promote the contest on your personal and studio Facebook pages. You will most likely get some parents to participate too. Then watch your studio’s visibility grow.
Nina Koch, owner of East County Performing Arts Center in Brentwood, California, majored in dance at San Jose State University and founded the Ballet Company of East County.