When you begin pole dancing, and it stirs something deep inside, a lot of things start to change in your life. You’ll probably find yourself owning a lot more spandex and a lot less structural, zippered pants. You take for granted that your hands are callused and gnarly. And you spend a lot, I mean a lot, of time watching and sharing pole videos and photos on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. As social media becomes a bigger part of your pole life, a lot of questions seem to come up. I’ve seen a lot of the same things asked over and over. “How do I make my video square?” “How do I add music?” “How do I get more likes?”
My life-before-pole-took-over was in design, marketing, and online media. I’ve created websites and social media campaigns for many companies, including corporate giants like Google and American Express, and pole-world giants like Body & Pole. I’ve put a lot of thought into social media strategy over the years, and these days am enjoying applying all that knowledge to building up my own practice as a teacher and performer. Here’s my thoughts on social media for pole dancers, compressed into a handy little guide.
But first, a few shameless plugs… If you’ve been enjoying my blog posts here, come to my free workshop “The F Word: Flexibility” at PoleCon (on Sunday at 10:15am) to meet me and say hi! In the meantime, keep in touch with me on Facebook and Instagram, and check out my website at http://nycpolecontortion.com.
Without further ado, here are all the do’s and dont’s of building up your personal online following:
1. Connect with people in the real world.
Bet you didn’t expect that to be the #1 item in an article about the internet, huh? But it’s essential. Social media is the glue that keeps us all together, but true connections happen in the real world between real people. To make the most of your social media accounts, get out there In Real Life and meet people! (And an event like PoleCon is basically the best networking there is.) Then be sure to connect with your new friends’ Instagram or Facebook accounts to keep in touch. It’s possible to treat your online accounts like a digital game to see how many people click your “like” button – but you’ll build a whole lot more meaningful connections if you realize social media is just one tool in your toolbox. And never forget that each “like” and each “follower” is a real person who you are interacting with and touching.
2. It’s more powerful to have a few people love you than a ton of people like you.
It’s too easy to quantify your life by the number of “followers” and “likes”. At the end of the day, though, it’s much more complex than that. Don’t be afraid to do YOU. Don’t be afraid to do things that might offend some people. So what if you lose followers, if they’re not into the things you value? Be true to something, and do it powerfully and well. Find your niche and run with it. A smaller group of people that really loves what you’re doing is so much more meaningful than a huge group of people with loose ties. That small group will stick with you, rather than moving on to the next hot thing next month. In the words of Paul Jarvis, “When you give up trying to please everyone, your work becomes much more focused and valuable to the people that matter.” For an awesome article on this topic, read his piece entitled Find your rat people.
3. Be memorable.
What is your special sauce? What are your values? Are you more of an entertainer or an educator? Fitness or sexy? You don’t need to put yourself in a box and stay there forever, but you should think about how can you brand yourself to stand out from every other poler. There are lots of ways to do this. It can be your stage name, or the color of your hair, or how you dance, or the space you dance in, or some other recurring signature. Samantha Star is a great example of a master of branding. Between her name, her star tattoos, and her constantly innovating and surprising photos of handstands in all kinds of places, she’s created a feed you don’t forget. Lindsay Lithe also does a fantastic job, with pole videos shot in a room that has “LITHE” spelled out on the wall in big letters. So what can you do that’s distinct to just you?
4. Attach yourself to bigger waves or trends.
While never forgetting what I wrote above about being true to yourself, the easiest way to be relevant and get attention online is to catch a wave of something that is trending RIGHT NOW. Things move very quickly in online media. If all of a sudden everyone is posting pictures of Spatchcocks today, then figure out how to post your own twist on a Spatchcock quickly. If it’s the holiday season and all anyone is thinking about is Thanksgiving or Christmas, figure out how you can tie that in to your posts. Again, always give it your own special sauce. The sweet spot is finding a perfect meld between the big trend everyone is talking about and your own personal style.
5. Be consistent across your accounts.
Chances are you have more than one social media account. Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook tend to dominate the pole dance world. Pinterest, Twitter, and LinkedIn all have advantages to different industries. When someone goes to your various accounts, they should be able to recognize that these are all from the same person. Use the same username and avatar photo whenever possible. If you must use a different name for some reason, try to relate it closely to your other accounts. Success in social media is the sum of many, many small actions. If you can harness your accounts together, you will get all those drops in the bucket to turn into a wave.
6. Make the most out of your accounts by feeding them all into each other, rather than having separate floating islands no one can find.
The essential piece to make the most out of social media is to create a website as a central hub for information about you. It can be something very simple. (I recommend a service like Strikingly, Weebly, Wix, or Squarespace, where you can set up a professional-looking website using their tools without needing any technical knowledge.) Your social accounts should all link to this website. The website should link back to all your social accounts. This way, someone who is curious can quickly learn all about you and see all of the things you’re doing online. If someone loves your 15 second videos on Instagram, chances are they’d love your 3 minute videos on YouTube. Your website is the bridge that lets people find everything you’re doing.
7. Always give credit to your influences.
The internet is a web. Its greatness lies in linking things together. One of the ways to take advantage of this is in what I mentioned above in #6. Another way is through linking to and crediting your influences. For one, this is just ethical and a good practice. The pole world is quite small, and taking credit for something that’s not yours will not fly. But beyond just being a good idea to not plagiarize, crediting people actually grows your own circle of influence. The people you tag will probably see what you post, and people who follow them may see what you post. So use this to your advantage and link yourself to others! Within reason, of course – tagging a bunch of polers in posts that have nothing to do with them is spamming and incredibly annoying.
