Online Marketing for Lindy Hoppers – Part 2

This is a continuation of the blog post I started here. In Part 1, I talked about your offering, aka. your value proposition, and monetization considerations. Now I’ll get into what will make or break your success: marketing.

Marketing is Everything

I believe that marketing is the most important part of your online business. It doesn’t matter how great of an offer you have or how talented you are; if you can’t get in front of enough of the right people, you will struggle.

Understand Your Audience

Who should you really be catering your offering towards? In an online capacity, you have three main possible target groups:

  1. People who already Lindy Hop and already know you
    • A targeted niche, your biggest fans, but a limited pool
  2. People who already Lindy Hop in general but may not know you or be connected with you (yet)
    • Also a targeted niche but with a much wider net
  3. People who don’t Lindy Hop yet—they could be complete beginners or people from other dances
    • A much wider net but much more unknown with a very different sales cycle

Right now, I see most Lindy Hop instructors focusing far too much on Group 1, the people who they’re already connected with. That’s definitely a warm audience and they’re probably your biggest cheerleaders, but it’s too limited of a pool to rely on for all of your income.

This is the same problem that local dance schools face when they rely too much on their existing intermediate and advanced students for their income. It might work well for a little while, but it’s not enough to sustain your business. You need to be continuously bringing in new people. You’ll have periods of thriving attendance but at some point, your existing student base will start to burn out, run out of money, get too busy, get tired of your offering, or just turn over.

When this pandemic is eventually over and we go back to some kind of normal, local schools need to get back to building their schools up from the bottom up; by bringing in new beginner dancers. They can rely on local targeting alongside benefits like joining a friendly social community to fill their classrooms.

Find your Niche Within the Lindy Hop Niche

In an online capacity, you might decide to offer beginner classes, but it’s a harder, much more unknown market to try to reach. As such, your marketing has to be a lot more creative and convincing to win over “civilians” or “muggles” who are completely unfamiliar with LindyHop. This is even harder when people won’t be benefiting from the social aspects of the dance.

Instead, you need to really take advantage of the wider global Lindy Hop community.

Just as a beginner audience may be potentially vast, an offer that’s too advanced or specialized has the smallest potential reach. Also keep in mind the restrictiveness of only offering partner classes when many people do not have access to a partner or social community; more solo offerings will likely be advantageous.

According to my search on May 10th in Facebook’s business ads manager, a worldwide audience of people of any gender, ages 18 to 65+ who already show “Lindy Hop” as an interest has the potential to reach 790K people.

That is a much better potential audience to try to reach to build a sustainable business than the few hundred or thousand in your current network.

Understand Your Current Marketing Reach

Remember when the Lindy Hop community relied on message boards? It was actually a much simpler marketing world back then and it was far easier to disseminate news and advertising to the Lindy Hop community than it is now.

We now live in a technologically “connected” but completely dispersed online dance community. Facebook is by far the biggest platform for Lindy Hop but content is decentralized. You only see some of the content from the people and pages in your existing network. I promise you that there are many Lindy Hop circles and groups that you don’t even know about–and you don’t realize how many potential customers you aren’t reaching. Our community is becoming more decentralized all of time because we’re relying on Facebook’s extremely finicky algorithms.

Facebook filters posts at all levels so only a select number of your connections will see your content. The more people who do engage with a piece of content, especially in the form of comments, the more Facebook will show that post. So the more popular your post is, the more popular it will continue to become. Meanwhile, most of your posts aren’t getting in front of enough people in the first place thanks to the filters so it’s very hard to gain the engagement that will help foster more visibility. It’s a conundrum.

Here’s how Facebook really works at all levels:

Facebook Personal Page

You can be connected with up to 5000 friends. The algorithms are less tight than with business pages, but most of those “friends” still won’t see your posts.

Facebook Business Page

There are no limits to how many people can like your page. You need a business page in order to run advertising so having a business page is a must. However, your organic posts will be heavily filtered by the algorithms though you have the option to pay (boost or fully advertise) your posts to reach more people. You should also connect your business page with your Instagram account so you can advertise in both locations. (Make sure your Instagram account has been converted to a business account in the settings.)

Facebook Groups

Groups are designed for community engagement and you’ll have more success with the algorithms in a group than you will on a page. A successful group with a lot of community engagement can be one of the best ways to build community loyalty and to softly push your offers at no cost. You can connect an existing group with your business page or start to build a new group if you don’t already have one. There are still some limitations with groups; group posts can’t be shared outside of the group, and your posts still won’t reach all of your group members, the algorithms are a bit better in groups than on pages. Also, people who aren’t already in your group might have a hard time finding out that your group even exists.

Facebook Events

Your events should always be connected with a Business Page, or sometimes under very limited circumstances with a Group, but only if you’re holding private, limited events. Once people have joined your event, their friends and connections will often see notices in their newsfeed saying “Frankie and Norma are attending X Event” making it a great tool to get the word out about your date-based offerings. The good news is it’s very inexpensive to run advertisements to promote Facebook events. The algorithm for sharing your posts on the event page wall isn’t bad, but still not all of your attendees will see your posts. Still, events are a quite good and cost effective way to get the news out about events. The biggest downside to events is that once the event is over, the Facebook event becomes disabled and you lose the audience you built.

By the way, another algorithm hit that you should be aware of is that Facebook has started to penalize links that take people away from Facebook vs. content that keeps people on Facebook. So if you’re sharing a video from YouTube, it won’t get nearly the reach that the same video would get if you upload it directly to Facebook. The same goes for all external links. That’s another favourable reason to leverage Facebook events in your promotions whenever possible, or to upload your graphic and content directly to Facebook; you won’t be penalized in the algorithms for sending people away from Facebook.

