This conference paper discusses the different dynamics between social media and communities. As the web 2.0 emerged, it challenged conventional barriers like physical and affective distance. To illustrate my point, I focused on dance and performance professionals that use Facebook for promotion and to build their online communities. As dance teachers in New South Wales are mostly freelance or self-employed, they count on Facebook’s Groups features such as reviews and comments as an affordable way to promote their business. Apart from the economic perspective, Facebook is also capable of strengthening support and cooperation between followers of a dance practitioner’s profile. Impression management is equally crucial to sustain a perception of trustworthiness and prestige within the dance industry. It is interesting that just as in real life groups, online communities are also impacted by hierarchy, status and dominant discourses. Despite that the dance professional in a social media group may never physically meet all their members, Facebook still provides ways for identity verification and instant exposure. Indeed, Facebook Group’s instruments to self-promotion integrate the business with the social side of a dance business, allowing members to build rapport and representation, with a good prospect of further positive developments.
Arts organizations, particularly the ones within the dance industry, are embracing technologies as never seen before. Dance companies and professionals around the world have been utilizing cutting edge tools to streamline customer’s needs; from text messages and mobile phones to the virtual reality and instant connectivity of web 2.0. Avoiding those technologies would greatly undermine the survival of any business, more so, within the dance industry. Consequently, while witnessing the global transition to web 2.0, scholars theorize that the past rigid and homogenous society would become a ‘global community of communication’ (Delanty, 2018; Hampton & Wellman, 2018). This tremendous change in society has its origin in the Internet which is basically a network of computational devices connected via common protocols (Hunsinger, 2013). Just as in the real world, online communities are composed of users bonded by specific topics of interest which are meaningful to them; surprisingly, that is what current social media sites like Facebook are all about. In the arts, social media is particularly beneficial as a mediator of interactions not only at a social but at economic levels by the use of marketing mechanisms. For the almost fifty thousand artists in Australia, having a Facebook profile is a must no matter the size or geographical location of a business (Throsby and Petetskaya 2017). For the purpose of this conference paper, I will focus on the aspects that make social media unique while discussing that although all social media platforms are used by dance and performance professionals for promotion, the affordances provided by Facebook allow them to build and strengthen professional networks and communities.
Social media becoming a marketing tool
Since more than 70% of Dance and performance professionals in New South Wales are self-employed or freelance, they are relying more on social media for marketing purposes (Throsby and Petetskaya 2017). Given the massification of the internet, individuals who have never been in physical contact could still be bonded to the point of building what was called ‘virtual communities’ (Gruzd et al. 2011). Within the vastness of the internet, dancers are increasingly using social media sites, particularly FaceBook to reach geographically dispersed people who share their interest in dance. As a result, social media sites expanded rapidly, opening new areas of study where user generated content is overcoming old models of centralized information (Cooke & Buckley, 2008). A global survey of nearly 30,000 respondents suggests that less than 50% still trust traditional advertising, while 92% of participants rely on online word-of-mouth including social media reviews (Dijkmans et al, 2015). This shows that online communication is key for the customer’s decision making and attitude formation which leads to credibility. Consequently, dance teachers, either free-lance of self-employed, are utilizing facebook to promote their businesses given that few clicks on a computer could connect them with students and/or followers. Creating the sense of community in a Facebook’s fan page does not require all its members to post, instead, a small cluster of active participants would be enough (Aguiton & Cardon 2007). Hence, social media, also described by scholars as ‘Networked Art’, may open new frontiers for interaction and specially collaboration with the audience in the form of crowdsourcing for example (Sant, 2013).
