Social Media Hacks for the Clueless

social-media-colalgeLet’s get serious – social media (to me) is one giant guessing game.  For the last month, I’ve been experimenting with our social media at work to figure out a pattern of what people like to see from us, what they interact with regularly, time of day they are online reacting, and what increases followers.  So, here is what I’ve learned:

  1. The same type of posts/articles never do as well as the first – You would think that patterns in your shares, likes, and retweets would be a sign to keep riding those inspiration video trains, quotes, action photos…etc, but what your viewers really want is variety.  They don’t want to come back and return to a page to see a similar post from yesterday or even last week.  Be sure to use various types of posts (videos, photos, articles, quotes…etc.) and mix it up when it comes to the types of posts you do.  Sometimes inspirational, connect with what is going on that day (national dance day or national boss day), or even something that your audience can learn from that relates to your clientele.  Whatever you do constantly be mixing it up.
  2. What works on one platform will not work on another – The three social media platforms we focus on are Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  We are a very visual company so keeping our Instagram relevant with consistent activity is vital to the growth of our national and international events.  Unlike Instagram, Facebook is looking for content, while Twitter is looking for 280 characters or less.  One of the best posts I put on Twitter this week was a random thought I had about why I walk so fast and I related it to dance (type of industry I work in). It said, “I 100% blame dance for why I walk so fast. You can only have “walk with a purpose” said to you so many before you walk everywhere like you have 8 counts to make it.” This posts got one of the highest interactions we’ve had on that platform. People like a little sass in their tweets. A quick thing they can respond to is key to success there.
  3. There are dry spells – Unless you have original content you can pump out daily there are dry spells where not much interaction is going on. That has partly to do with sharing others content and not your own. We usually share at least two pieces of original content on each platform per week. I try to focus on videos, creative stories, or relevant info to our events.  As it gets closer to our event we have more original content that gets a lot of attention.
  4. Use as much new and relevant content as possible – Be clever in your posts. On Instagram I used an old image from West Side Story to talk about Justin Peck being announced as the choreographer for the upcoming Steven Spielberg remake of the film. We had a large number of likes plus numerous comments about excitement for the film and their favorite songs from the movie. Granted this content wasn’t original because it had been announced in a major dance publication, but by putting a twist on it and asking about people’s favorite song or memory it got people to talk.
  5. All videos need to be 2 minutes or less – Anything longer than 2 minutes for a video you lose people’s attention. Be sure that all videos that are original create the ‘FOMO’ (Fear Of Missing Out) mindset in your viewers. Make them want to check out your content regularly as well as sign-up for whatever you are selling.
  6. Post regularly, but stay innovative – Try to post at least 1x per day on Facebook and Twitter. For Instagram as long as your consistent with how much you post it doesn’t affect your numbers. There are numerous free sites to help schedule your social when you are not in the office like Later (for Instagram) and Hootsuite (for Facebook & Twitter). These are great tools to really layout your ideas, but be sure to save room for new posts that may come up that day.

Final advice – don’t over do it. Posting more than 2x a day on any platform doesn’t increase your followers or interactions (unless it’s on-site at an event). From personal experience I’ve seen our numbers go down (particularly on Facebook) when the event isn’t happening and we are posting random material.

I’ve learned over the last month that you have to constantly be looking for a new edge with your social. Just like our events, always having the mind set of what makes us different is the key to success.

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Album Review: Past Lives (Against the Current)

Back in 2012 I came across Against The Current on YouTube watching random music videos of artists covering Taylor Swift songs. Then I came across Chrissy Costanza, and when I first heard them do a rock cover of a Taylor Swift country song I was hooked. Before they signed their record deal with Fueled By Ramen they were a small pop-rock band out of upstate New York that energized their music with rock driven guitars.  Now, they are charging their own course with a changed sound.

Their sophomore album Past Lives takes the forms of many current pop-rock bands before them. All the guitars have been slowly drowned out by the techno edge that has engulfed the music industry. It has made music sound stale and robotic. What happened to the guitars? The edge that I first fell in love with in your early EPs?