Other Platforms

Instagram

Instagram has grown far more slowly in our Lindy Hop community than in most circles. Maybe because Lindy Hop has been so extremely active on Facebook. But in my opinion, having some sort of Instagram presence will continue to be important in our community. Instagram also experiences algorithm challenges. Posting at a certain time of day is pretty meaningless because your post will be shown to your followers based on Instagram’s own unique algorithms.

On Instagram, you have two ways to reach people. There’s your regular posts (feed) and then there are stories.

a. Instagram Feed

You can create something purely visual and beautiful in your Instagram feed that populates your wall and that can capture something visual about you and your personal/professional brand in a way that Facebook can’t. (On the other hand, Facebook is far better for discussion. So you need both.)

You shouldn’t just share the exact same content on both Instagram and Facebook; in fact, I strongly discourage you from always posting the exact same content to both platforms. Occasionally it’s ok, but not for every post. These platforms are different and need to be handled with a different approach. Otherwise, it could feel like you’re spamming people.

Instagram offers a unique opportunity for you to diversify the way you’re reaching people and to tell a different kind of story.

b. Instagram Stories

Speaking of stories, Instagram stories offer a very unique way for you to let your guard down, show who you really are and what your daily life is like, in a way that today’s social media users are craving. Stories disappear after 24 hours, so you don’t want to put in too much effort into making them perfect. They’re great for getting more personal, candid, silly, or even off topic in a way that will help people get to know you. You might only post photos or videos to your newsfeed a few times a week when it’s something really good and strategic, but you can post to your stories as often as you’d like, even multiple times a day if you get on a roll.

*Please, avoid sharing too many photos to your Instagram newsfeed in a single day unless you have a darned good reason for it. It’s a good way to get unfollowed. Because you can only see one photo or video at a time as you scroll through Instagram, you want to be conscious about not flooding and “hogging” people’s Instagram feeds. Be selective about what goes in your feed and share the rest to stories instead.

TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.

Please see my note in Part 1 about TikTok as a potentially untapped opportunity for Lindy Hop. There are other platforms too but they’re mostly a waste of time for your marketing efforts. If you’re very focused on blogging or photography, Pinterest could work for you, but I’m not going to go down those roads.

Google My Business, Google Ads & SEO

Google is exceptionally important for local schools. Anyone keeping their local operations on life support during the pandemic might want to take this opportunity to update their Google My Business account. Google Ads can also be a worthwhile tool for essential seasonal registration like the month of September and throughout the holidays leading into January, but they can get expensive—far more expensive than Facebook & Instagram ads.

SEO is also extremely helpful for local schools. I recommend that every local school has a blog post on their website entitled something like, “So you’re looking for the best swing dance classes in XCityX?” and then goes on to explain all of the benefits of learning Lindy Hop and joining the local community. This blog post should have as many keyword strings that include your city as possible. It’s one of the easiest free ways to get picked up by Google. But there’s a lot more you can do with your local SEO.

SEO is a much longer marketing play and a bigger subject that I won’t get into too much here but I’ll say this. While SEO is important, it’s not something you’ll see a return on soon. As such, I’m not recommending it as a focus for online Lindy Hop businesses right now. You’ll get far more return on your time, energy, and financial investment on paid digital advertising on Facebook and Instagram.

On the other hand, it’s always good to build up your website, which acts as your storefront for your offerings. So having content on your website that people are actively searching for can be optimized to help your overall website traffic and potentially your sales. Here are several blog posts I’ve written about SEO if you’d like to learn more.

Strategic Cross-Posting

The biggest mistake I see from Lindy Hoppers in their current marketing is relying too much on posting either in too few of the above locations OR cross-posting too repetitively. There’s a balance you need to strike, and if you can find the sweet spot, you can make the most of the free opportunities available to us.

What I don’t think works very well at all (though I’ve been known to do it myself for the Frankie Manning Foundation because it’s quick and easy) is just posting the exact same thing in all of the Lindy Hop groups you’re part of and then calling it a day. This isn’t a bad place to get started, but those groups tend to have a lot of the same people in them and it can be a bit of a bombardment to too few people.

What works better is to adjust your messaging and approach to cross- posting. Try to mix things up in both your visual elements, written messaging, and also the timing of your posts so it isn’t repetitive. That way you’ll still be maximizing your free/organic reach as much as possible but it won’t feel so repetitive.

Your Network Needs Reminders

Don’t spam your friends with your promotions on your personal page every day BUT remind your friends reasonably regularly that you’re offering something and that they can learn more about it by joining your group and liking your page. This is a biggie. Slip it into regular conversation so that you aren’t just selling all the time. Mention how you’re excited to be working on something. And definitely mention and even use the @tag to link to your page and group at least once a month, maybe even more often during the pandemic.

I recently noticed that some teachers who I admire had not mentioned their online classes at all on their personal pages. I hadn’t received any notifications from their page so I didn’t know about their offering. Actually, I had already followed their business page a long time ago but I forgot it existed because the algorithm never showed me any of their content. If it hadn’t been for Instagram, I wouldn’t have known about their lessons. So hop onto your personal page once in a while to mention that your other locations (business page, group, Instagram) exist because your friends and followers might not know about them or may have forgotten.

Soft vs. Hard Selling

Your business page is the best place for straight up promotions, but even then you don’t want to only use it for 100% advertising. Check out what I have to say about content marketing further down in this article. Your Facebook event page is also a good place for more direct promotions, ut you can also benefit from mixing in other enticing content.

Your Facebook group should generally be used for a softer sell. The focus should mostly be on conversation, engagement, and a free content (content marketing) to foster a community feeling.

