And Other Lessons Learned As A National Champion Cheer Coach
On The Verge Of A Shut Down
The team was is disarray. The school was going to shut down the program. That’s where I came in.
Not one to back down from a challenge, this was a herculean task, as I would soon find out. The inner city high school where I taught 12th grade economics was threatening to shutter the cheer program due to a number of various complaints and disciplinary problems (school parking lot fights in their cheer uniforms as one of many examples). To say that it had strayed away from its core initiatives to provide a source of school pride and spirit and challenge young women to work as a team was an understatement.
Small Town Texas Roots
I developed a strong desire to be a drill team instructor at the high school level from my time on the drill team in small town Texas. Rising through the ranks to Officer and even publishing a book on the keys to a successful drill team tryout, I loved the pageantry, performance and challenge of performing as part of a drill team. Now, for those of you not familiar with the fanatics of high school football programs in Texas, the excitement surrounding the arrival of Friday night lights (the designated day of the week when high school football is played) and all the stuff that comes with it, is nothing like you have ever seen or experienced.
Life is funny in that it doesn’t always work out like it is planned (notice I didn’t say “supposed to”). Fast forward a bit and I had a freshly pressed BA degree and a newly minted teaching certification. I was ready to teach and coach (had to do both in Texas). However, you must understand that Texas takes its drill teams very seriously. Unless you have a teaching degree (check) AND a dance certification, you will not be hired to coach any Texas drill team. Even with 10 years of teaching dance with a private company, I was not “qualified”.
What Are YOUR Qualifications?
I would wager that a good many of you reading this, tasked with managing the social media for your business or office, are not formally trained or “qualified” to do so. Don’t worry. There are many more of you in the latter group than the former. MANY more. That’s ok. That is the world of small to medium sized business these days. So, with the monumental task of driving up followers, engagement and leads, what should you be doing on social media to see results?
Back To The Basics
Along with my 10 years of teaching dance for a private company, I was also heavily involved in sitting on many a judge’s panel for countless competitions. I was constantly bewildered by the teams that would try to wow the judges with flashy moves. These moves, for the most part, were beyond their skill level or capability, and almost always never worked with any effect (other than a deduction of points). These teams were more concerned with showing they could attempt advanced choreography than nail the basics. Why show me what you can NOT do? I swore to myself, right then and there, that if I ever had a team, we would go back to the basics and build from there.
My advice to you, unceremoniously knighted keeper of the office social media, is to do the same.
Perfect The Basics
Remember the “herculean effort” with the high school cheer team I mentioned at the beginning of this tale? We’re there now.
Without a dance certification (I was looking to survive my first year of teaching before setting sights on new certifications) I was relegated to attending the school’s drill team performances as a spectator. And then, the offer to take over the cheer squad in a last ditch effort to save the program fell into my lap. Apparently, someone in the front office actually read my resume and figured I might have the chops given my background. I reluctantly agreed to coach a cheer team. It wasn’t exactly a drill team, far from it, but it was close enough. And, total transparency, I eventually turned the squad into a dance/cheer hybrid.
It was a rag tag group of girls but through coaching and discipline, they evolved into a well oiled, competitive machine. They weren’t the most talented bunch, which in some respects made the drilling of the basics a necessity, but they were tenacious, hard working and never gave up. And, consequently, they became really, really good at the basics. You might even say “perfect” - we took the national title, after never participating in competition, in just 3 short years with a repeat title the next year as well.
The good thing about technology is that it is forever advancing and changing. The bad thing about technology is that it is forever advancing and changing. Don’t be distracted and enticed by the latest and greatest platform. Twitch, Tik Tok and Reels may not be right for your message, audience or online persona. That’s not to say they might have their place, however, focus on the basics first. With my coaching philosophy in mind, below are 5.5 tips on how you can perfect the basics for social media success…
Tip #1: Jumps
Jumps seem fairly simple and straight forward, right? Wrong. Jumps possess the ability to expose weaknesses on so many different levels. A jump done well includes pointed toes, exact leg position, exact height and all squad members landing at the same time in the same place on the mat from whence they took off. It takes strong legs (conditioning) and lots and lots and lots of practice.
Your “jump” is in the post’s copy and hashtags. Like the “simple” jump, so many lack the “basic” skill of fashioning a well-executed piece of copy and the accompanying list of pertinent hashtags. You’re not a public figure or pop star, so stop flooding your feed with copy that is more emoji than substantive spoken language. Your copy should be succinct and tell a story about the photo or educate on the subject or share a part of yourself/business.