Facebook’s features: A bonding device
The affordances of Facebook in particular enable for complex methods of self-promotion and strengthening community support and solidarity. From its inception, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg manifested his intention to make Facebook a social utility tool to connect people despite opposers who saw Facebook as useful only for the privileged classes (Papacharissi, 2009). After fifteen years, Facebook became known as a widely available “Social Software” which paved the way for the revolution of ‘web 2.0’ (Murugesan, 2020). Some affordances of Facebook groups which are valuable for dance artists include: Live video transmissions, event scheduling and customer’s reviews. Although, its highest feature is creating a “virtual settlement” where collaboration and solidarity will benefit everyone in the group. For example, the Facebook Group Dance Teachers NSW accept posts of any member who may offer or request professional services, such exchange is effective in enabling self-promotion and reinforcing everyone’s sense of community while also building networks of like-minded professionals. Such elements are unique to Facebook as even the real world would not allow instant communication to geographically disperse individuals, thus, new opportunities for further cooperation are available. Conversely, Thomson et al. (2013) argues that despite that facebook is free to join, there are still costs associated in terms of training, equipment and marketing in order to self-promote dance services. For instance, Facebook announcements could range between seventy cents and ten dollars for a single banner not considering production and monitoring costs. The challenge more than acquiring new clients is to build a relationship with them via promotion.
Managing perceptions to influence decision making
Impression management is vital for dance and performance professionals to build followers and for self-promotion. Facebook as a promotion medium has the advantage of being immediate, direct and easy to reach, the obstacle relies on how effective the dance professional manages their profile on social media (Baruah, 2012). Impression management is defined as the handling of an entity’s representation to the exterior; whereas the positive perception of others is critical (Leary, 2001). Specifically for dance practitioners, impression management acts either at a conscious and/or subconscious level once a customer interacts with a dancer’s Facebook profile. For example, a new customer who sees a dancer’s profile with thousands of followers, comments and who regularly posts will have a positive perception which will ultimately open the opportunities for cooperation. That process started from a verification of identity where the viewer was satisfied that a real person was behind the Facebook page, after, there is a reputation screening that Facebook facilitated by allowing comments, reviews and ratings (Donath & Boyd, 2004). One key characteristic of impression management is the dynamics of how status is acquired and preserved. Virtual communities, just as real-life communities, have hierarchies where active contributors are recognized and even followed (Labrecque et al. 2013). Another interesting phenomenon is that a Facebook user can be portrayed by an avatar that basically is a representation of a person. This impersonated character relies on its anonymity to create what Delanty (2018) described as a ‘new intimacy’. Yet, the avatar must satisfy its viewers that they are dealing with a professional in the dance industry. In contrast, Donath & Boyd (2004) argued that avatars in social media, especially the ones focused on professional services, should be avoided, given that it could lead to a network of other false personas which defeats the purpose of offering a business services. In fact, impression management and self-promotion would require real people within its fandom in order to imprint to them their ideal ethos of participation, interaction, and reliability expected from them (Hunsinger & Senft, 2013). As a result, impression management is manifested to the audience in the form of a virtual avatar which embodies the creative proposal of the dance practitioner.
Physicality vs. online presence
Unlike many other professions, physicality is an important part of the impression management and online interactions for dance and performance professionals. That is backed by Trepte et al. (2011) who established that the benchmark for emotional and affective relationships within a community could only be achieved by physical interaction which means that the online world is external to our true self. Another advantage of the online world for self-promotion is that different social classes and geographically dispersed individuals encounter a common ground in dance which is known as ‘convergence culture’ (Hampton & Wellman, 2018; Baym, 2007). Thus, such merge of realities in the virtual world is described by Nathan Jurgenson (2012) as an ‘augmented reality’ where the physical and the online do not replace but complement each other. For example, any contact on a Facebook group could freely engage at any point with others when needed. Conversely, technology may potentially become a danger to our freedom given that personal information could be subject to fraud or surveillance (Hunsinger, 2013). Physicality for impression in online Facebook groups could be promoted by posting actual photos of participants along with transparency on information such as age, location, interests and so on. By doing that, a form of contextual integrity will imprint interactions with a level of truthfulness that make up for the non physical interaction (Lange, 2007). Physicality then, as a Self promotion tool can be emulated by two processes: a) Identity verification by showing current and real photos and posts, and b) Ethical values to our interactions by respecting the Facebook community guidelines.