Post to all of your Facebook locations regularly, alongside Instagram, but try to find fresh ways to get your message out into the community. This does take time and energy, but it’s the best free and inexpensive way to reach people, and it can be worth the energy.

Organic Marketing vs. Paid Advertising

I really feel that most Lindy Hoppers are overestimating the reach they think they’re getting with their current organic posting. By a LOT. Look at your combined connections on your Facebook personal page, business page, group, events, and your Instagram account. Now keep in mind that a lot of those people are repeats in several locations. I would guess that even the most popular and well known Lindy Hoppers max out their reach at about 3-7K people tops, and with the algorithms they’re reaching far fewer people. That’s why it’s time to internalize a big lessons:

You need to spend money to make money.

I wish I knew then what I know now… If I had today’s marketing knowledge and tools back when I ran my own dance studio, I might have stayed in business. (Though I still probably wouldn’t have survived the pandemic.)

I know, it’s scary to spend money… especially when you don’t have much! But you have to ask yourself how serious you are about this. Are you just waiting for the economy to fix itself? Or are you going to get serious, put on your business hat, and get down to work?

What if I told you that I usually start A/B testing ads for Lindy Hop audiences with just $25 to $50? Would that be less scary?

Word of Mouth Is Important But Unreliable

Word of mouth is still the most influential and persuasive marketing out there, but you can’t wait for the people you already know to do all the work for you. That’s essentially what you’re doing when you just post your offering on your existing social media platforms.

You can’t just rely on the people who are already in your network. Start differentiating between organic (free) marketing opportunities and paid advertising. The organic marketing potential is better in our Lindy Hop world than in most cases but you still shouldn’t rely on free marketing as your only path to success.

Facebook is still the biggest network in the Lindy Hop community, hands down. And you can’t ignore that. The fact that 790K people have marked Lindy Hop as an interest and that you can reach those people using Facebook and Instagram ads is a massive advantage. Without spending much money, you could reach so many more people than you will in your own personal network. When I run ads for Lindy Hop I start with $25 to $50 in testing. Then, when I see it’s working, I might spend anywhere from $150 and $500 but while I’m doing so, I’m watching the conversions into sales to make sure that every dollar spent is working towards its purpose. The testing allows me to get specific with both about my audience and the ad creative and copy and every step of the way I watch to make sure that I’m getting the desired results for the ads.

Get In Front Of As Many Lindy Hoppers As Possible

The worldwide number of 790K people who show Lindy Hop as an interest in Facebook is a great starting point for your ad targeting. But it’s still important to get more specific. Not all of these people are full-fledged Lindy Hoppers. A lot of them probably took one class or attended one event and the interest ended up in their Facebook profile. However, these are still warmer leads than starting from nowhere, and paid advertising on Facebook and Instagram can help you reach more of the right people at the lowest possible cost.

By the way, Facebook owns Instagram and you can syndicate your ads to go to both Instagram and Facebook, which will help you leverage the biggest potential Lindy Hop audience online in the world today.

Be specific about your audience. What are you offering and who is it best suited for? If you’re offering air steps, consider limiting the age range and adjusting the fitness levels in your targeting. If you’re offering a course on swivels and follower styling, take that into consideration in your targeting. And if you’re offering live events that take place in a certain time zone, target people who would be awake and available to enjoy what you’re producing.

Don’t Just Boost; Use Business.Facebook.com for Advertising

My biggest piece of advice when it comes to ads is NOT to hit the “boost now” button on your posts. It’s a waste of money with limited targeting and reach. Instead, run your ads by creating an account at business.facebook.com. I can’t tell you how many people ignore this advice and then later question their advertising results. They think they’re in the ads manager but they’re getting the watered-down version of the capabilities, not the full dashboard.

Facebook made this really confusing but trust me on this. It doesn’t matter if you’ve run ads before. Go right now to http://business.facebook.com/ and set up your free account. Once you’re in there, connect your page and use the ads manager inside of there, not from your personal page, to access all of the tools. This will make a huge difference on what you’re able to accomplish with your ads! You’ll be able to go to the Ads Manager and access all of the most powerful tools — https://business.facebook.com/adsmanager/

I can’t get into every specific instruction here about how to set up and run the most powerful ads for the least amount of money, this will turn into a novel. But using the proper business and ads manager will give you a massive edge and you’ll be able to get a much better return on your investment for your ads. You can learn more about the power of running successful Facebook & Instagram ads in this article I wrote.

One of the great things that’s great about running these ads is that even if people don’t “buy” your offer right away, if they like your ad you’ll have the opportunity to invite them to follow your business page. This will help you stay in touch with them for future ads. And even better, if you’ve installed the Facebook pixel and they’ve visited your website, you can retarget them with follow up ads.

Marketing vs. Advertising

I’ve been reminded in the Swing Dance School/Studio Owners Managers And Board Members group that I should add a note to differentiate between the greater idea of marketing and mores specifically sales and promotions, which I’ll call advertising. These days, marketing refers to a much wider content marketing approach. More detail on content marketing below. But most of your marketing shouldn’t be a “buy” message, it should be sharing of brand-building and value-add content. Here’s a breakdown I borrowed from my agency blog –

Content Marketing in Lindy Hop

Being well known and having a lot of followers isn’t enough. You need to stay in front of people within our global Lindy Hop community, and the best way to do that is with content marketing. Content marketing is about telling stories to get people interested in you, your brand, and your offering. It’s different from advertising, which is specifically trying to sell. Content marketing is giving away value for free in order to build trust.

