December 2013 | Mindful Marketing | Online Integrity

By Julie Holt Lucia

Social media’s popularity has given studio owners a bonanza of (free!) marketing opportunities. But because social-media platforms are so easy to use and because they feel informal, it’s also easy to forget that your studio’s reputation is on the line with each word you type and each photo you post. Don’t let missteps get in the way of your efforts. Keep your online integrity intact with these tips.

Get permission

Before posting photos and videos of classes and performances, make sure you have permission from your students’ parents. Including a photo/video release statement with registration materials is best; if it’s too late for that, direct parents to a release form on your website or in your email newsletter.

To avoid having an “all about me” image, intersperse some inspirational quotes and images, or post links to relevant dance news stories or online articles.

The release should state that the parent allows your school to use photos or videos of their child in marketing materials, including on social media. If any clients are unwilling to sign the release, make a note in their account not to use images of those children.

When you do post photos and videos, make sure you don’t show favoritism toward a certain student, class, or performing group.

No disruptive opinions

Whether you’re posting a status update, commenting on a post, or tweeting, always pause before issuing a strong opinion. Avoid remarks that could be construed as sexist, racist, or politically divisive. If you know what you’re about to post is controversial and you still want to do it, preface it with “I understand this may be a hot topic, but I think . . .” or “This may be a point of contention, but my thoughts about it are . . .” Be prepared for a backlash, however.

Even when you opt for maximum privacy settings on your accounts, your posts can be traced back to you. On Facebook, for example, even if your profile is private, others may be able to see comments you make on friends’ posts.

Limit self-promotion

It’s natural, and expected, that you’ll plug your studio’s events and brag about your faculty and students on your Facebook page or Twitter account. Showcase your school mindfully, by limiting the number of self-promotional posts, especially in a short period of time. To avoid having an “all about me” image, intersperse some inspirational quotes and images, or post links to relevant dance news stories or online articles. Celebrate the dance world as a whole along with marketing your school.

Watch those words

Don’t underestimate good spelling and grammar. Those who follow you on social media will be more likely to take you seriously and respect your opinions if they can clearly understand what you are saying. Always re-read your remarks before posting or tweeting, and check any spelling or grammar you aren’t sure about.

For example, it’s common to mistake your for you’re, or to mix up there, their, and they’re. Know the difference, and use them correctly so you don’t look careless. Do not overuse punctuation or emoticons; multiple exclamation points, slipshod apostrophes, and excessive use of smiley faces can look unintentionally juvenile.

Also be careful with abbreviations, like typing 2 in place of to, too, or two, or u for you. Although these shortcuts are commonplace on social media (especially on Twitter, where tweets are limited to 140 characters) abbreviations make it appear like you didn’t put time or thought into what you wrote. Save them for tweets or don’t use them at all.

Avoid negativity

Resist the urge to badmouth any person or business on social media, or to jump on someone else’s badmouthing bandwagon. If you had a personal misunderstanding or a terrible customer-service experience, say something constructive or say nothing at all. Don’t indulge in a rant that you might later regret.

The moral of the story on social media? Integrity and presentation are important! The way you communicate online should accurately reflect your level of professionalism.