The 80s electric pop is definitely coming back to the music scene and every artist is jumping on the band wagon.  The new album isn’t all bad and this isn’t going to be a blog post full of down and out on how I miss the old music days because lets face it, without change we are all dead.  Past Lives is a mix of 80s electric pop with side of techno.  The guitars have been replaced with music machines, electronic pianos, and stronger drums.  One of my favorites off the album is “I Like The Way.”  The song seems like a memory or a dream as the music has numerous overlays of voices with a wave of sound that is crashing over a heavy clap beat.  It reminds me of never growing old.  We all have to grow up, but to continue the youth that we are born with we need to remember all the things we love about life.  In the second verse it goes:

“I found a burnt CD-R in your visor
From back when you were in a band
You laughed so hard it hurt
But I like how that guitar looked when it was in your hands”

“Voices” is one of the few songs on the album that has a rock tone.  With a powerhouse guitar phrasing that is linked throughout the upbeat tempo of the song.  It is an interesting concept to have it be upbeat since the song is about negative thoughts taking over your own sanity.  The music video a little out there but this song reminds me why I fell in love with Against The Current.  Their forceful bass-lines, compelling vocals, and dynamic song writing continues to improve year after year.  No, I don’t think they are sell outs for continuing to grow and change, it all goes back to what I said before.  If we don’t change, we die.

 

Choreographing to Music or Without? Which is Better?

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Photo Provided by Dance Teacher Summit

As a Conference Manager of a Dance Teacher event, I am constantly looking at trends of other events, reading blogs/Facebook posts, and gathering one-on-one feedback that gives me insight on what dance teachers need to continue to improve their educational outlook.  One of the conversations that I keep seeing are requests on song suggestions.

It is an interesting concept to start with music before developing the choreography/movement phrasing.  Of course there are benefits to both creating with music and creating without. So, let’s take a look at the pros and cons as well as what is really important in the choreographic process.

  1. Story line – If you have a theme for your recital or performances, having dedicated songs that have the story line built in could help in the creative process of setting the scene for your audience.  If you do not have a set theme, it could pigeon hole you to choreograph to the words of the music instead of developing unique and cohesive phrasing that fits with what your dancers are capable of doing.
  2. Phrasing – One of the greatest things I loved about going to college for dance was my composition classes.  In class, we developed our own choreography as well as learned how to develop work that could expand into more than just a small movement phrase or even longer than a 2-3 minute piece.  We learned about inversions, speed changes, repetition…etc.  Each step/phrasing doesn’t need to be different or a trick or connected to a word.  It needs to be intertwined to what already has been created.  Ask yourself what are your building blocks in the choreography?  This will help you to develop the work without music.
  3. Emotion – What is the emotional connection?   Music has the power to invoke feeling, but the real question is can the choreography stand on it’s own, or is every piece of emotion in the music?  When you are choreographing a piece, record and watch it in silence.  You will be surprised to see what affect a piece of music can do to your phrasing.  A song can help blossom your work to a new level, or it can carry your piece and be the only thing the audience remembers. Remember this!
  4. Dancer Connection/Artistry – Coaching and directing is an important part of teaching choreography to your dancers.  It is vital that they feel connected to the piece.  As discussed previously, music can draw emotions out of people.  A song can help dancers relate, remind them of a personal experience, or inspire them.  Can your choreography do that?  Have you explained the meaning of the piece to your dancers?  Have a discussion about this.  If you have choreographed to specific music, the music can be a guide for the dancers.  If you are just working with phrasing, explain the story to them.  Ask them how they can connect.  This in turn will drive a personal connection to the piece for your dancers and help them to invest in your vision.

Music verse no music?  At the end of the day it can be either.  It just depends on your approach.  How you choreograph as an individual.  It is about the four items above – story line, phrasing, emotion, and artistry.  Connecting your dancers is vital to the process.  Every movement, piece of music, facial expression, and dancer should be invested in the best interest of the performance of the work.

The Greatest Showman – A Story of Risk, Belief, and Dreams

As the entertainment industry is drowning in its own turmoil and scandals, it is movies like The Greatest Showman that reminds us why we work in this industry.  The ability to bring to life a story that makes you fall in love, can take you on a journey in someone else’s shoes, and remind you that you should hold on to the million dreams that keep you awake.  Director Michael Gracey spent the last eight years perfecting his vision, finding the right lyricists, piecing together the eclectic and talented cast, and hiring the right choreographer that gave the film the magical flare of the golden age of musicals back to the big screen.

