Sunday, 3 February 2008

Internet marketing for dance teachers

Doug Fox @ GreatDance has a timely and interesting essay about how dance teachers might use the internet as a marketing tool. He sets out a detailed plan of what he would do, and it pretty much makes sense to me. It would probably work, especially in a growing market.

Doug has in mind that a teacher might want to do two things: increase class sizes, and sell instructional videos. I think it makes a difference which you want to do - the second probably requires a lot more ambition, more expensive equipment, and a higher level of non-dance skills. For those who teach a social dance and also organise a club, there's obviously scope for promoting that, too.

You'd be starting from a pretty low base. Of the websites I know of for London milongas and teachers, almost all are very unsophisticated. I'd date most of them between 1996 and 99 in look and construction. They do generally tell you when it is, how much it is, and where - with a bit of hunting, sometimes - but none of them does more than that with any effect. Two or three have a professional look and feel, with some fancy Flash or a bit of design about them, although I personally wouldn't say that that makes them better websites. I'd call those ones style-of-2001 to 3, even the newest which appeared this year. They have no dynamic content, and one of them commits the gaffe of making a noise when you load the home page, calculated to embarrass you at work.

None of these teachers or organisers has attempted to use any of the strategies outlined by Doug. Why is this?

First, my best guess. Yes, costs for these things are low - except in terms of time. Most of the teachers I know have day jobs, and I doubt any of them can touch-type English at speed. To me, it seems as natural as talking - but most people can't, and not being able to makes all this stuff laborious and slow.

For video, there's also quite a significant cost in skills and equipment. You need a good-enough video camera, ideally the kind that can be wired for sound, which most consumer models can't, and an assistant who knows how to use it. You also need a reliable broadband internet connection, and a computer powerful enough for video editing that belongs to you, not your employer. I have all these things at home, and I can use them - but I'm not a dance teacher or a muso, I work in IT, and the computer has been my normal means of conducting all day-to-day business and organising my social life for at least seven years.

Instructional videos of DVD quality would require a whole different level of kit and investment. I do know of a salsa teacher who's making a DVD - but it's a lot of work.

Some of the teachers I know do make videos of visiting performers, for their own private use, so they certainly have the skills to make promotional videos good enough for YouTube. I'm not sure that any of them would be that keen on the idea of instructional DVDs, in principle. But none of them has published a single vid of any kind that I've seen, neither to promote themselves, nor their milonga.

A few of their students, on the other hand, have made and published videos that could be used that way. And I think there'd be scope for barter there, if you wanted to do it.

So why don't they do it? It could be skills; it could be that they're happy with the current size of their classes and the attendance at their milongas. Or it could be entirely a matter of time.

Or, in a few cases, it could be a matter of attitude and beliefs. Quite recently, I've seen one couple who teach in London give a performance, before which they had it announced that although you were welcome to video them, they asked you not to put it on YouTube. They also took the precaution of making the room very dark. And in fact there is not a single video of them on YouTube, although I think there's one of him dancing with someone else.

I have no idea what their reasoning was, I can't think of any argument of my own in that direction that makes sense, and on that evening I didn't have a chance to ask. Next time, perhaps I will. Or if you have suggestions, pipe up below.


Doug Fox said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts about my post.

In some cases, there definitely is some hesitancy on the part of instructors to have video of themselves dancing online or even the idea of students using video to learn dance.

I've been thinking about how I use video to learn Argentine Tango, which I'm new to:

1) Familiarization: I'm in process of giving myself a crash course - lots of classes and practicas. So it's very helpful for me to have as broad a background as possible. So even though there are many steps that I cannot really execute at this point, watching online instructional videos has given me a good overview of what I'll want to learn.

2) Additional practice opportunity: I'm about to start a pre-intermediate class - some would say too advanced given my one month of classes, but I've taken a lot of other dance classes - modern and other dance styles. So I just work on steps and movements from both leader and follower roles and try to figure things out.

I don't think online instructional video is any threat whatsoever to instructors because there is no substitute for actually being in class, a practica or milonga to figure things out.

msHedgehog said...

Instructional videos are one thing, but the mystery to me is why someone would have a problem with a video of a performance being online. After all, the quality of the performance is entirely under their control (if you're ashamed of it, give a different performance, that you're not ashamed of) and the quality of the video is not something they'd be blamed for. There's no possible mechanism by which it could lose them income; in theory, they could charge to be on telly, but no-one is asking them to be on telly and certainly no-one would offer them money, so in practice, it can only increase it by attracting more punters. And if you want a share of YouTube's advertising revenue all you have to do is post and promote the video yourself.