People want to know and trust your brand before they buy from you. They desire storytelling that connects you with them on a very personal level. Lindy Hoppers want to know that you value them and that when they invest in your product, they’re investing in YOU in a way that will make a difference. When your potential customers feel a positive emotional and psychological connection with your brand, you can establish the trust that they’re craving that will allow them to spend their money with confidence.

These feelings are complex, especially because they’re not usually conscious.

When you give away value on an educational, entertaining, and personal level (like we talked about in part 1 with your offering) you’ll earn more brand familiarity and trust. Once you’ve built that trust, that’s when sales can be made.

On the one hand, you need to give away certain value for free as part of your content marketing. But not too much, since you’re also trying to make a living.

This is where social media, especially the time you give to managing your Facebook group and creating content for your Instagram and possibly TikTok, are a slippery slope. Because you can go down a serious rabbit hole where you’re creating loads of time-consuming content without seeing a monetary return on that investment.

Be Clear About How Your Free Content Is Driving Monetization

For a little while I was working with a yoga and nutrition lady to build her personal brand. She was pouring so much time and energy into creating content for social media in the form of videos and recipes. The problem was, it didn’t matter how many followers she had and how recognizable her name was in yoga and nutrition circles if she wasn’t making any money.

Essentially, she had seen some of the big yoga and nutrition people on social media with tens of thousands and followers and wanted to be like them. But she wasn’t clear about how she could make any money in the process.

The yoga lady had very few money-making offerings and they were not enough to justify the amount of time and effort, not to mention money, she was putting into her social media. I stopped working with her so she could move on to figure out how to create sustainable monetized solutions.

Digression: The Lindy Hop world has not really leveraged the influencer model very well, but I do see potential there at some point. If you can get big enough as an influencer on social media, you can get more than free stuff. Influential people within their niche can be paid to give reviews and talk about commodities on social media. But I don’t think we’re really there right now.

Your Efforts Must Generate Real Income

Is it a Hobby or a Business? 

All this is to caution you against putting too much time into content that you aren’t monetizing into meaningful dollars. You need to use your talent, time, and content to support your monetized offerings. Gaining visibility and building your brand is important to build relationships and awareness for your brand and offering. Giving some things away for free can definitely help build goodwill in the community and towards your brand. And just selling all the time can sour how people perceive you. Some generosity with your content is beneficial, but there’s a line you need to keep an eye on.

Whether you’re making cool videos, sharing fun personal stories, writing blog posts, or creating free content in other ways, ultimately, you need to figure out how that’s leading to your financial sustainability.

When you share a blog post you wrote on Facebook that drives people to your website, you can softly remind people about your offer in your article. Or include it in your sidebar where they’ll see it while reading the free content. Follow up with your website visitors who have watched your free videos or read your free content by using the Facebook pixel to target them with ads for your paid offer.

Instagram is challenging because you only get one link—in your bio. You can set up a free LinkTree account to provide multiple link options to remind people about in your bio. One of the advantages of building your Instagram following is that when you reach more than 10K followers, you get access to the “swipe up” feature that lets you drive people to your url of choice.

Content marketing is great because it helps you to sell without being too salesy. It should always be a soft, gentle reinforcement of your offer. But that monetized offer needs to be firmly in place. The whole point of the free content is that it should be adding value and building your visibility to support your financial gain.

Flying Home

If you find yourself spending a lot of time making content or giving away your time in other ways and you’re not generating enough money, you need to get real with yourself. Are you creating amazing lessons that only a few people are buying? Are you hosting live events without any monetary return? Where’s the money?

Before you go any further with your endeavour, please check yourself. Is this a business or a hobby? Give yourself a bit of time to test out the desirability of your offer, your monetization, and full extent of the marketing capabilities that are available to you. But don’t spin your wheels for too long before seeing a return on your time and resource investments. You need to start making some serious money ASAP for this to work, and if it’s not working, it might be time for a different plan.

There are so many Lindy Hoppers struggling to create an online business right now. I know that your path is going to be hard. But our community and the world around us *is* changing. do believe there are new opportunities out there. I hope you’ll figure it out and make it work and I wish you every success.

Online Business & Marketing for Lindy Hoppers – Part 1

Several months ago I was asked to write a blog about marketing for Lindy Hoppers. At the time, the idea was to write about marketing tips for local schools to grow. Being busy running my own marketing agency and taking care of my clients, I never got around to it.

Since then, marketing for Lindy Hop has taken on completely different implications. Now people in every stage of “professional” Lindy Hop, from the most established international instructors to the smallest local schools, are struggling to move online and stay alive.

Shout out to Daniel Newsome for his post, How to teach dancing online (and make money doing it), which inspired me to hit the keyboard today.

Personal & Professional note –

Before digging into this topic, I just want to say that many people know me from my role as a board member for the Frankie Manning Foundation. Please keep in mind that the Foundation is not an example of my marketing knowledge. As a volunteer organization, I have only been able to put in the smallest fraction of effort towards the Foundation’s marketing. I wish I could find time to give FMF the marketing attention it deserves, but running an agency and focusing on the work that gives me an income has to come first. That’s a hard lesson I learned after closing my own dance studio in Toronto because I was giving all of my energy to running Frankie 100 in a full-time, 100% volunteer role for over a year.

On the subject of Self Promotion in Lindy Hop –

Let’s be honest. For many years, it felt “non-Lindy-Hop-ish” to promote yourself too much. It was ok to promote your local dance school in the name of spreading Lindy Hop, but self promotion on a wider level somehow felt icky. We all tried to be so humble and the few outliers who did promote themselves kind of ended up looking tacky. I’m saying that honestly. I think we can all safely agree now that the days of Lindy Hoppers being shy about self promotion are over. Now we are finally at a crossroads: for this dance to survive, our community’s talent needs and deserves proper remuneration. That includes Lindy Hop professionals in all forms including teachers, organizers, administrators, and musicians.

