Here is the first thing we need to get straight: Social media isn’t going anywhere. Whether you check your Instagram first thing in the morning or recently deleted your Facebook profile, we all know social media is here to stay.
I’m sure by now you have read fifteen articles that have told you that at this point, as an actor, social media is more important to your career than actual talent. I wish I could say that is entirely untrue. The hard truth is that we live in a world where people are dealing with lots of money. It takes a great deal of money to put on a Broadway show or create a new television series. We know that the industry likes to hire celebrities to star in their movies because name recognition sells tickets. So why are we so surprised that industry executives want their performers to have followings?
People are willing to take more of a risk on someone who is not a celebrity if they know that they have built in fans. That is just good business sense and truly we can’t fault the industry for being a business — it is a business. While your business is finding the truth and playing the part, you must remain somewhat social image conscious if you are going to thrive in the current state of the industry.
So, maybe it is time to start looking at social media in a different way. Flip it on its head, and look at it as a brilliant opportunity to cultivate what makes us unique, and — in turn — helps us find our tribe. That tribe of followers can translate into a platform that can truly help you in your career. How you go about gaining your followers, creating your niche, and nurturing your platform is up to you.
Start by connecting and following up with people that you have met in real life. Feel free to reach out to people you haven’t met, knowing they might not choose to engage. However, keep in mind that people who work in casting are basically paid stalkers and we use social media — a lot. My simplest words of advice: Be smarter. Here are some vital tips on how to use social media to enhance your performing arts career:
- You must have a website. I was talking to an actor the other day who said that they had heard that websites were going out of fashion. I don’t know who was telling him that, but websites are essential for actors. You must be easy to find on the internet, especially if you are new to the industry. Your website should have current headshots, an updated resume, and all of your and/or your agent’s contact information. The most helpful thing to have on a website is footage. Put together a reel. Upload some songs you have recorded. High quality footage is wonderful — but if you have to sing into your iPhone, do it! The other day I really wanted to fight for an actor, but when I went to pitch him to my team there was no footage of him on his website or any other social media platform. And while my word is good, it is not good enough without proof.
- You never know who is googling you. That means you never know when someone might find you. What you say, how you present yourself, and who you are connected with creates an image in a persons head. How many times have you seen someone on the internet and made an assumption? Well, if a director or a casting director googles you, they will have a preconceived notion of who you are and what you do. That means you need to make sure that the footprint you have on the internet is one that both really represents who you are AND is something of which you are proud. Take the time to cultivate what it is that you stand for. That doesn’t mean you have to look like someone else or say things that you don’t believe in. Just make sure that who you are online is who we will meet in the room.
- If you are going to tweet, make it worth my while. Be thoughtful. Twitter is a great way to connect with all sorts of people with whom you would NEVER likely get to connect in real life. We love hearing from performers on our Twitter account, @stageagent so make sure to reach out and mention @stageagent. Use your judgment and follow rules that might seem “obvious.” For example, if you are in a show, there is no need to tweet about it every five minutes. If you have political opinions, remember that — while it is important to be an active citizen — there is a way to voice thoughts without offending people who do not agree. Posting pictures that are crude or hypersexual might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Re-tweeting other people is fine every now and then — but make sure that you are creating content, as well as consuming it.
- Instagram is a visual platform — make it interesting! Instagram (and Periscope!) are amazing ways to show how you see the world. With quick images someone can tell a lot about who you are and what you value. If you are using Instagram as a way to cultivate a group of followers/fans, then you have to remember to make your profile public. You also have to remember that your content should have an aesthetic and tell a story. Instagram is basically a public scrapbook. Why not use it to get people interested in the play you are writing? Or to show people what makes you the artist that you are. Using hashtags to draw people to your work is vital. Don’t be afraid that they make you look needy — do what you need to do in order to get people on your team.
- Don’t make it all about you. You need to know what sets you apart from everyone else. But once you have done that, find a way to let other people in. If someone compliments you, say thank you. If someone has a question for you, respond promptly. Share quality content with your network from arts industry experts. (In fact, you can start by sharing this blog post!) Social media is all about connection. It is a privilege, and should be treated as such. Posting pictures of yourself is wonderful. As a lifestyle blogger I do this all the time – just check out my instagram feed (@KateLumpkin)! However, take the time to tag brands. Credit your photographers. Build a brand around yourself that reflects your community-based values. It will only make you look more appealing to other people and can connect you to other people who are passionate about the same things you are!
If you connect with someone, they can see you. If you are smart, and using social media as a way to connect with casting directors and other industry professionals, remember that they then have access to the things that you post. I know this sounds obvious. However, I recently had someone cancel an audition day-of because they were not feeling well. On my lunch break, I was checking my instagram and this person had posted a video of themself singing.
Needless to say, that put a sour taste in my mouth. The truth is the video might have been taken weeks ago. And people cancel auditions all the time due to illness. However, the timing was such that it just put me in a bad mood. When a casting director gives you an audition, they believe in you. They want you to come in and get the job — so to see someone throw away a job without explanation just hurt. None of that needed to happen. A smart actor needs to know with whom they have connected and will remember that what they post might be affecting those connections.
Social media can be daunting. It can be tedious. It can also be a tremendously helpful tool for cultivating relationships, putting your ideas into the world, and finding members of your tribe. Just be sure to be smart. Think about what it is that you want others to know about you — and then really commit to showing your “brand.” The world wants to know about your awesome, so starting sharing it in a thoughtful way, so we notice!
Another way to make yourself known to the industry is to Sign up for a StageAgent profile and keep it updated! As one of the most popular performing arts sites online, StageAgent provides a great way to increase your exposure to the theatre community. But after you sign up, don’t let your profile go stale. As you continue to work, make sure to update your resume on StageAgent. Add photos and a video reel, if you have one. If you have a website, link to it from your StageAgent profile and vice versa. Presenting a complete and dynamic profile helps show off your professionalism and attention to detail. We also love hearing from performers on our Twitter account, @stageagent, so make sure to reach out and mention @stageagent.
How else are you using social media to help further your career? Let me know in the comments below!