Ethical Social Media for Pilates

Episode 05

In our global society, social media often plays an integral part in our livelihoods and in our businesses. So, how can we as movement teachers and coaches make use of it in the most ethical way? Make sure you tune into this episode of The Pilates Exchange, where we delve into the big world of social media! Today, we share our thoughts on the ethics of posting pictures or videos of your clients or students and question the motives behind posting. We also discuss why it is so important to have a social media strategy rather than just haphazardly putting stuff out there. We encourage you to think about how to not just create more noise, but really put an effort into creating content that you truly believe in and that elevates our profession as a whole.


Key Points From This Episode:

  • The wonderful world of social media: the good things.
  • Getting a little bit deeper: sharing stories.
  • Being conscientious about showing people (do they want to be there?)
  • Social media posting regulations and ethics (especially in Europe).
  • Posting on social media for business or commercial gain. 
  • An ethical question: should we be sharing people at all?
  • The trolls of the internet: becoming the subject of critique or ridicule.
  • The legal considerations and signing a waiver. 
  • Creating promotional content while being clear about your intentions.
  • The questions we need to be asking ourselves about our use of social media.


HT: Today, we’re going to talk a little bit about the ethics of posting pictures of our clients on social media. I always like to try to give a helpful teaching tip or a tool for you as the teacher or business owner. I do have some tips in this one, but I also have a lot more questions, questions for you to ask yourself of where you are in this ethical debate. I hope that’s helpful. I think it’s a conversation that we all need. This is the beginning of several different conversations that we’re going to be having with various people about it. I am going to be linking to a blog post by Carla Mullins, who is also a Pilates teacher, because I think she wonderfully laid out different scenarios that I think we should be thinking about as we delve into this big world of social media.” 




[0:00:53] HT: Welcome. Stick around if you want to learn about the art and philosophy of beautiful movement mixed with evidence-based exercise science. We’ll be having tough and inspiring conversations with other coaches, experts, artists, and athletes. Our goal is to challenge myths, explore concepts and engage in healthy debate as we dive deep with intrigue and curiosity. 


I’m your host, Hannah Teutscher. I’ve been teaching dance, Pilates, and yoga for over two decades. What I’ve learned is that movement can be the joy that integrates us all together. When we can trust and express ourselves through our bodies, we are unlimited in our ability to change ourselves and our communities for the better. We as movement teachers and coaches have the power to help people experience this work themselves. Okay, everyone, let’s dive in. Exchanging ideas and changing people’s lives one session at a time. This is the Pilates Exchange. 




[0:01:50] HT: If you’re listening to this or watching it on YouTube or any of our social media posts between Christian and I, you’ll see that we have quite a big following of people. Social media has been the way that we’ve grown our business. I think social media can do wonderful things for business. The other thing I love social media for is that it gets the word out for us about various teaching ideas that we have or movement tips. I believe that overall, we’re helping more people than harming [them]. That is what our goal always is: to help people. 


I think if you’re listening to this podcast, that is also what your goal is, is to be furthering your love of movement to other people and you’re listening to this because you like to learn how to do that a little bit better. Let’s talk about the good things about social media first before I go into the other stuff. 


Social media could be really great for giving tips, for maybe uncovering some myths about movement. If you have a great sourced article. It could be also a wonderful way to build authority in whatever your area is through social media and then the other content that you create, say it’s YouTube, blog posts, or whatever you want to get the word out some way. Our particular ones are mostly on Instagram. We have YouTube, not so much on Facebook right now, but at TikTok, we do a little bit on everything. 


It’s a great way to magnify what your message is. I’m borrowing that term from the wonderful women Jenny Barcelos and Sandy Connery from Hey Marvelous and their program. We magnify what we’re saying through social media, which I think is a great thing. We’ve made a lot of great connections through social media, meeting new people that have actually come and visited us here in Germany, which has been that’s been great. We’ve had new clients come in both in person and virtually through our social media. I think there’s a lot of potential there for growing business. 


The way that it works really well is by creating content that is helpful for people and sharing stories. Here’s where I want to get a little bit deeper. Sharing stories is a wonderful way to exemplify how things are going either right or wrong within a method, like if they’re having a success story, that’s wonderful. People identify with stories. In a visual social media site, that’s a great way, right? If you have a picture of someone like a before and an after picture, for example, not my cup of tea, but if that’s your thing, or showing people doing movement. 


Now here’s where it gets really tricky because I think we need to be a little bit more conscientious about how we’re showing people and if they want to be on social media. If you notice Chris and I very rarely have anyone else on our social media channels. The only people that we do have, have expressively asked to be part of our social media like they want that clients, that wanted to share their story or their movement process. 


