Social-Media Whore Versus Savvy Self-Brander


Editor’s note: A version of this article appeared originally on the author's blog, Life of a Freelance Dancer, and is reprinted here with permission.

By Barry Kerollis

The first time I joined in the social-media craze was back in 2004, right after I had joined Pacific Northwest Ballet. I had friends that had been using Myspace for a couple of years, but I felt that there was no real reason for me to join in the fun. It took a friend of mine talking non-stop about the network for a few weeks before I finally gave in and signed up. At the time, I believed I was signing into a system to keep updated with my closest friends and to reconnect with a few with whom I had lost touch. Neither did I know that social-media would eventually take over my entire idea of communication, nor did I envision that it would become one of the greatest tools to market businesses to mass audiences.

I signed up for Myspace around Nutcracker season nearly nine years ago. My tipping point in joining a social-media network was probably fueled by my boredom and stress of performing 40-something Nutcracker shows in five weeks. I signed up and slowly started to find my friends. Having a few people who thought my profile was interesting seek me out was a good feeling, too.

What really got the ball rolling was an unfortunate event at my apartment. I had fallen asleep for the night when, about three hours into my slumber, I awoke to a dripping noise. At the time, I wasn’t aware that a hot water heater in a vacant apartment two floors above mine had burst. It was only a light drip. Nothing to write home about. But the annoyance kept me awake well into the 3:00 a.m. hour and everybody in my world was already asleep. So, I turned to Myspace and wrote my very first blog. It said something along the lines of “Cindy ... the light is leaking,” which was a reference to a line from one of my favorite movie series, “Scary Movie.” I eventually was able to fall asleep in the living room after closing the door to the bedroom, where the water was dripping, and putting a towel under the door to drown out the sound. This was a huge mistake: When I awoke at 9:00 a.m. to prep for my day of Nutcracker, there was water pouring down the entire length of my bedroom ceiling. All of the drama aside, Myspace was there to keep me company when nobody else was around. Thus, my role as a savvy social-media whore began.

I have never really been one to hide my emotions. Being an extrovert, writing a blog as a young, experimental 21 year old was probably not what most would consider the best idea. I shared more than 400 different accounts of my everyday happenings, odd encounters, and youthful dramas for the entire world to see. I accrued more than 20,000 views during my four-year period of writing, which is no small feat for a blog about my day-to-day life. Very few people approached me directly about my writings, but there were definitely a handful of people that felt I shouldn’t share things so openly. Amusingly, these were often the people who had the most voracious appetite for my writings. Eventually, Myspace was overtaken by spam-bots and most of its population, including myself, moved on. I switched over to Facebook, where I currently reside most of the time. But I have also engaged in (obviously) Blogger, as well as Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, and, most recently, Instagram.

As a young adult, I used social-media to engage with my current friends, reconnect with old ones, and keep up to date with all things new. Then I started seeing another side of social-media. Perhaps it was that Facebook had set its intention on eventually turning the interface into a mass-marketing platform, but for me this is when it started to become evident. I used social-media to engage with my current friends, reconnect with old ones, and keep up to date with all things new. It wasn’t until I moved away from the comfort of PNB that I started seeing another side of social-media. Perhaps it was that Facebook had set its intention on eventually turning the interface into a mass-marketing platform, but for me this is when it started to become evident. Only when I had to start finding my own work, did I see how useful it could be. When I first started looking for dance jobs, I would refer potential employers to my Facebook profile to view dance photos that I had been tagged in, ask for assistance from friends, and follow potential employers. As time has passed, I’ve better been able to refine the ways that I use social-media when it comes to promotion and finding work.

I currently have my own website, which I got through a company, Lyquid Talent. This has allowed me to use Facebook for more of my personal updates, as opposed to promoting myself all the time. I noticed that friends stopped paying attention to what I was writing the more I posted about work searches and when performing self-promotion. After realizing this, I started using other channels to help with my work life. I currently aim to use Facebook for my personal life and to keep people updated on my current dance happenings. I have a separate Facebook page that keeps up to date with my blog. People are more interested in hiring a person if there is something compelling about him or her. When it comes to work, I generally use Facebook to encourage excitement, curiosity, and a sense of mystery in my work as a freelancer, which can make me more compelling.

The other social-media platforms I use to help myself with work are Twitter and Instagram. Twitter is easier to use as a promotional tool because anybody can follow you who is interested and the 140-character limit to what you can write makes it more acceptable to post more often. I fade in and out of love with Twitter, but when used correctly it can be quite effective. As for Instagram, I probably can’t say very much since I only joined about a week ago. But I can already see how effective it can be used as a marketing tool. Two exceptional artists who have gained great exposure by posting on Instagram are Daniil Simkin of American Ballet Theatre and Sara Mearns of New York City Ballet. Only with the introduction of social-media has the audience gotten a sneak peak into the behind-the-scenes lives of dancers. I plan on using Instagram to document my life and travels as an artist.

As human beings, we learn best through experience and making mistakes. There are a few rules that I do abide by when using social-media, most of which I have learned from prior experiences. First and foremost, I try to be as open and honest as possible in my writings and postings. When updating the online world through status updates or tweets, I try to give an accurate look at my view and emotions. But I have learned that I must not share everything that I am feeling. I have had issues with people who use even the slightest hint toward negativity as fuel against me in even the most righteous moments, which was less than pleasant. When it comes to Facebook, don’t post too often. But when it comes to Twitter, don’t post too infrequently. Twitter is much more reciprocal when it comes to interacting and gaining followers. If somebody retweets one of your tweets, thank them. And at some point, retweet something that they posted which you found compelling. When posting pictures to the Internet, don’t be afraid to post something that may be intriguing or controversial. At the same time, don’t post any pictures that Amanda Bynes might share. Retain your professional image, but don’t be afraid to give a taste of your artistic sense. Artists have always been the first people to push the boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable.

Some of my friends tell me that I am way too active on the Internet, while others follow every move I make. When you are in business for yourself, it is important that you gain a well-known web presence. While your savvy will give you more exposure and greater opportunity to gain work, it may also turn some people off. There is a fine line between making yourself known and overworking your presence. Some people may see you as a social-media whore, but few people have ever made a name for themselves by sitting quietly in a corner and waiting for people to take notice.



Barry Kerollis is a freelance dancer, teacher, and choreographer based out of Philadelphia. Barry began his training in Lionville, Penn., and continued on scholarship at the Kirov Academy of Ballet and the School of American Ballet. He began his career in 2003 with the Houston Ballet and joined Pacific Northwest Ballet the following year, where he danced for seven seasons.

Kerollis has danced leading and featured roles in works created by a wide range of choreographers, including Balanchine, Caniparoli, Dove, Forsythe, Maillot, Martins, McIntyre, Morris, Petipa, Ratmansky, Robbins, Seiwert, Stroman, Tharp, Welch, and Wheeldon. He is featured in the dance documentary
Dancing Across Borders; the dance book Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear; Jordan Matter’s blog for The New York Times Best Seller, Dancer’s Among Us; and Bob Rizzo’s instructional dance video, Ballet with Style. In 2001, he was selected as a finalist in the Youth America Grand Prix competition.

Barry maintains a blog documenting his work: Life of a Freelance Dancer. Kerollis writes using his vast experience dancing with some of the country’s leading companies and smaller organizations, representing PNB’s dancers for three years as an AGMA representative, and acting as liaison for five seasons to PNB’s young professional patron group, Backstage Pass.

Photo, top: Kerollis performing in the Philly Fringe, by Bill Hebert
Bottom: Shalem Photography


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