The Tragic tale of the yoga teacher who trusted  Facebook

Are you relying heavily on Facebook in your yoga business? Whether you're running your classes on Facebook live or using groups to build your community, I have a little story for you.  A parable of sorts.... 

Imagine you are contacted by the manager of a local gym. He says "You're yoga teacher and I want to offer yoga at my gym." You say to him (because you're super smart) "How much you going to pay me?" "Think of yourself as an entrepreneur," he replies. "I will let you use the gym for free , I'll even let you advertise to all of our members for free. All you've got to do is come in and teach yoga. You get to use the space absolutely free and you keep all the money your students pay you for the classes."

That sounds pretty good and the guy seems trustworthy, so you start teaching at the gym. You put posters up around the building and the manager sends emails out to all the members every week, promoting your classes. It's fantastic! Your classes fill up and soon you're teaching 5 classes every week, each one full of eager students.

Then, one day, you walk into the gym and notice there are a lot of other yoga teachers around. You glance at the gym timetable and its full of yoga classes. Day by day, you notice that you're not getting as many students in your classes any more. So you decide to have a chat to the gym owner and he says:

"Yeah, well the yoga went so well, we decided to bring in a bunch of other teachers. By the way, we won't be sending out those emails about your classes to our members any more, unless you pay for it - it's only a few dollars."


You think "I'll just stick to putting up posters" but when you turn around, you realise that because there are lots and lots of yoga teachers there are hundreds of posters and all your potential students are walking straight past the notice-boards that are now very busy and confusing.

"Look I'm going to help you out," the gym owner tells you. "I've noticed that you struggle with bringing your props in every day, so how about I let you use the storage room for free?" You think "That would be good, it takes up so much time and energy dragging all my props in each time." So you accept his kind offer and put all your props in the storage room at the gym.

But the next day when you come in to teach, the door to the storage room is locked. You track down the owner and he says "Yeah, we had to change the way we were running the business. You can still use the props but you have to hire the off me at an hourly rate." You can't believe he's saying this. "But they're MY PROPS!" you tell him. "I spent ages saving for those. I sewed the bolster covers myself!" The gym owner replies "I know, but they're on my property. If you don't want to pay, that's fine, you can go and teach somewhere else."


Facebook is that gym

Like teaching yoga at this gym, Facebook seemed like such a great deal at the beginning - free space, free marketing, lots of members lining up to do your classes. But, bit by bit, the student numbers thin out, the number of posts your followers see keeps going down and things that used to be free start costing money. Eventually, you might find you can't even get your hands on your own videos or posts - that's exactly what thousands of Australians experienced when Facebook shut Australian media out of its feeds last week. It's a nightmare.

So what's the moral of the story? Don't hand over everything that is valuable about your yoga business to somebody else.

The gym owner in my story did EXACTLY what Facebook has done. If you are relying on Facebook to run your online classes, store videos of your online classes, market your classes to your students, run private groups to stay in contact with your students or anything else, you have handed everything you've ever worked for over to an organisation that, frankly, couldn't care less about you and your business. Facebook proved that last week when they excluded Australian media, health, business and other feeds from Australian accounts.

Make no mistake about it, the students who follow you on Facebook or do your Facebook Live classes, are not YOUR students. They belong to Facebook. You cannot control anything about the way your messages, videos, Lives, groups or anything else are run. And that could backfire in a big way.

I'm not down on Facebook. Despite serious misgivings about the morality of the organisation, I still use it for advertising, groups and getting my message out. But I do not rely on Facebook and I do not keep any of my intellectual property on there. I don't depend on Facebook live, I don't run a virtual studio on Facebook and I don't use Facebook groups to run my communities. Because I know how it's all going to end - badly. Just ask the may Australians who, until last week, relied on Facebook for their local news.

As we navigate our way through the new digital yoga landscape, remember to take care of what is yours - your students, your classes, your intellectual property. Make sure you are not relying on a single organisation to host your work or get your message out. Diversify your assets and build relationships with students in ways that you control. The best way to do this is to build your contact list (an excellent use for Facebook) and use emails to create trust and sell your classes. And as for where you host your classes, Facebook live is good to have in the teaching and marketing mix, but your live classes and recordings will always subject to Facebooks ever-changing rules. Use platforms that give you more control over who sees what you create and how you access your archives. Zoom, Vimeo and a host of other platforms offer much better security. 


Ultimately, only you have your own - and your student's - best interests at heart. Think strategically about how you share your work online and make sure that you're the one earning money from your efforts, not just the 'gym owner.'


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