Now down to business.

Running an Online Business: Questions

There are three essential questions to running a successful online business:

  1. What are you offering?
  2. How are you monetizing it?
  3. How are you marketing it?

Your marketing is as important as your offer. It doesn’t matter how talented you are. If people don’t know about it, you aren’t going to make enough money and you’re going to fail.

1. Your Offer, aka. Your Value Proposition

What value can you offer in exchange for money? What sets you apart and what benefits can you offer? Dance lessons don’t have to be the only part of your value proposition. The market has been flooded with online lessons since the start of the pandemic. That’s given the few companies that were already online, like iLindy.com, a massive edge. Kevin and Jo already had over 1000 videos online at iLindy before the pandemic started while other teachers were left scrambling to put up their first video.

With a flooded market, you need to augment your offering in as many ways as possible to shape your unique value proposition. Considerations:

  • Education value – What else can you offer besides the mechanics of Lindy Hop? Consider the value of sharing your dance philosophy, dance history, and more. You have knowledge to share. Think creatively about this.
  • Entertainment value – As Lindy Hoppers, we’re pretty fun people! The visual nature of the dance offers huge potential, but depending on your skills and personality, you could find more ways to increase your entertainment value. This will really augment any education you’re offering.
  • Personal connection value – It’s time to leverage the fact that you’re a “person of interest” in either your local community or in the greater global community. Don’t shy away from personal branding.

Education Value

I think there’s a lot more opportunity for education value surrounding Lindy Hop than has really been explored yet. There are thousands of people all over the world who are passionate about Lindy Hop. Probably hundreds of thousands. (Nobody has a clear number about Lindy Hoppers globally and I do want to spearhead a Lindy Hop census through the Frankie Manning Foundation but that’s another topic.)

But most of those people just * don’t* want to take online dance lessons. Many people just don’t have the drive or interest to take lessons at home. But that’s ok, there is so much more potential to be explored.

So what else can you offer? As one example, when the pandemic hit I had a chat with Daniel and Åsa Heedman about offering some online dance philosophy talks. I thought this approach would be great for them, both because I know it’s a topic they are passionate about, and also because I would personally be interested in this subject. It looks like they recently started this and I hope it’s successful. I think it’s great to diversify your offerings, even if you’re also teaching lessons.

Entertainment Value

Incidentally, I put artistic value in with entertainment. Your entertainment value could come in a lot of different forms, especially if you’re sharing lots of inspiring dance videos, including rehearsals, experimentation, and ideas. (Someone who shares wonderful, inspiring videos is Ramona Staffeld!)

If you’re funny, leverage that. Or if you are [or can learn to be] good on camera, that’s gold. Don’t be shy. Try it out This will add so much to any educational value you’re offering.

There’s an amazing case study to look at for entertainment value and that’s Live.Collegiate.Shag. They aren’t focused on Lindy Hop—though they do slip it in—but they’re definitely part of the greater Lindy Hop community and they are killing it! When it comes to leveraging social media for your brand, they’re hands down the most digitally successful swing dancers. Every week on Mondays they share a new dance video. Their videos are short, fun, and several have gone viral.

Live.Collegiate.Shag has got over 47.1K followers on Instagram and 101.9K followers on TikTok. To my knowledge, no other swing dancers have come close to those numbers. Few Lindy Hop brands have even broken 10K on Instagram. The next biggest looks to be Ksenia with 22.7K followers, then iLindy with 10.7K, then Pamela with 10.4K. (Please let me know if I’m missing anyone with a big following, as a marketer I find this stuff really interesting.)

Speaking of TikTok, it’s not my personal favourite platform by any means, for months I’ve been wishing it would dry up in importance the same way that Snapchat has mostly fallen out of marketing conversations. But the pandemic has fueled TikTok’s popularity. And by the way, if you haven’t checked it out yet, one of the biggest trends on TikTok is dancing! Yet Lindy Hop has hardly been tapped on there. Just be careful that you don’t go down a rabbit hole making content that you can’t monetize.

Live.Collegiate.Shag is primarily offering entertainment value and I’m defining their success in terms of #1 – offering consistently fun and entertaining dance content, and #3 – getting in front of the most eyes possible on a regular basis. When it comes to building a dance brand online, they have knocked it out of the ballpark. However, I really haven’t got a clear idea of how they’re monetizing their success. I know they get some free merch and they probably have some viral videos that they make a bit of money on, but I’m not sure what else they’re doing for consistent income.

Personal Value

Both your entertainment and education value definitely tie in with your personal connection value. Particularly for the international dancers who are well known in the community, do not underestimate the attractiveness and therefore value of people feeling personally connected with you. You are unique and your unique dance style and personality have helped you get this far. If you put yourself out there, it could be what saves you while the dance economy sorts itself out. The same thing goes for local community teachers and how you interact and market yourself within your smaller niche community.

Note to Dance Administrators

These examples focus on dance instructors, but I don’t want to ignore dance organizers. Though I was also a dance instructor, I have been more unique and skilled within the dance community as an organizer and administrator. If you’re a dance administrator on any kind of level, believe me; you have skills that offer value. The dance community has had a very hard time appreciating and also remunerating administrators. Most of this work is either unpaid or extremely underpaid. But you are the people who make it happen and you have skills!

I used my 15 years of experience running a dance school and organizing events to transition to running a successful marketing business. Take a good look at your skills and you’ll find more doors available to you than you may realize.

Delivery Methods: How Will You Deliver Your Product?