Social media’s main feature: Bonding and togetherness
In addition to self-promotion, dance and performance professionals use social media and Facebook groups to strengthen peer solidarity and internal community. This is due to the emergence of Web 2.0 whose sociological aspects studies the dynamics between individualism and cooperativism. It is interesting to notice that in the virtual world cooperation does not require an ex ante altruistic intention, it is enough with using the features of the social media group within the guidelines of the community (Aguiton & Cardon, 2007). Solidarity and cooperation in Facebook’s groups are also facilitated by the decentralization of information where even a new member could access previous posts and interactions. Hence, what started with a social media group membership, it could promptly end in an actual commercial exchange; such process is also known as ‘social commerce’ which:
‘Refers to exchange-related activities that occur in, or are influenced by, an individual’s social network in computer-mediated social environments, where the activities correspond to the need recognition, pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase stages’ (Yadav et al. 2013, p. 312).
Decades before the Internet became massive, scholars like Rheingold (1993) informed us that the Internet would offer an alternate reality that could tangibly impact our personal interactions (as cited by Delanty, 2018). Consequently, social media in the form of Facebook groups constitutes an effective tool of self-promotion for dance professionals given that they encourage solidarity and build emotional bonds in participants.
I argued that despite numerous social media websites tailored to the promotional needs of dance professionals, Facebook is unique in allowing the creation of professional networks that led to diverse virtual communities. Although conventional groups have not been replaced, social media as web 2.0., comprised the major advance in societal changes for the past millennial. Particularly Facebook, played a prime role in producing and disseminating information of dance practitioners into specific groups. Also, I argued that self-employed and freelance dancers rely on promotion to succeed in the arts, thus, maintaining a professional online presence is crucial to engage a virtual community despite geographical or cultural separation. Furthermore, the affordances of Facebook are capable not only to connect to others but to stimulate community support and solidarity which is a highly regarded asset in the dance industry. For that, impression management is important for two reasons; either to build a virtual community and to engage with current members. Yet, web 2.0 is plagued with concerns of privacy and security along with the possibility that anyone could produce misleading fake profiles. It is clear that dance is an essentially corporeal practice, then, physicality is the centre of impression management, for that, Facebook offers tools to share videos, pictures and real time communications that would emulate the sense of being present and current. Overall, Facebook’s social media dynamics outlined before, effectively conduct their members to cooperate and relate to each other for the benefit of the dance practitioners and the group as a whole. This paper is significant to evaluating how the dance industry is impacted by new technologies in terms of building an online community, more importantly, it proposes strategies to successfully engage followers into consuming our professional dance services.
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14 replies on “Dance Professionals in New South Wales and social media: Facebook groups in Self-promotion and togetherness in online communities”
Very specific topic you chose here – is there any particular reason for your choice? Are you involved in this community?
I liked how you explored how the Internet helped these dance professionals have free advertising via word of mouth. It’s a fairly recent topic as well, looking into how the arts benefit from social media. It was a good move to have the statistics from 2015 in there backing you up as solid evidence.
I would have enjoyed a few screenshots evidencing the different posts in the dance community but it was still a good read! It would be interesting to hear about different situations/case studies in the New South Wales dance community, as well as hierarchies within the group (more popular users in the group compared to less popular ones). Do you have anything come to mind thinking about this?
Would you say that maintaining an online persona is essential for successful free-lancer dancers, not just crucial?
Thank you for reading my paper. Indeed, I have chosen the specific topic of dance in New South Wales as I am immersed in the industry as a touring dancer in the past and I am currently teaching Dance. The idea for this paper emerged from a Facebook group ‘Dance teachers NSW’ which I closely monitor for my dance practice.
I also understand that the word-of-mouth is vital to promote businesses not only in the dance industry. This is related to the concept of ‘online persona’ which is the entity before us that is liable for our goods or bads, therefore, I agree that the word ‘essential’ in my paper, would better explain my point.
In regards to the hierarchies within the group, there are badges for Top Fans which have a distinctive icon near their names. Also, Facebook allows the dance practitioner to put their current position and/or Dance Studio that they represent underneath their names. For example, Sydney Dance Company or Twisted Element would be among the best names in the Dance industry in NSW. Thank you once again for your kind comment on my paper.
All the best
You’ve written an excellent paper. I too would like to know, are you a dance practitioner?
It is interesting to compare different aspects of the arts and the affordances/effects of social media communities and networks on that particular art form.