We have one older gentleman, he’s 73, and he wants to show off what movement can do if you stay consistent with it. He’s one of the fittest people that we have in our studio. Sometimes he makes an appearance if he’s really proud of something that he’s been working on. I think it does work as an inspirational story. In this case, this client has asked us. We have a long-going relationship with this person. He’s been a client for many, many years. That’s, I think, different than sometimes what I see is maybe a studio owner or a teacher, taking social media like maybe a view, a pan of the class, doing something, whatever. Maybe their backs are turned. Maybe it’s not even with their faces, but you don’t know if those clients have been asked to be on social media. Maybe they don’t want to have — 


We have plenty of people in our studios that don’t want to show up on social media. They are against it for whatever reason, either because they don’t want to be part of this conglomerate business of Instagram and Facebook and all that, or they have privacy issues. We have people that have been through abusive situations, and they need to for their personal safety, not have their faces ever shown on social media. There’s that. 


There are also situations, like maybe it’s a very inspiring story for you, like maybe you have a client with cancer, let’s say. That client has beat cancer, and you’ve been a great part of their recovery. Okay, we could say that. Great, but if we use their story without consent, that would be terrible, because they don’t get a say in how much of that and how vulnerable they would like to be. Also, there might be a power dynamic in that. Maybe that person that has gotten through cancer, feels so grateful for the work that you’ve done that they feel like they can’t say no, if you say, “Yeah, can you share your story?” Maybe they really don’t feel comfortable with all those intimate details in there. Maybe it’s not appropriate, but they’ll say yes to you just because you’re you, and you’ve been an important part of that. 


I think there’s that aspect of it that there might be a little bit of a power struggle or a power dynamic that’s not coming from an equal point that we have to be aware of. The other thing is like children. I see a lot of dance schools. I know this is primarily for Pilates, but there are other listeners on this podcast. In Europe, we have very, very strict rules about who, and who we can place on social media, pictures, websites, and all that, and who we cannot. If it’s a minor, we cannot do that. 


I see on Facebook and some, like children in classes and dance classes, having their pictures and videos being broadcast all over the place. That to me is really unethical. This is me coming from now this point of being in Europe. Those kids don’t know where those pictures will show up later on those videos and stuff. I could just say like there’s studios say in the United States, and I’m here in Germany, and I’m watching fabulous young dancers. Great, but how much of a say do they get in how their pictures are going to be used? 


Now, I do think that there’s a difference when the parents are there and they put it on their personal sites. Okay, that’s something else. That’s a different ethical thing, but when we’re starting to take pictures and videos because you want to share a story or share how a child is doing, but it is really about a commercial gain, to be honest, from the studio or from the teacher. They are looking to promote this story, or this image to make their business look better. If we get down to it. I know some of you are like, “No, no, that’s not. I just want to inspire.” Yes, you want to inspire people, but you’re also looking for some gain, or else you might not be doing it in the way. 




[0:09:47] HT: When I started teaching, I felt underprepared and overwhelmed. I needed to learn how to plan my training so that it made sense, but I wasn’t sure what was working and what wasn’t. So many teacher training programs leave out the actual art and business of teaching. This is why we created Train the Trainers. Train the Trainers is designed to give you the tools you need to create a powerful learning environment for your students. 


Gain access to the vault of our collected knowledge where you can learn everything, we have to teach you, whether you are a freelance teacher or a studio owner. The constructive feedback on your teaching with actionable tools you can apply immediately. We can’t wait to be part of your teaching journey and to help you grow in your business. Welcome to Train the Trainers. 




[0:10:36] HT: Then I think it gets, it’s more than a little bit tricky, then it becomes like it might be an ethical question. Should we be doing this at all? Sharing people, especially if they’re not aware of it. I see this sometimes in the yoga world, where after a class and everyone’s down in Shavasana, that’s when they’re lying on their backs, and usually their eyes are closed or in their relaxed position. Then the teacher will take a picture of these people resting in their most vulnerable state. Their eyes are closed. They didn’t ask. 


It may seem harmless. Well, yeah, they’re just resting, but like you don’t know what’s happening in the background for these people. What if it is the woman that has escaped a domestic abuse situation? Now, just as a coincidence, the former partner, the abuser then sees the lady in that class and knows where to look for her. There could be that we don’t know. That’s the point. We really, we don’t know if that’s okay. It could also be, which I’ve seen, unfortunately, that we do have a success story, say a client went from not getting a movement very well to a very beautiful movement for that person. They’ve asked us to track that with video, not me personally, I’m saying this is what I’ve seen. Then they post it. The owner posts the video, even with consent.