Gracey introduces the audience to P.T. Barnum, beginning with his childhood struggles to starting the circus, but the story is more than one man and his life.  The Greatest Showman brings you into Barnum’s world that transcends into a dream, shows you all the people that he affected, lives he intertwined, the loyalty he created, and the essence of forging your own path and how it is never easy.  In musicals, it is the songs that carry a large part of the story.  The original soundtrack was written by Oscar and Tony Award-Winning duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul of critically acclaimed La La Land and Dear Evan Hansen.  Pasek and Paul developed an 11-song soundtrack that brings dramatic drums, staccato horns, melodic pianos, and lyrics that pull at your heartstrings.  In the early scenes, you are introduced to P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman) and his wife Charity (Michelle Williams) starting as young children into adults as they daydream through a song called A Million Dreams.  It is through the start of this song you see the bigger than life vision that P.T. Barnum has for his family and the career he longs for:

“I close my eyes and I can see
The world that’s waiting up for me
That I call my own
Through the dark, through the door
Through where no one’s been before
But it feels like home”

One of the lines Jackman says is “no one ever made a difference by being like everyone else.”  This song sets the tone for the rest of the film by bringing you into an adventure of something that never existed and formed a show that made the freaks the extraordinary.  The bearded-lady (Keala Settle) character does exactly that.  She makes you feel for someone that has been shamed and made fun of her entire life.  We all have those moments where we feel like we aren’t worthy, or that you just don’t fit into the status quo:

“I am not a stranger to the dark
Hideaway, they say
‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Runaway, they say
No one’ll love you as you are”

At some point, we finally just stop caring what everyone else thinks and realize that being just who you are is enough.  That doesn’t happen for everyone.  In the end, it is about your support system.  The people that have your back.  One of the beautiful parts of this story is the loyalty you witness through the mistakes and betrayals that Barnum makes as a human.  The greed that takes over his better judgment.  The love and hope of change from his family, his partner (Phillip Carlyle), and the circus people who truly forgive his betrayals and mistakes.  The faith that we can have for humanity when one person believes that someone is special just as they are. Anne Wheeler (Zendaya) and Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron), two star-crossed lovers kept apart because of status and race, but feel that they are a perfect fit.  In the song Rewrite the Stars it is like you are looking through their eyes and falling in love too.  The emotion that these two actors have captured your heart in every action.  The smile that Anne Wheeler gives Phillip Carlyle when they first meet is magic.

“What if we rewrite the stars?
Say you were made to be mine
Nothing could keep us apart
You’d be the one I was meant to find
It’s up to you, and it’s up to me
No one can say what we get to be
So why don’t we rewrite the stars?
Maybe the world could be ours”

Even if musicals aren’t your thing, the story will be well worth the hours spent watching this film.

Searching…

med_searching_ver3Recently, the world was dealt the hand of losing another talented musician and rapper Mac Miller due to a drug overdose.  People come in and out of our lives through death, loss of connection, and/or lack of communication.  The film Searching really hits home on how loss can affect us as it focuses on a typical Asian family living in America during the technology age as the teenage daughter (Margot) goes missing mysteriously one evening after a study group.  The father (David Kim) desperately searches through emails, social media, and friends to find out that maybe he didn’t really know his daughter at all.

The story was predominately shot through a computer camera, chat messages, live-streaming, video recordings, and social media platforms such as Facebook.  I think the director really focused in on our obsession with social media and how technology is the center of human interaction.  The fear, paranoia, and hurt that can form when people can hide behind screens and make unruly comments and lie and think no repercussions can come back at them.  The mask you can wear behind a camera or through a chat room can change your perception of what those people’s lives are like.  Who they are?  How they think?  Even their motives for being online and doing what they are doing.

Searching shows what technology has done to our lives – the good and the bad.  It helps to create a mask, a mask which Margot hid behind for so long after her mother passed away from cancer.  Putting on a brave face for her father and moving past the pain and insecurity she felt.  She talked to people online that didn’t know her story, she took solace in the people that would let her vent without judgment, she distanced herself from most of the people that use to be important to her, and she became agreeable and compliant.  Margot became a loner because she didn’t know how to deal with the pain and in turn, it brought her into an even darker situation.

I don’t want to give you any spoilers, but Debra Messing’s character (detective in the Margot’s missing person’s case) has some skeletons in her closet.  Bravo Messing for a great performance!  The character, Detective Vick is very complex in her thought process on what is right.  The script is on point and the best advice that I can give you while you are watching the film is really listen to the dialogue, read everything that is typed, and pay attention to each character’s actions.  You get to understand their personal thoughts and feelings that they don’t share with anyone.  Their interactions, images, and tone of voice when they are talking to one another are vital to the story.  Attention to detail is key to solving the mystery.