Social Wall for Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival

“Patrons Who Engage With Our Social Media and Use Our Hashtags Are Writing Their Chapter in Our Story.”

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In the middle of a quiet country road surrounded by lush greenery on both sides of the street, a dancer jumps high in the air. Their legs are fully extended, one up next to their head, the other one stretched downward. The dancer is cheekily resting their chin on a hand. To one side of the person, a poodle sits on the road looking straight at the camera. On the other side of them, there?s a yellow backpack with a blanket strapped to its top.

Jacob’s Pillow connects dancers and dance fans across the U.S. and internationally with a social media hub. The social wall and hashtags make it easy for people from all over to get involved with the community during the summer festival and beyond.

[Unfortunately, the 2020 festival has been cancelled on account of the global pandemic. However, we wanted to publish this blog post anyway because we think it’s a great festival that deserves some attentions. Have a look around the Jacob’s Pillow Virtual Festival in the meantime!]

Legendary American dance hub

“The Pillow” is a treasured 220-acre National Historic Landmark in Western Massachusetts where the much-lauded dance hub Jacob’s Pillow is located. Among other things, it houses a dance school, various events and community programmes. It also hosts the annual Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, which is America’s longest-running international dance festival.

For the 2019 festival, Jacob’s Pillow set up a social wall and two hashtags, giving the festival attendees and the wider dance community a way to congregate both offline and online.

We talked to Sophia Romeu, the Jacob’s Pillow social media and digital content coordinator for the 2019 festival, about how social media and hashtags have influenced the festival and the community.

What are the advantages of a social wall for Jacob’s Pillow?

The social wall is for use during our summer festival in The Jennie Kassanoff & Dan Schulman Welcome Center, located on the main path in the middle of our campus. The advantage of the social wall for us is being able to represent all the members of our community and spread awareness of our many different programs.

How and where are you using the social wall?

We display the social wall on iPads mounted in the Welcome Center, where visitors can scroll through the wall and see what has been posted. We decided to set it up there to provide an interactive way for visitors to see what is happening in our Pillow Community on-site, in Berkshire County, and throughout the world.

An iPad showing the Jacob’s Pillow social media wall is mounted in front of a blackboard with scribbled messages at the Jacob’s Pillow Welcome Center.
The social wall is set up on an iPad in the Jacob’s Pillow Welcome Center.

How are you promoting your hashtags #JacobsPillow and #PillowCommunity? What’s the difference in how you use the two?

We use our two main hashtags consistently on all our posts as well as e-blasts and appropriate videos and encourage patrons, dancers, staff, community members, and interns alike to use them on personal posts as well. 

The #JacobsPillow tag is an overarching tag for all of our programs and events. The #PillowCommunity tag is a way for anyone to express their belonging to our larger dance community through engagement on our site, at our events, or in our programs.

How are you making people aware of the social wall?

We also had a photography exhibit in downtown Pittsfield, MA (Jacob’s Pillow: Taking Dance Off The Mountain) where we asked viewers to tag us in their social posts dancing in the exhibit with our hashtags.

Visitors dancing in the photography exhibit “Jacob’s Pillow: Taking Dance Off The Mountain”.

Each post gave them one entry for a chance to win tickets to one of our summer dance parties. In the Welcome Center, we have signage encouraging visitors to use the tags to see their posts featured on the social wall. 

After more than 80 years of festival history, how has social media changed the festival and how dancers and audiences interact with it?

In today’s world, anyone can be a videographer or photographer, and that benefits artists, audiences, and presenters. Patrons who engage with our social media and use our hashtags are writing their chapter in our story. Someone who casually shares and enjoys watching dance videos online can turn into a long-term dance fan and supporter. 

Social media has made dance something we can constantly consume on our feeds, and even if a person is not actively engaging with arts organizations in person, it has the power to truly alter public perception. Viral dance videos that encourage others to share their take and move are a great way to increase awareness of the art form.

It’s no longer a mysterious thing; social media allows you to see the process of the choreographer, the work the dancers put in, the life of a company; no longer just a finished product on the stage but the entire process.

Have you reached people via social media and social walls that you wouldn’t otherwise have reached? 

Absolutely. We’re able to show more dance off the stage and in places that people recognize (a public park, a street festival, a museum, etc.). We’re able to reach dance fans across the world that may never visit our physical location, but feel very connected to our mission.

Two dancers are dancing together in the foreground, one in the background. They’re in front of a brownstone building, dancing on the steps.
A.I.M. IN “An Untitled Love”. Photo by Carrie Schneider

We know we have increased local attendance by representing the community. We’ve also been able to expand our brand by representing all the forms of dance we present and support, and attracting those audiences that may have previously thought we were just for one type of dance.

Hashtags make for happy audiences

I love how this showcase demonstrates how it is always a great idea to open art and dance up to the wider community. A good hashtag campaign results in a happier, communicative audience, but you also end up with a lot more user-generated content which you can then use in the future.

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Even industries that aren’t traditionally associated with “online” can benefit in so many ways from user-generated content on a social wall.