The trolls that are out there in the social media world can be brutal. I was seeing poor people get torn apart for what should have been an inspirational story. This person couldn’t do this, now they could do that. This is fabulous. Great. We all want to see that like that’s inspiring, but that person, that client that had created that success in their own bodies, then gets torn apart for the size that they are, they shouldn’t be using those springs on the – or what about their shoulders or why isn’t this correct? Because everyone feels like they need to jump on the bandwagon and tell them how they’re not good enough. 


We’d completely tear down the person that had that success in their bodies. They just wanted to share their story. If it’s done on a say, what I’m saying is like on a business’s website, on a studio’s website. Look at how great this client is. Then it gets torn apart by other teachers. I’ve seen that so often. It is terrible. Number one, it’s completely unprofessional from other teachers. That’s, “Huh, don’t get me started on this.” But it could be that that person, say that client, that student was unaware of what could happen with their image out there. That they could be the subject of critique, or ridicule, or maybe it goes fabulous. We don’t know. But that unknown is what’s scary. 


When we as teachers and studio owners should be protecting our clients, we should be creating safe places for them to learn and for them to experience movement in their bodies for them to do all of that, but I think sometimes when we take little snippets out and we place them in areas that can’t be controlled by us, that it becomes a little bit dangerous. It becomes a little bit icky. It becomes a little bit like maybe unethical. Maybe really, that’s what that is. There are legal considerations that I think many studio owners don’t think about when they are posting that, like do you really have – did they sign a waiver? 


Here you would have to and in Europe, you’re going to have to sign a waiver if you’re using someone’s likeness, their pictures, their videos on social media or on your website. You must get that waiver. I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all. There are also, other instances where I’m not sure if it’s a great idea with what people are doing, especially when it’s in the commercial area. Say you’ve gone to a continuing education workshop, and the provider wants to create promotional material for their next one. Is it so clear to you when you’re there that they will be taking pictures or videos that will be promoting? Do you feel like you have the right to say, “No, I’d not like to be part of that?” 


Even just the simple picture of everyone all together at the, “Yay, we’ve got our certificates.” Which is meant to be like, yes, we’ve accomplished it, but the provider of the continuing education is going to be using that for promoting their product again. Is that something that you’re comfortable with? Did they ask you? Did they let you know that that’s what they were going to be doing? Interesting, right? Maybe it is harmless, but I think intentions do matter. I think being clear with those intentions is important. Even that conversation like, “Hey, can we do a group photo? I’m going to be using this for my website. I’m just so excited about it.” Do you feel okay with that? Great or not? “No, I’d rather not this time. I’ll skip out.” Perfect. Good. Sign the waiver. 


The waiver is not just for the person that has their likeness, their picture out there. It’s also for you, the teacher, the studio owner to protect your business. Here you can get a lot of trouble for doing something like that if you don’t have express consent, and rightly so, but like, that could become very quickly a financial burden if it got that far. I would love for you to consider those concerns that I have. I’m sure you’re probably also thinking, ‘Well, then what do I post on social media?” Well, I think there are a lot of things that you can post without getting into that ethical icky area. 


If you look at Christian’s or my social media, we are – I would say 98 to 90%. It’s only us and what we’re doing, because we think that the information that we’re giving is important, and it’s helpful. that’s what we come down to. Again, circling back. It’s about sharing stuff that will be a value, not just creating more noise in the whole digital world. Posting ethically, I think there’s a major part of that too. It’s not about just doing it to do it for the algorithm. There are a few social media, say, gurus — they’re not gurus, that’ll say, or account managers, they’ll say, “Just keep on posting is for the algorithm.” For the – just content to put it out there and not to be thinking about the impact on other people’s lives, or just to create crap to put it out there, just so that there’s something on your feed. 


I don’t know if that’s the best use of your time and your talent, like I said at the very beginning, I don’t know if I have any answers in this podcast. I think I have a lot more questions that we need to be asking ourselves, how do we want to be using these tools of social media to help what our messaging is, to provide value, comfort, or information going forward? I think it’s a huge, huge topic. I think it’s an interesting one. 


If you’re interested in the strategy of what we’ve built of using social media, that is part of our Train the Trainers program, because we think it is incredibly interesting and important to have a strategy instead of just putting stuff out there, because if it’s just out there, it’s a waste of time to know how you want to structure what you’re doing in order to, like I said, not just create more noise, but to have a product out there that you truly believe in that elevates our professions as a whole. 


Let me know what you think in the comments. I’m going to link to Carla’s wonderful blog post. A couple of hers are really super interesting to start questioning what we’re doing. Wish you all happy teaching. Bye.




[0:19:31] HT: Thank you so much for joining us today. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. A great cost-free way of supporting us and the podcast would be to give us a five-star rating. You can also look down into the show notes and grab any one of the free resources for teachers. I hope to see you next week on The Pilates Exchange. Happy teaching, everyone.



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