Online communities in the music industry seem somewhat different to those in the field of Dance. Perhaps because the majority of music fandom is closely attached to the ‘song’ rather than the ‘performer’ – you can listen to a great song without really needing to see the performer, whereas the art of dance as you reference often above, is much more reliant on physicality. So perhaps comparing these two, Dance is complimented by social media in regard to promotional and networking opportunities – but fans can’t experience the full emotion of dance without the physicality. Music fans, however, can sometimes receive an ‘enhanced’ version of a song (ie the recorded version) as opposed to watching it sung live which (in some instances) may not be as good. This is also part of the reason why streaming sites have seriously effected the earning capacities of many music artists, fans can get all they want from an artist without ever going to a live concert or buying an album/CD.
Baym (2007) states that ‘The Swedish indie fans practice what might be called “networked collectivism” in which loose collectives of associated individuals bind networks together.’ I wonder if your example then of the use of Facebook by the Dance community is more an example of an ‘online community’ than that of the Swedish indie music fan sites?
Well done on your paper.
Baym, N. K., (2007). ‘The new shape of online community: The example of Swedish independent music fandom, First Monday, 8(12), retrieved from https://firstmonday.org/article/view/1978/1853
Thank you for your comments on my paper. Yes, I am a dance practitioner based in Sydney. I am now dedicated more to teaching. Few years ago, I operated a Dance School in the Gold Coast called Captivated Dance where I had contact with diverse professionals in the plastic arts and music. In the case of music, I believe that effectively, fandoms are closely attached to the ‘song’, but only in the first stages. Over time and after more songs, fandoms also develop ties towards a performer. Indeed, physicality in dance is more important than in music, therefore, the necessities of a musician would be based more on sound. For that reason, the affordances of Spotify or I-tunes are more in demand from musicians. Yet, either dancers or musicians are subject to the affordance of Facebook or Instagram for promotional reasons and as a medium to build an ‘online community’, which is why I included Baym’s (2007) example. Very interesting observations Leanne.
I enjoyed reading your paper, great job!
I alsways find myself being distracted by anything dance-related on all social media. I always find it interesting how dance always manges to gain lots of attention on social,so that fact that professionals are using a site like Facebook to promote themselves and their skills is awesome.
If you are dance practitioner, I’d be interested in your experience in using facebook (or other social networking sites) in promoting yourself. what have you personally found is successful and what is not?
Thank you very much for reading my paper. I enjoyed the process of writing it, particularly on the topic of Dance Professionals in New South Wales as Yes, I am a dance practitioner. I utilized mainly Instagram and Facebook to promote my dance practice. I often post dance sequences that I create for Hillsong Dance and I also post them on Hillsong online forums where we brainstorm and propose ideas. I use Facebook to promote my work through images of my dancers and linking it to particular workshops, Choreography packages, performances for the community, weekly dance classes, annual concerts and particularly the fan page of Dance Teachers New South Wales. Those strategies were successful as I have been able to connect with the broader dance community within New South Wales and introduce my programs and services to them. They have been interested in my services and I have also invited them to be involved in performance opportunities. For all these, I found the capabilities of social media essential for any dance practitioner.
All the best,
I’d never considered how professionals in the dance field might find social media useful. I’m aware that different dance choreographers have received opportunities because of online followings, but before reading your paper I hadn’t thought how Facebook might be useful for dance teachers and such. It makes sense, the only reason I know my town has a ballet teacher is because I heard a family friend’s story of how much her little girl was enjoying her ballet lessons, and that she’d come across the ballet teacher’s post on Facebook about lesson details.
You mentioned that dancers use Facebook to reach a ‘geographically diverse’ community, but I can’t say I understand how that might be helpful regarding individual dancers or dance teachers. Would it be that dance teachers might gain a student who lives too far away to attend in-person lessons and instruct them over video-chat? Or that a larger, more widespread dance community might be able to discuss dance tips and techniques that people people who maybe have only had the chance to learn in a small town might miss on? Or something else that I’ve missed because I’m not a dancer?