The other part to work out with your online offering is the delivery method. How are you delivering your product and how are people consuming and paying? Are you streaming? Is it a download? Is it live and interactive? Are you offering a subscription or a one-time purchase? How are people paying and conducting transactions?

You need to make your delivery both easy and also exciting and attractive to people. Whether that’s watching a pre-recorded video or interacting in group discussions or some other format, I think the options still needs to be explored. Especially for something like a philosophy talk which hasn’t been tried and tested the same way as online dance lessons. I’m not sure what the right format will be to maximize the interest and success.

I think that many of the teachers I’ve seen so far are underestimating the power of personal connection and interactive experiences. There are smart ways to scale interactive experiences to still make good money for your time investment.

Recap

So for everyone, figure out what you can offer. Figure out the best way to deliver it. And make sure it’s something that can actually make you some money.

What can you offer that’s enticing, what easy and inviting method can you use to deliver it, and are you offering value that people will actually want to pay for?

2. Monetizing Your Offer

At the end of the day, if you aren’t making any money you better be having a damn good time, or believe passionately in what you’re doing, because otherwise you’re expending a heck of a lot of energy without putting any food on the table. This has always been a problem for us in Lindy Hop well before the pandemic. It certainly was for me. And it could be an even bigger problem now.

You need an irresistible offer that people actually want to pay for. Do not underestimate the problem of partner dancing in a virtual format. Especially during the time of Covid-19. Just offering partner dancing online is extremely challenging; people don’t have partners, they’re alone, they’re lonely, they’re not motivated on their own. This is a period when Solo Jazz and spin offs related to solo work, whether it’s fitness, drills, exercises, routines, rhythm, and style could potentially be better received than partner dancing.

Remember, you need to make it clear and easy way for people to “sign up” and pay. These days people do not want to have to email you and arrange private payments. You’ll never know how many clients you lose because your system is unclear or cumbersome. People want an easy sign up method that uses their credit card or Paypal in just a few clicks; the less work they have to do and the more clear the user experience, the more money you can make.

Think about what you should charge. While you shouldn’t undervalue your offering, be careful about charging too much too. This is a tough time economically for everyone and a lot of people are going to have less disposable income. If you’ve got a scalable offer that isn’t directly a one-on-one use of your time, consider that a slightly lower price could bring in more people.

Scale your offering. Compare the work/time/energy/talent that goes into making your product vs. the amount of monetary return you’ll get from that offering.

One of the best options in any online business is to generate recurring monthly revenue rather than relying on one-off sales. This is one of the reason I coach new and aspiring online entrepreneurs to steer away from one-off projects like building websites and instead find ways to create ongoing monthly packages, like monthly marketing packages. Rather than just thinking about promoting single, individual classes, consider selling access to an entire series or better yet, a monthly membership.

Patreon has grown in popularity since Covid-19 and seems to be a reasonably straightforward way for many dancers and artists to secure recurring monthly income. If you’re feeling more ambitious, you can set up a subscription service through your website, but you should have enough content to justify that investment. The nice thing about a service like Patreon is that it takes care of this for you. It also helps people to understand that they’re contributing to you on an ongoing basis as an artist, rather than just buying a single commodity. Just keep in mind that this service suggests that you’re being patronized by supporters for your work and is a less of a formalized “business” setup, so it depends on the nature of your offer and what you’re trying to achieve.

If you’re offering one-off online events or classes, you could also use a ticketing system. At the time I’m writing this, there’s a deal on AppSumo for a ticketing system I use and recommend called EventsFrame. This is an amazing lifetime deal for $49USD that offers NO FEES ON TICKETS. I picked it up last time it was available and it’s a steal. These deals expire so if it’s available when you read this, act fast.

3. Marketing is Everything

This is already getting to be a really long article and I haven’t even gotten to the biggest part yet, the actual marketing. So as I reach this point, I’ve decided to split this into a 2-Part post.

In the meantime, if you’re itching to get a head start, feel free to check out my business marketing blog.

Part 2 continued HERE

Lindy Hop music *needs* drums

I posted this in a Toronto discussion after hearing a new band play at our Saturday dance in Toronto.

***

POSTED ON MONDAY, JANUARY 6th – 

I enjoyed hearing the new band on Saturday. They are very good and my following comment is not a reflection at all on the quality of the band…

But we *need* to have drums.

In Lindy Hop, you need to be dancing based primarily on the rhythm section and bass alone is not enough. At minimum you need bass and drums and piano is also considered part of the rhythm section even though the piano jumps between the melody and the rhythm. It’s even better to also have rhythm guitar when it’s a bigger band. But at minimum you need drums and bass.

For an occasional themed event, not having a drummer can work as a novelty, but there’s a real danger to getting in the habit of dancing to music that isn’t primarily based in the rhythm section.

We had this problem in the early 2000s and the dancing all turned into what became known as “wiggly hop” where we started to dance so much in the melody that we lost the rhythm section and the dance morphed into something else.

>>>Great band. I hope they’ll be booked again, but next time with a drummer.

***

ADDITIONAL COMMENT:

I had the privilege of helping out with a musicality class with Lennart Westerlund. I wish there was a recording of Lennart Westerlund talking about the rhythm section but you can see when it zooms in on the board what I’m getting at. And at its core, it’s critical that Lindy Hop is based on the rhythm section first and then “decorates” with the melodic instruments. Otherwise, the dance changes –

In case you missed the music lesson and you find his chart boring and hard to read, here is Lennart walking us though Flying Home’s musical structure. Edit: if FB muted the clip for you, just play your own Flying Home by Lionel Hampton and follow along! Interactive post!

