For the past two years, I’ve had the privilege of sharing my journey back to dance following a chronic illness with all of you amazing Dance Magazine readers. During this “Begin Again” series, I’ve improved my technical training, overcome injuries, developed audition materials, signed with an agent, and made strides auditioning for major companies and productions. It’s safe to say that 23 columns later, I’m no longer beginning again—I’ve begun!
So, from now on, this column will go by the name “Dancer Diary,” and it will focus on my life as a dancer in New York City. The content won’t be changing all that much—I’ll still be sharing the hurdles I’m facing and solving problems with the support of experts. But it felt like it was time to recognize my growth. I’m so grateful to have made it to the middle of this amazing journey.
For the maiden voyage of the new Dancer Diary column, I’ll be talking about social media, and how we can use it to support our dance careers.
I’ve been told that social media is an extension of my resumé, and that casting directors are looking at my profile as part of their decision-making process. But what exactly are they looking for? A specific number of followers? Clips of my work? Just a general vibe check? How can we know if what we’re putting out there is serving us or hurting us? I spoke with Whitney Uland, a social media expert (as well as actor, writer, director, and life coach), to get answers to the questions that are plaguing us.
As co-president of the junior division of the Hollywood Radio & Television Society, an organization made up of Hollywood executives, Uland has special insight into what the decision-makers are looking for. “They’ve told me that there was a phase in the industry when they thought follower count mattered,” she says. “But now, they have realized it doesn’t necessarily translate into bringing in audience members. Just because someone follows you online doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to come and buy a ticket to your show. So the numbers are so much less important.”
Phew, that’s a relief! I don’t know about you guys, but I have my hands full enough with auditions, classes, vocal training, acting classes, teaching, and writing. The thought of building up a following, stressing about vanity metrics, and keeping up with ever-changing social media trends makes me sweat! I just want to dance.
What is the purpose of social media if not to build up a massive following? Uland says she likes to view it as a networking tool. “It’s an opportunity to expand your community and get your work in front of people who are rooting for you,” she says. For example, when an unexpected turn of events left Uland agentless in 2021, she announced on social media that she was looking to get work as an actor, and that she was doing so without an agent. A casting director saw that announcement and began rooting for her. “She ended up sending me a bunch of auditions and I ended up booking one of them,” Uland says.
What exactly makes people root for someone on social media? According to Uland, the biggest hurdle for performers is that they typically try to show up online as a product rather than a person. “Casting directors and choreographers can see your perfect pirouettes in the audition room,” she says. “What they can’t necessarily see in the audition room is you, your story, and your authenticity. Think of your [profile] as a block party where people can come and meet you.”
That doesn’t mean you can’t post polished videos and photos of your work. It just means they shouldn’t be all you put out there. For example, Uland recommends showing the process for getting that perfect headshot and/or reel that you posted. “It feels dangerous to put things on the internet that aren’t perfect, but those are actually the things that connect you to people, and make them fall in love with you,” she says.
Here are Uland’s tips for successful posting:
- Tell a story.
“Write out your goals, and some ideas of how you can take people on that journey with you. Then, start posting about it!”
- Follow a three-pillar posting guide.
“Come up with three pillars about who you are that you’d like to share with others. One of those things can be related to your career, and the other two can be things that you’re passionate about. For example, if you love nature, doing community service, and dancing, those are three things you can post about. It doesn’t have to be rigid, but it’s a good way to make sure you’re not just posting dance content.”
- Think of yourself as a party host.
“Remember, people who come to your page want to see you, and they want to engage with your work. Most of us think of social media as a place where we will be judged rather than a place where people who love us come to spend time with us. You have an awesome party going on, and viewing it that way will not only make the process more fun, but it will make your content stronger, as well.”
Thank you all for choosing to come to my party over the past two years and allowing me to share the good, the bad, and the ugly of my professional dance pursuits. You each make me feel so supported and cared for, and I want to do the same for you!
For my full conversation with Uland, and a not-so-glamorous day in my life vlog, head on over to Dance Magazine’s YouTube channel.