Thank you for your reflection on my paper. Yes, many dance professionals find social media (particularly Facebook) useful for exposure and networking purposes. Dancers commonly aim to network with talented dancers, teachers, choreographers and dance companies through master classes, conventions, regional and national competitions and intensives. Additionally, dancers could also find opportunities to audition for the most reputed dance studios such as Twisted Element, LOcREaDO Dance Company/Program, Sydney Dance Company, Hillsong Dance, Georgette Dance or Studio Tibor. I also found extremely useful the comments section at Facebook where you could receive Constructive Criticism to find ways to be unique, improve works of art and be a step above the competition.
When I mentioned that Facebook can be used in the form of reaching a ‘geographically diverse’ community online, I referred to the connectivity that could potentially become profitable thanks to the affordances of Facebook. For example, I refer to the Facebook group ‘Dance Teachers Australia’ where geographical location is not a barrier since some guest teachers advertise online lessons. Thank you once again.
Great paper! I love the hero image!
I love watching dance performances, so it was interesting to read about the community/promotional side of dance that professionals manage. As you’ve demonstrated, Facebook is an essential tool for practitioners and thinking about the work that is undertaken in building communities and promoting oneself, would you consider this a form of unpaid labour? I was wondering how you see the use of Facebook for dance communities in the future, particularly with younger audiences (thinking Gen Z) who may not be big FB users?
I am glad that you liked my hero image, that photo depicts my dancing crew at ‘Captivated Dance’ a few years ago. I am, in fact, the first one from the left.
Facebook, seen as a promotional tool, I believe is necessary, however, as a commercial medium it might look like unpaid labour. It would greatly depend on our capacity to maximize Facebook’s tools in our favour; this basically means transmuting the power of community into profits.
For the future, if Facebook does not appeal to younger generations, it would drastically lose relevance. Nowadays, the emergence of TikTok for example, poses a challenge even to well-established social media sites. It would be really interesting to join these new social media but I would be more like an observer at first, given that my target public are still on Facebook but I do not know for how long.
Thanks for your reply Alison,
I’ve only recently become familiar with Facebook tools for community building, and your insights have been great.
It would be interesting to see what opportunities sites such as TikTok would bring for community building, and you are wise to observe in the first instance.
Thanks again and wishing you all the best,
Thank you for your writing! I enjoy reading your paper very much! i like the concept that was introduced in your paper the “impression management”, especially i agree with your point of ” impression management is manifested to the audience in the form of a virtual avatar which embodies the creative proposal of the dance practitioner.”
comparing with establishing the facebook group for the the followers, being individualistic is way more important for turning the followers into consumers. Facebook is offering a free platform for business, people are wandering on here maybe for “no reason”, however the creative proposal of the business will increase the possibility of the potential consumers engagement. the special products will always catch the attention quicker than the normal ones.
The idea in your paper is leading the users to right direction on how to be successful in first impression manifestation. i love your idea.
as you mentioned in paper, dancing is a corporeal practice after all, i suggest another idea as the supplement to your paper as the supporting argument of Facebook in dancing industry: with maximising the usage of facebook in dancing industry, the physical and geographical limits can be ignored, the students can learn from online stream shared by the dance practitioner’s anywhere in the world, and by which the work of dance practitioner will be recursively disseminated at the lowest labour cost.
Thank you for your interesting observations. In fact, when researching concepts for my paper, I decided to go deeper in impression management given its relevance in social media despite that this concept was originated in the 1950’s.
I agree with your view that Facebook apart from being a mere distraction for some, it can also be the source of income for an artist or a small business. That is when impression management gains more relevance. In terms of the corporeality of dance in a social media setting, your proposal is precise in defining the frontiers of corporeality and web 2.0 in a way that they don’t collide but complement each other. When you mentioned the ‘lowest labour cost’,I immediately came across that a dance class online, or an entire course, could be recorded and sold limitless to different customers, leading to reduced cost of production. Thank you for liking my paper.
All the best,
I really enjoyed reading your post! As a dancer myself, I could definitely relate to the use of facebook groups and other social media sites in order to find dance classes. I have been traveling a lot also which makes it hard to find a dance school to regularly attend, therefore facebook pages (I have definitely used a lot of the Sydney ones too!) have been life savers with finding my dance classes! Are you a dance practitioner yourself? If so, have you personally used these Facebook groups as promotion, or have you used any other social media sites and how have they worked out for you?