Posted by Sing Yuen Lim on Sunday, March 17, 2019

AND A QUICK SCREEN GRAB:

Bryan Vandenberg reminded me of this terrific video, and has also voiced his rightfully strong opinion that rhythm guitar, in addition to drums, is a key foundation to swinging music. Note Wynton Marsallis, “The drummer provides the shuffle that is the foundation of the rhythm of swing.”

 

Wishing whoever reads this some extra rhythm-based Lindy Hop this week!

~Mandi

Swedes in New York City

Somehow I didn’t get around to doing any kind of recap of Swedes in New York City here. I was just too busy!

The event has come and gone. It was a lot of work but very rewarding. Being able to connect students with some of my very favourite dancers in the whole world is so gratifying. The fact that the event also coincided with Norma Miller’s funeral was unexpected, emotional, but also cathartic.

This is my personal thank you message from the Swedes in New York City website:

It feels strange to write the usual thank you note about what we just did in New York City.

When we lost Norma Miller, everything changed.

All of the other stuff that happened the last few days was very nice but I would rather keep the emphasis on Norma and her legacy.

10 years ago we lost Frankie Manning and now we’ve buried Norma Miller just a short distance away. The parallels are uncanny. Now the “World Lindy Hop Day” title that we established 5 years ago on Frankie Manning’s birthday takes on new meaning.

Norma was an amazing woman and a part of our history. We will never forget her.

But it’s important to say some thank yous so here they are on a high level:

Mickey Davidson, John Biffar, Cynthia BrownLisa JacobsDaphna HarelKrister ShalmBarbara Bronx & The Harlem Swing Dance SocietyPaolo Pasta Lanna & Spencer Weisbond & Swing ReMixJulia LovingRonald Jones and swingwithusnyc.comChris LeeJennifer HempelChachi,Jocelyn Hassenfeld & family, Cynthia MillmanLana TurnerBuddy StevesElliott DonnelleyJeff Liu-LeycoAmy WinnJudy Pritchett, Daniel Heedman, Lennart Westerlund, Ewa BurakÅsa HeedmanMimmi Gunnarsson BringlövFredrik DahlbergDenise Minns-HarrisSandra SchulzCameron & Larry Schulz, Paul Grecki, Margaret Batiuchok, Zita Allen, Sing Yuen LimChazz Young & Michellene Young, Olivia and Jill at Lincoln Center…

…and most importantly Norma, Al Minns, and Frankie for giving us all purpose.

 

Panel: The Pivotal Role of Al Minns on Modern Day Lindy Hop

In partnership with Lincoln Center

Friday Teacher Introduction

Saturday Performance

Sunday Tribute to Frankie Manning

Videos of the panels coming soon…


**Norma Miller honored throughout the weekend**

For information about Norma Miller’s viewing, burial, and celebration of life on Friday, May 24th, click here

 

Dance Organizers & Gero Hajek

I’ve been thinking a lot about community organizers since Gero Hajek passed away.

In the dance community (and I’m sure in most communities) organizing is a labour of love. It’s not “thankless” but the level of thanks that you receive is never equal to the amount of work that you put into it. And that’s ok because people who organize are rarely motivated by that kind of attention. It’s not about being thanked. It’s about the deep satisfaction you get from creating something beautiful for other people to experience.

When you’re an organizer, you don’t experience events in the same way. To one degree or another, there’s always some level of pressure on you. You absorb that stress and you carry it with you out of love for the community and for creating magic for other people.

Every individual dancer in the community benefits from the work and the pressure that a small handful of organizers are shouldering. When you experience joy on the dance floor, someone has fostered the circumstances that have allowed you to experience that pleasure.

In Toronto, whether you’re a newer dancer or you’ve been around for a very long time, you are benefitting from work and love that a wonderful man named Gero Hajek put into dancing in this city.

What I’m trying to say is that in Toronto, we are all part of Gero Hajek’s legacy.

Thank you Gero.


February 14th, 2019

It’s with a heavy heart that I share the news that Gero Hajek, longtime president of the Toronto Swing Dance Society, passed away on February 8th. 

Tokyo Workshop, March 2019

This weekend I had the privilege of teaching workshops in Tokyo with Lennart Westerlund and Sing Lim. Lennart is an old friend and one of my most important dance mentors, and Sing is one of my dear friends and partners in crime from Frankie 100. It was a real treat to travel across the world and to share a great teaching experience with them.

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

It was a pleasure to teach with my old friend and mentor, Mr. Lennart Westerlund, in Tokyo on Saturday and a jazz class with my pal and partner in crime, @sing_lim! #lindyhop #jazz

A post shared by Mandi Gould (@mandigould) on

Sing and I taught a jazz class together and then she and I alternated partnering with Lennart. I was lucky enough to participate in an excellent musicality class with Lennart… with comfortable seats and a white board!

Evening Group

Sunday Panel

We also participated in a panel discussion about Lindy Hop, which included three incredible Japanese guests. One was a Japanese jazz critic who attended a Marshall Sterns’ jazz music and dance lectures and lived in New York City. He even had the opportunity to attend Count Basie’s “breakfast and BBQ” jam sessions in Harlem. Another was the daughter a Japanese Broadway Tap Star who was friends with Fred Astaire and was very famous in Japan; he brought some Lindy Hop back to Japan at that time. And the third was the “Teddy Wilson” of Japan, a piano player who used to play boogie woogie for the GIs.

Thank you Hiro Yamada and Tokyo Swing Dance Society for organizing it, it was amazing event!

Sunday Evening Dance

Unboxing & Review: Saint Savoy CARRYALL bag

I’ve just received my Saint Savoy CARRYALL bag in Magnolia and I love it!

