Ah, recital time: It’s the most hectic time of year in the always-hectic life of a dance studio owner. So who has the time to put together a recital social-media strategy, when there are costumes and tiny dancers and venues and parents to be wrangled?
Contrary to popular belief, “Having a social media strategy makes things easier for yourself,” says Jill Tirone, the Content and Community Manager of DanceStudioOwner.com. Not to mention that taking time to assemble a smart social game plan can net you brand-new followers and a more robust web presence—which could translate into better recital ticket sales and even new enrollment. Read on to ensure your recital will put its best foot forward online, as well as IRL.
The Big Event (Page)
Your studio’s social presence at recital time—just like the rest of the year—should have two key audiences in mind, says Misty Lown, founder of the More Than Just Great Dancing! studio affiliation and her own studio, Misty’s Dance Unlimited. First, there’s the families in your studio community, who are looking for essential info, like when and where to show up. Second, there’s the wider public, who could become part of your studio community if your social media presence is both appealing and professional.
Lown says that a Facebook event is most helpful in drawing that second audience: “If your desired outcome is to engage that outside-of-studio community, an event page is a perfect tool.” Everything that someone would need to know to attend the recital (virtually or in person) should be included on the page. Also include intermittent posts promoting the recital, basic info on your studio, and links to your site. Every person who clicks the “Interested” button, adds Lown, will be periodically reminded that your recital is happening—and that sense of familiarity with your studio’s name and branding may make them more likely to sign up with you come fall, when enrollment ads start circulating.
Pictures Worth a Thousand Reposts
You don’t have to be a graphic-design whiz to create visually appealing recital content for social media. Melanie Boniszewski, owner and director of Tonawanda Dance Arts, recommends Canva, a website that walks you through user-friendly templates befitting any platform or post type. Boniszewski also recommends photo content over video content, since filming excerpts of dances introduces the potential complication that is music copyright. Shots from picture day, rehearsal photos or candid behind-the-scenes snaps work great—just make sure you’re sharing the love equally. As Boniszewski learned the hard way, “If you’re going to post a photo of every class, don’t miss a single one! Make a spreadsheet to keep track if you have to.” (Pro tip: Make sure your studio parents sign a photo release form at the beginning of the year.)
The more individual dancers you can feature in recital-related posts, the better. (Think close-up photos featuring one to three dancers at a time.) “When people see their kids on social media, they reshare the post,” Boniszewski adds. These reposts are a great way to effortlessly get your studio’s name on the radar of studio parents’ friends and friends of friends. Yet another way to passively disseminate post-recital content is by providing Instagram-ready props and backdrops at your venue, though this may be less feasible in the pandemic era.
To livestream or not to livestream? The answer will be different for every studio, says Tirone: “The decision really comes down to location and equipment”—and, this year, to your locality’s COVID caseload and related restrictions that may limit how many people can attend in person. Some questions to ask if you’re torn: Do you have enough Wi-Fi strength? (Especially if your recital will be outdoors this year.) Who’s going to manage the livestream? (You, the studio owner, will obviously be more than busy running the show itself.) What’s more beneficial to your bottom line, livestreaming or providing a copy afterwards? One alternative idea, courtesy of Tirone, is to turn the official video recording into a “movie premiere” event in its own right, hosted on social media or in person as COVID numbers permit.
The #RecitalHashtag Question
Lown says the big debate in recital hashtags is whether to lean on a perennial hashtag or to come up with a new one each year, to go with that year’s recital theme. At Misty’s Dance Unlimited, they’ve settled on both. “#MistysDance, which now has thousands of tags, is a nice anchor for our ongoing presence on social media, and then we have something very show-specific each year, as well,” she says. This year the hashtag is #MDUFest, because this year’s recital is “MDU Fest.”
To encourage use of these hashtags, Tirone suggests building up anticipation before the performance with periodic teaser posts using the show’s theme and hashtag. “You can also post the hashtag on mirrors in the studio, or feature it prominently in your lobby if it’s open,” Tirone adds. Tirone also notes that you should always double-check that your hashtag of choice isn’t already in heavy use—or connected to content that isn’t family-friendly.
Staying On Brand
Select a color scheme and font collection for all recital-related posts, and stick to it. This should be related to your recital theme, and should also be visually distinct from your studio’s general branding such that parents will know a recital post as soon as they spot it. “Anything that you can do visually to amplify the content where the details are held, and affirm to parents that they’re in the right place looking for the right thing, is very helpful,” Lown says. (Speaking of visuals, a geotagged Snapchat filter is a nice addition, Lown says, but can be expensive—so don’t feel like your recital needs this kind of swag every year.)
Communication, Communication, Communication
While social media can’t replace tried-and-true ways of sharing recital info (think emails, texts, fliers), some parents will turn to social platforms for questions and reminders. Never put important details in the caption of a post, says Boniszewski: “People just don’t read on social media. We put recital information in the images and graphics, because people prefer to engage with pictures than with long captions.”
Ensuring your entire studio community is prepared for recital day (during COVID or not) is all about repetition. Boniszewski says that every nugget of crucial recital information gets blasted out via social media between three and six times in total. “The message is always the same, but we change the graphics slightly each time so it catches their eye,” she explains. This could be especially important this year, as you may need to communicate COVID protocols or changes to recital that parents aren’t used to from past years.
Straight to the Site
Frustrated by parents asking the same questions about recital over and over? Let a bot handle it. Tirone suggests using Facebook Messenger to craft automated responses to commonly asked recital questions, so you or your social media manager have time to handle more pressing things. Ideally, these replies will link to your website’s FAQ or “Recital Information” page: “Keeping everything up-to-date online and pointing people directly there trains your families to seek out the information themselves first,” Tirone adds. So make sure your website’s recital-info page is spruced up and current, and situate it front and center on your site.
While you can post performance photos and video clips in the days and weeks after the big show, Tirone advises digitally organizing this fodder for future posts and sprinkling the content throughout the year. “Showcasing to parents on social how you were able to pull things off safely conveys a lot of credibility and professionalism for your studio,” she says.
After all, recital social media strategy isn’t all about the weeks leading up to the performances, says Boniszewski: “We start thinking about next year’s recital a month after the curtain closes, and ramp up with it all year long.” Planning ahead and posting consistently means you’ll feel a little less crazed at showtime—and reach more potential recital attendees and studio families to boot.