"Every artist was first an amateur." -Emerson
Recently, an up-and-coming actor friend paid me the wonderful compliment of following my advice regarding how to promote herself on social media. She listened to me and almost instantly received some very exciting opportunities. Like many women, I adore hearing the words, "you were right," but when those words are coupled with the satisfaction of seeing someone worthwhile start creating the opportunities she needs: bliss. It didn't hurt that just days earlier, she had still been fighting my suggestion to create a Facebook page for herself as a brand, saying sorry, but she felt that was "icky." Sorry? Don't apologize to me, Kid, I'm not the person actively thwarting my own career. Nowadays, if you're not taking advantage of the myriad of opportunities available to you on social media to discover and promote your brand or voice, and in so doing, generate more resources, you're only sabotaging your own goals. Even more irritating, someone else, someone who is far less shameless in their hustle and flow, will be using Facebook, and getting ahead.
"All" my friend did was create a Facebook page for herself as an actress, and link it to her Twitter account. A seemingly small step, but, by creating that page, she was announcing herself and her experience to the world; she was announcing herself as a professional actress engaged in developing her brand. She took herself and her ambition seriously enough to create a one-stop resource, where casting agents, directors, playwrights and her fellow actors can experience her personality and the depth of her abilities. She made it easy for others to help her get the roles and opportunities she wants.
As a coach, and former playwright myself, I frequently have artists come to me with what I consider very realistic goals: they want the chance to bring forth the ideas inside of them, and to be taken seriously. They want, for example, to stop being bartenders who make films on the weekends, for example, and become film-makers who used to bartend. When I ask them how they're promoting themselves in order to build what they need... um. Around here they start refusing to make eye-contact, and get all sheepish as they admit, that, welp, a while ago, they gave their brother's roommate $500 to build a website, but nothing much happened; or, they don't "do" the Twitter, that's for teenagers. (My all-time favorite was the actress who asked me, with great seriousness, if I was sure she could even use The Twitter on her iPhone. That was a day wherein I had to remind myself that 1) I can't fix stupid, and 2) alas, it is still not socially acceptable to drink vodka out of a water bottle at 9am.)
Listen. Social media isn't going to magically solve your problems. You'll get out pretty much exactly what you put in. Some people are on Twitter having discussions about the meaning of life, or what to name the stray dogs in their Sochi hotel rooms, and other people are sharing dick jokes. C'est la vie. But if used correctly, platforms like Twitter, and Facebook can allow you to show, not just tell, your talent. Show your talent to the world, by the way. Show your talent to people around the world who otherwise would never have heard of you; people who can help you. So, if you're boycotting Twitter, Pinterest etc., because you don't understand the hype, or you think it's stupid... listen, Twitter's heart will continue on. Twitter will be okay. All you're doing is boycotting your ambitions. And I think that's a damn shame.
Here's a few ways to get started:
1. Present as the professional you are: Have some empathy for your goals, and realize that it's very hard to sell if you have no website, or if the site's been "under construction" since 2011, or if your Twitter account in no way indicates what you're interested in, or why I should care, or if the reels on your IMDB.com page would make even Vin Diesel cringe. Check out the websites and social media of people in your industry: what are they doing? You're responsible for how you present. Check out the people you admire: how are they presenting? What information do they display, front and center? As Picasso said, "Good artists copy, great artists steal." See what format, appearance, and platforms are used by the people whose careers you admire and get inspired. Check out a website like www.weebly.com, to get started.
2. Use social media to show your talent, instead of just talking about it. If you're an actress, why not have a Vine account and make mini-movies of you performing, or back-stage, in rehearsals or even on tour? Let me live vicariously through you, and I'll be hooked. If you want people to care about your ambitions -- and yes, you do -- allow them to share your life, and your passion. If you're a makeup artist, with aspirations of one day being featured in Allure, help the magazine's editors discover you by creating Pinterest boards devoted to the unique aspects of your talent: are you amazing at eye makeup? How about boards showing off your best date-night eye looks, or the season's sexiest trends? Or the best makeup available for under $50? Give me a reason to be care= SELL YOURSELF! If you're a dancer, get on Twitter and follow the companies that inspire you. Join the conversation. This is your opportunity to speak directly to artistic directors and casting agents. This is your chance to distinguish yourself. It won't happen overnight, but if you regularly reach out, and demonstrate your passion, and have a solid website, even a Tumblr account documenting you and your experience, don't think that people won't eventually come sniffing around.
3. Use social media to develop and discover your talent. If you want to write, for example, and you don't have a blog... no, no, I'm not angry, just disappointed. Why wouldn't you take advantage of a free platform to present and articulate your vision? You were hoping that one day your talent would spring, fully-formed, from your procrastination onto the New York Times' Op-Ed page? Or, you know, you could realize that everyone has to start somewhere and commit to writing even a paragraph every single day, as you nurture and develop your talent. "Oh, Carlota, you Luddite; do you also churn your own butter?"
4. Use social media to present as the artist you wish to become. "I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be, until finally I became that person. Or, he became me."-- Cary Grant. For many artists, the biggest obstacle to them fully investing in themselves is their own inability to believe, in their heart of hearts, that yes, they could be the film-maker, photographer, singer, whatever, they so yearn to be. And if you can't convince yourself, it's virtually impossible to convince the people who might otherwise hire you. You have to start seeing yourself as the artist you want to be, in order to become that person. Start valuing your art so that others may care.
5. Understand that different platforms reach different audiences. You'll have to spend some time thinking about who exactly is your ideal audience. What do you want people to take away from your on-line presence and personality? What are you trying to achieve? Identify your goals so you can work backwards and create a social media strategy designed to attack and achieve them.
6. Numbers don't matter but content is king. Some people are so mortified by the idea of starting a Facebook page, for example, and having to ask people to "like" the page, and having, for a while only 65 likes, that they dismiss the whole idea. And yet, if you have 65 people who are commenting on your page, and sharing your status updates... it's not just 65 people seeing that you got the lead role, but their friends, and friends of friends. And you truly have no idea whom your friends know. Also, yes, not all of your friends will support you, but so what? That's their loss. Because some people will change your life with their generosity and support. But no one can help you achieve your dreams IF YOU DON'T HELP YOURSELF!
So. I'm curious: what are you waiting for?