Digital dancing: using social media to promote your work

By Helen Hutchinson

Written for FRAME: the London dance film festival, presented by BalletBoyz in association with dancescreen – June 2016.


“Dance is the hidden language of the soul” – Martha Graham

A series of never to be repeated movements lasting mere moments – by its very nature, dancing is an ephemeral act.  But it can be captured on film to be repeatedly enjoyed in all its beautiful, sometimes savage glory.

Social media can play a crucial role in ensuring enough people know that your dance is there to be enjoyed on film.

Here is a quick checklist on using social media to drive reach and awareness for your work…

How to get people to share your content

1  What is your USP?  Decide what your unique selling point (USP) is.  If you only had one sentence to sell your film, what would it be?  That is your hook that stops people scrolling past your content and makes them share it and engage with it.

2  Find good contacts with relevant social media accounts.  They will share your content and help you reach your target audience.

3  Do your research.  If you don’t know many relevant accounts, make a list of who is influential in your field. Who are they following on their social feeds? You will find a lot of useful contacts with shared interests.

4  Do you have a short clip to share?  Short form content does well on social media.  BBC Radio 5 live shares short programme highlights across its social platforms as a very clever way of reaching a wider audience beyond the traditional sports fans – Pint-sized Ashes is a great example.

If you are running your own social media accounts:

5  Learn by watching what others are doing.  Look at the social feeds that you follow. Which ones do you regularly go back to and why?  One of my favourites is @BBCTheArchers: they interact with their audience, their posts are written in the same tone as the show and they post highly shareable bespoke graphics and articles based on current storylines.

The Archers has inspired a range of social accounts run by fans.  The following Twitter accounts and blog are three of my favourites – sometimes funny, highly inventive and always true to the original source material: @AlternateArcher, @ThePlarchers and

6  Be sociable!  Grab other people’s content. Team up with other account holders and share each other’s posts.

7  Decide how often to post.  Time your content so it appears when your audience is most active and most likely to share and engage.  You can schedule the posts in your feeds using social media optimisation platforms including tools such as HootSuite or Social Flow – some of these tools have free options so give them a try.

8  Feed your feed!  Make your feed alive, relevant and packed full of original, inventive images. GIFs are really popular, animated visual and you can now search for ready-made options in the Twitter GIF library.

9  Inject personality into your content.  The Royal Opera House makes full use of its artists and staff on its social platforms – check them out on Twitter and Facebook.

10  Be topical.  What’s being talked about right now across your social feeds?  Are there any conversations you can join on Facebook or hashtags trending on Twitter that you could use in your posts with links back to your content if relevant?


Facebook is not a chronological platform.  It’s about user engagement, sharing and conversations.  The more people click, share and comment on your post, the longer it stays in the news feed.

NPR (National Public Radio) analysis shows lead-in text on Facebook can massively affect your reach – too long and people scroll past…

“What we uncovered is that shorter posts (specifically posts that were 120 characters in length or fewer) tended to have significantly higher click-through rates.” – Dan Frohlich, NPR

Facebook Tips:

  • Ensure the image you are using is the best possible one for your post.
  • Sell your content – don’t describe it.
  • Write short sentences, not headlines.
  • Always use the shortest words
  • One message = one

It’s well worth reading George Orwell’s 6 Questions/6 Rules.  Also have a look at BBC Radio 4’s Facebook page to see how it brings Radio 4 programmes to a whole new audience through clever, thought-provoking, pithy posts.


Twitter is (at the time of writing) a real time platform.  It is wonderful for breaking news stories and instant reactions on a trending topic e.g. @BBCBreaking.

Twitter Tips:

The Facebook tips on writing posts apply to Tweets too but there are some extra things to take into account.  Writing a Tweet is a little like firing an arrow into a very fast moving river.  347,000 tweets are sent every minute so yours can easily get swept away in the torrent.

  • Use a hashtag if there is an appropriate one.
  • Mention other Twitter handles if they are relevant.
  • Tell people with a wide reach on Twitter the time you are going to send your tweet so that they can Re-Tweet (RT).

RoyalBallet tweetIt is worth bearing in mind that although Twitter feels like it is everywhere, 44% of registered Twitter users have never tweeted.

Twitter allows you to get up close and personal with your favourite dance companies.  This example from @TheRoyalBallet uses a commonly used hashtag to bring old content from their YouTube channel to a much wider audience.

Source: FACTSlides


Instagram is a natural home for dance related content.  Good dance photography captures breath-taking moments in time.  Movements otherwise unnoticed by the naked eye can be posted and shared via Instagram.

This platform is also a place for entertainment, to share your life and to get close to celebrities and brands.  It’s a young platform – 90% of users are under 35 and it is the most popular platform for 16-24 year olds.

With 70 million photos shared each day, it is hard to stand out.  Here are four of my favourite ballet Instagram accounts; their photos combine intimate behind the scenes access with brilliant photography: @ericunderwood, @nisian, @balletpost and @mistyonpointe.

Instagram Tips:

  • Ensure there is a varied range of top quality photographs.
  • Every photo has to sell your work.
  • Provide a range of intimate, behind the scenes access as well as exclusive stills from your film.
  • Provide photos of stars like you have never seen them before.

The images have to be as bold, brilliant and original as possible. They have to provide something people cannot get elsewhere.

Sources: David Moth, Econsultancy; Jules White, The Last Hurdle

End thoughts

Whether you are dancing digitally or in the real world…

“We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.” – Friedrich Nietzsche


Helen Hutchinson is a BBC Producer with a background in factual television and a love of the digital world.  She runs social media campaigns for BBC Radio and is currently leading the production of the BBC Music Get Playing website:


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