Additionally, the use of well-planned hashtags is not only right, it’s essential. Unlike your website that can lean on organics, hashtags are the only way people can search and find your Instagram post. You are allowed up to 30 hashtags so make sure they are doing their job. A more in depth dive into the world of hashtags is in the works, but for now, think of your hashtags in terms of communicating directions to your physical business address. Start general with identifying state, then city, then street then street number. With this model, you work general (state) hashtags and gradually get more and more specific until you are at the street number. Here’s how it would look using Botox as an example…
Tip #2: Showmanship
Showmanship alone will not win a competition, but it will take a good routine up a few notches. Confidence and attitude are key. Emoting during the routine and really “feeling it” is essential as it draws the spectator into the routine with you. And nothing beats eye contact! Looking directly at the audience/judges and flashing a huge smile is gold.
Same for posts! Especially video. Smile. Enjoy what you’re doing. Pretend you are speaking with a best friend, excited about this new product or procedure or whatever. How will others be motivated by your post if you’re not excited about it? If needed, “coach up” your video subjects and get them in the mood to give a great “performance” that translates well in the finished product. And don’t forget that practice definitely makes perfect. Film your video a few times and give yourself the opportunity to choose the best one!
Tip #3: Appearance
Because our cheer squad was a hybrid, we did not look like anybody else on the mat. The default cheer look was impossibly teased hair and oversized hair bows. We came in with slicked back hair and dramatic makeup (more like a dance team) and never EVER a hair out of place. We were unique and we stood out! In a sea of cookie cutter looks, my girls made the needle skip and people stopped to pay attention.
You may or may not see that you are in competition with other social media accounts within your area but you definitely are. You are in direct competition with the business that does the exact same thing you do across town or across the street for eyeballs. Additionally, with the pervasiveness of the internet, you’re also in competition with other content creators outside of your industry as well. Your content is mixed in with clothing companies, car manufacturers, influencers, celebrities, etc. all creating content to grab attention. What are you doing to provide postings that stand out among the avalanche of content?
Tip #4: “Hands On Hips. Smiles On Lips”
When the girls were formed up and it was time to start the routine, I would say, “Hands on hips. Smiles on lips.” This was their cue that the routine was about to start and to get ready. No routine was ready to begin before putting hands on hips and beaming with a big, bright smile. It’s go time!
A winning game plan includes preparedness. When it’s “go time” you’ve got to be ready, got to be prepared to perform. This means having a plan in place. This means a carefully crafted social media post calendar. When you have a plan for posts, you’re not scrambling for content on a day to day basis and you have the opportunity to create a more strategic plan for your month of posts. Plus, with a calendar, and synchronization (next tip - tip #5), your contributing employees have a finite goal in turning in content.
Tip #5: Synchronization
One of the most difficult aspects of any group choreography is making sure everyone is moving at the same time. This includes starting and stopping at the same time, hands and feet raising and lowering at the same time (and at the same speed), jumping and landing at the same time, jumping uniformly with legs level… everything. And when everyone is synchronized, it truly is a thing of beauty.
Same with synchronizing your office with the goals of social media. The more you can include staff in what you are doing, the better. A sense of ownership is a huge benefit to the overall strategy and it makes producing content so much easier when everyone is in the know about what is needed. Due dates and goals also ensure everyone stays on target and focused.
Tip #5.5: Accountability
Building upon the synchronicity of the team, accountability went along with it. When one person messed up, everyone ran laps, not just the person/s responsible for the mistake. It was a group discipline mentality because we knew the team was only as strong as the weakest member. The girls held each other accountable for their part within the routine and everyone strove to do their best as not to let the team down (or make everyone run). We practiced the routine over and over and over until there were no more mistakes (and no more running).
Same with your office team. When tasks are given for social media content, hold them accountable. Like any team, your social media game is only as strong as your weakest contribution. And, with all of the competition for attention on social media, you’ve got to bring your “A” game every. single. day.
To Wrap This Up
Perfecting the basics isn’t easy. Many think that because it is basic, it is easy. They would be wrong. Perfecting the basics takes hard work. It also takes constant work. Once you have the basics down, you’re not done with ‘em. I’m also a huge college football fan (SEC yay!). How many times have you heard a post-game interview with a loosing coach where he explains how the team will “bounce back next week” after they spend time “getting back to the basics.”? Big money programs, big money coaches understand the importance of perfecting the basics. They know that it takes constant attention. It is a well you can always return to as it never runs dry.
You Got This
So, hit the mat with confidence because you have perfected the basics! But, if you need help, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll spot ya’!.
And don’t miss out on all the good stuff across our social media accounts (Follow us on Facebook and Instagram). When you follow, you’ll find plenty of inspiration, education and maybe a smile or two when you need it.