These days, social media is everywhere you look. From the president’s multiple daily tweets to your grandma’s endless Instagram photos of her favorite cat, it seems like everyone is constantly on social networks these days.
With all the time we spend liking, retweeting and snapping, sometimes it’s hard to imagine how any work gets done!
But for actors, developing a strong social media presence is a part of the work, a vital and important part. Indeed, these days building a brand as an actor is such an important aspect of the job that it’s surprising how many people view it as a chore or a nuisance, something to attend to while sitting on the toilet or riding the subway.
This is surprising because it’s no secret that casting directors and producers grab their phones and look up actors first thing when they’re considering casting them. Just as you and I routinely try to connect via social media when we meet a new friend, set up a date, or apply for a job with an unfamiliar company, casting directors also look to the web for instant research on you.
So maybe a better way to think about developing your online presence is to think of yourself as a curator: the person responsible for presenting how you appear to the world. Here are a few rules to keep in mind while you’re curating the work of art that is you!
1. The internet is forever
It’s also surprising how many people think they can tweet or post something in the heat of the moment and then, when cooler heads prevail, take it down and issue an apology, thinking that everything will go back to the way it was before. They’re dead wrong. The same lightning speed we enjoy that allows us to post instant hot takes on the news of the day or commentary on a friend’s post means that whatever you say is instantly transmittable to the entire world. And that post or tweet is never going away kids, not really. So the first and most important rule to remember when you’re in the process of building your brand as an actor is that social media is your introduction to the world. This is your calling card; people do and will judge a book by its cover in this case. One ill-advised post can become a label, and you will likely never have an opportunity to change the opinions that it generates, even if they are unfair. This applies not only to individual posts, but also to the overall tone of your social media feeds. Yes, we all have frustrations in this modern world. And yes, it’s instantly gratifying to vent by tweeting or posting something about crappy service in a restaurant, or a bad airline experience (are there any good ones?) But if everything you post is a complaint, that creates an overall impression. If you come across as a person who is always bitching about something online, you may never have a chance to meet in person and show them the cheerful, easygoing, talented, good-looking, charming and humble actor that you actually are, one who is a delight to work with. So keep this in mind: to the world, you are what you tweet. So let this be your guiding principle: Do you really want potential casting agents or producers who might hire you to read that thought that’s burning in your head right now?
2. Acting (and tweeting) is listening
Much as we as actors are trained to listen to our scene partners, building a successful online brand hinges on first listening to what is being said. Far too many people in general rush to post a comment or tweet on something without fully understanding or even knowing what was said in the thread previously. Think about how many heavily commented-on Facebook posts you see in which subsequent commenters say the same damn thing that has previously been said a million times, or who wildly misunderstand the conversation and say something off-point or offensive in their rush to post their thoughts. This is just one example of not listening. Another is that far too many performers and other creatives on social media treat it as a one-way avenue of communication, as if their posts about their projects are not only the most important thing going on, but the only thing going on. You have to step back and realize that everyone else has projects too, and our own projects are what are at the forefront for us. So be sure you pay attention to the network part of social networking: comment on friends’ posts about their auditions and shows. Like and comment on YouTube videos friends and colleagues post of their work. Pay attention to what other people are doing and treat their work with the respect and enthusiasm you hope will be forthcoming for your own projects. By doing this you will not only cement friendships, you will present an image of an engaged, enthusiastic person who an instrumental component at the hub of the greater network of artists in your community. In other words, you are someone who could add value to the networks of the casting directors and producers you meet!
3. Don’t be like Kim
As much as we all want to build a following of Kardashian-like proportions, the only way to work your social media is to put in the work–honestly. Buying followers is not only shifty and deceitful, it is easily exposed through sites like TwitterAudit. And while the ego-stroke of suddenly seeing yourself with 10,000 additional followers might momentarily be nice, it is ultimately hollow if those followers are bots. And once it comes out that you buy followers–and it will; everything always comes out–the portrait it paints is of an insecure, ego-driven person obsessed with image over substance. (A Kardashian, in other words.) You are an actor, not a shallow, vapid media vampire grubbing for attention. Do the work and the rewards will follow.
4. Stay gold, Ponyboy
The Golden Rule is vital to building a successful online social media presence. Treat others the way you want to be treated: with respect, enthusiasm and celebration of the good work they are doing. One secret that is apparently little known these days is that you don’t always have to comment on everything. If someone is excessively negative, starting a pissing contest with them is probably your worst option, no matter how mad you get. Mute them, unfriend them, do whatever it takes to remove the negativity from your feeds and your life and you’ll be better off for it, both personally and in terms of your social media brand. Positivity begets positivity, and positive actors book jobs!