Since Saint Savoy is a Lindy Hopper owned and operated business, I decided to make my first ever unboxing video. I’ve been thinking of ordering from them for a long time now and I know how helpful online reviews and videos can be so I thought I’d do a quick one of my own to help others.

Unboxing the CARRYALL bag!

Do you know about our CARRYALL bags? Watch this unboxing video with Mandi Gould as she takes her first look at the CARRYALL in Magnolia. This handbag is a harmonious merger of the timelessly elegant Kelly bag and an early 1920s bowling bag. Browse all our our bags here: https://www.saintsavoy.com/en/bags.html#SaintSavoy

Posted by Saint Savoy on Saturday, February 2, 2019

 

I needed a bag that wasn’t too big or too small; just right for going dancing in Toronto and staying over night. This bag seems to be the perfect size! It’s got the compartment for dance shoes on the bottom and with my size shoes, there’s some wiggle room to spare. And up top there’s enough room for all my other stuff I would need but without it getting oversized like a gym bag.

It’s the perfect size for my wallet, phone, ipod, a few cosmetics, and a little bag for a change of blouse and underwear.

I really like the ventilation holes at the bottom of the bag. I always air my sweaty shoes out when I get home but this is great in case you forget or you won’t be home for a long time. I would still put my shoes inside a soft shoe bag inside the bag so it doesn’t get dirty. I would put a sweaty blouse or tee in the bottom too after wearing it. So I’d keep the clean stuff up top and after wear put it down below.

The zippers and leather are very high quality but a bit stiff from being brand new. I can tell they’ll soften up and that it’s a solid item made to last.

The colour is even better in person that I had hoped. Burgundy and salmon; really lovely. Coincidentally I have a wallet in the same shade of pink so it was obviously meant for me.

I was also worried about the bag being heavy. Sometimes bags are heavy before you even put anything in it! Not so with this bag. The box it came in was also light, despite including both this bag and a pair of shoes! That was a big relief.

I was also concerned that I might get dinged with a customs charge when it arrived in Canada but I didn’t. Hurray!

I also ordered a pair of Riviera shoes with this and they arrived and are beautiful but I’m going to exchange the size. I was so worried about them being too small that I sized up from my usual size and that was a mistake. So I’m sending them back for a 39 (instead of a 40) which is an 8 in North American sizing. I’m also ordering the West in Black and she has a line of flats coming out soon that I’m excited about.

Super happy with this bag! It’ll be perfect for all my Lindy Hop events. 🙂

 

Somewhat recent social dancing videos

As I’ve been preparing to teach a workshop in Tokyo in March (yay!) I started to realize that I don’t have much recent dance footage of myself. There are lots of cameras around at events these days so I’ve started to try to dig up some videos so I have some reference point.

Social dancing with Bryan – Winter 2019

 Social dancing with Riz – Fall 2018

“Lindy Bomb” in Vienna with Geoffrey, Sing, and Leah – June 2018

The party is on…

Posted by Andreas Chiou on Monday, June 25, 2018

Dancing with Krister – January 2018

Dancing with Bryan – Spring 2017

Article: ÅSA HEEDMAN: ”CUTE AND CUDDLY IS NOT FOR ME”

Some thoughts about following –

I’ve been thinking a lot about what Åsa said in this article since I read it last night. Whenever I see LH following that gets me really excited, it’s assertive, musical, and playful. It has a strong voice. It’s almost never “cute” that inspires me. So why do I let these little dainty things creep into my own dancing?

I suppose sometimes it can be fun to dance in a dainty/cute way, but truly it’s not as fun as the assertive dancing that I prefer. I think it’s just another of the many trends that creeps into our dancing. So this is something else I’ll be paying attention to in my Lindy Hop in 2019.

Click here to read the article. 

Some #LindyHop thoughts while I ride the streetcar

Posted to my Facebook page.

Last night I went out dancing and I only had 4 dances but they were super fun!

I wanted to vocalize something about contemporary LH that I feel all the time but rarely get to talk about anymore because I’m no longer teaching.

There’s an aesthetic, groundedness, and rhythmical jazz feeling that I strive for in Lindy Hop that I rarely get to fully express. For a lot of reasons. And I’ve come to accept that, even though in my heart I haven’t let go of that ideal. There’s a way that I really want my dancing to look and feel, my personal ideal for Lindy Hop, but it’s not something that I can actually make happen most of the time. The music is a factor, the way the connection and lead follow work, the kind of patterns that leaders lead these days, the contagious feeling of what’s going on around me on the dance floor, whatever modern videos I’ve watched that seep into my consciousness… Even the shoes and clothing that I wear affects how my dancing manifests itself and I usually find myself dancing differently than my ideal.

But I also don’t want to get down on modern forms of Lindy Hop because, as I said, it can be super duper fun!Last night was a perfect example. I had so much fun dancing my 4 dances of the night. I loved the way that my leaders took me through interesting patterns with lots of connection nuances and shapes. It was surprising and delightful. And I responded and contributed in the ways that felt right within the spontaneity of the dance.

I’m also very aware of how we all influence each other and that’s how the dance continues to evolve in interesting ways, and I do like that… I’m always reconciling in my heart the way that modern Lindy Hop has taken shape vs. some of the ideals that I miss and rarely get to express. I become aware of people watching me, the way that I enjoy watching other people, and especially when I watched for inspiration when I was a new dancer. That’s when I feel torn sometimes because I don’t necessarily feel like I’m dancing like the kind of role model that I actually want to be for the dance. I don’t always feel like ME. But there’s a reality to all of it and I have to try to feel content with who I am *today* compared to who I was as a dancer yesterday or who I will be tomorrow. Because Lindy Hop is spontaneous and magical and that’s beautiful.

Those are some of my streetcar thoughts for today. 😊