8. Post consistently.
Like so much in life, if you want to build an online following, one of the most powerful things you can do is just to be patient. Post every day or every couple days. Don’t post much more, and don’t post much less. Too much and you will annoy people. Too little and people will forget about you. This may require some planning. Perhaps you want to prep all your posts on one day, when you’re in the pole studio, and then slowly release the videos over the course of the week. This will maintain and build your following much better than dropping 5 videos all at once. People watch more closely when they’re just shown one thing. Give them 5, and it all starts to look the same.
9. Think about post timing.
A big part of success on social media is not what you post, but WHEN you post. There are a lot of different factors that go into what the best times to post are. Given that the pole dance community is international, it can be very hard to strategize post times – because what works great in your time zone might be completely different for someone who’s in California or Australia. But generally, people are on Facebook when they’re bored at work, and you’ll get the most engagement between 9am and 6pm, Monday to Friday. Mondays people are often very busy catching up on things from over the weekend, so social media use drops somewhat. On the flipside, they’re more mentally checked out on Thursdays and Fridays, so social media use spikes. Since Instagram use happens on mobile devices, it tends to peak at times when people aren’t tied to their desk computer: nights and weekends. If you really want to nerd out, start tracking the times and days of week you post, and see if there are trends across your personal follower group. You might be surprised what a big impact timing has, rather than the actual content of what you’re posting.
10. Interact with your audience.
Television and movies are a one-way feed: media is fed to an audience, and the audience just watches it. The Internet and your social media channels are NOT a one-way feed. It’s a two-way conversation, and you should take advantage of this. Encourage people to comment on what you post! When you begin to chat and discuss things, deeper connections happen than when you just blast pictures and videos at people. Engage with people’s comments. Show that you are a person, and acknowledge that they are people. Social media doesn’t have to be dehumanizing. It can build deep and lasting relationships if you use it properly.
11. #Hashtag #all #of #the #things #butonlywhenappropriate.
Hashtags are the absolute heart of Instagram. If you’re going to it, use a million hashtags. Or more precisely: between 15 and 30. If you have more than 30, Instagram won’t let you post. If you have less that 15, you’re not maximizing the post to your advantage. Without hashtags, your post is an island and no one can find it. Give people who might be interested in what you’re doing a map to find you. Use diverse hashtags to try to get new people to come across your work. Think about related disciplines that might be interested in seeing what you do: #gymnastics, #circus, #crossfit, #theater, #costumedesign, #makeup… Cross-pollination is very powerful. Think big and try to draw people in who aren’t necessarily already a part of the pole community. On the flip side, hashtags are barely used on Facebook. If you’re going to post the same thing to both platforms, I recommend editing the Facebook post to remove that giant hashtag list, which becomes not useful and distracting from your main content.
12. Quality over quantity.
Never post “just to post something.” When I used to review portfolios of designers, the rule of thumb was “You are only as good as the worst thing in your portfolio.” In many ways, your social media feed is your portfolio as a pole dancer, performer, and public figure. This isn’t meant to scare you, and I don’t mean to not post unless you’re the best pole dancer in the world and can do 12 fonjis in a row. What I mean is, if that video of 12 fonjis was shot in a dark room on a shaky camera phone and you’re half out of the frame, don’t post it. Pay attention to lighting, composition, and sound quality. This will make or break what you’re sharing. Share high-quality, easy to watch, easy to understand content, or else wait until you can create something that is those things.
13. Helpful apps.
There are a lot of questions that I’ve seen asked over and over, mostly related to posting video on Instagram, which is quite restrictive — must be square, and can only be 15 seconds long. Here are my favorite apps for making the most of social media. (These are all for iPhone)
SloPro – Slows down or speeds up your video. Great for speeding up your pole flows so you can show more than 15 seconds of dancing in a post.
CropVS – Crops your video to a square, and lets you control the cropping – so you can make sure to fit everything you want in the frame.
iMovie – Loaded by default on the iPhone, and is my favorite app for adding background music to a video. Also works really well for cutting videos and splicing multiple videos together.
PicPlayPost – Allows you to collage multiple videos or photos together, and display all at once.
Repost – Give you the ability to share someone else’s Instagram post.
14. Privacy controls.
This is worth some thought from everybody – is there a reason why your accounts should be private? For instance, do you not want your boss or coworkers to know about your pole life? In that case, you need to invest some time into making sure all your privacy controls are set to protect your content. On the other hand, if you really want to market yourself as much as possible, you want to take off all privacy controls so that strangers (a.k.a. your new audience and fans) can find you. But know that when you take off all privacy controls, you will get occasional creepers who send you messages you’d rather not get. Or who go through and like literally every single one of the hundreds of photos in your stream. Just be aware of which side of the privacy spectrum you’re on, and make sure it’s a conscious choice.
15. Keep it fun for yourself.
It’s possible to get so caught up in the strategy and numbers of followers and likes that you feel bound to putting out a certain type of content. It’s easy to burn out that way, which leads to feeling overwhelmed and like you desperately need a break from social media. If you put out a post on something that gets you really excited, or says something you just really needed to put out into the world, and no one “likes” it, THAT’S OKAY. Do it anyway. A mix between posts that are strategized to “do well” with followers and posts that you have fun with is the best way to stay sane!