Careers Clinic: Am I using social media incorrectly?
Not having been to drama school, but having done some weekend and night courses, I am doing everything I can to build up my profile as an actor. One of the ways I have seen other actors do this is through social media, so I spend quite a lot of time online, following people on a number of platforms.
I must admit that I have also invested in buying myself some ‘followers’ – not so many that it looks suspicious for a newish actor, but a couple of hundred so that my profiles look respectable. I try to interact with as many high-profile people as I can, liking and reposting all my favourite actors’ messages, as well as stuff from casting directors and others.
While I have had the occasional ‘like’ and even a few thank-you messages back, most of my social media interaction seems to be going out rather than coming back in. Not only am I struggling to find new or interesting things to say, but I definitely don’t think the hours I’ve put in over the past six months (not to mention constant checking to see if I have had any responses) have helped in any tangible way. Am I wasting my time, or am I just doing it wrong?
JOHN BYRNE’S ADVICE One of the accusations made about social media is that it is the opposite of human interaction. I think it is useful to imagine that your favourite social media platform is a room full of people to meet, who might be useful to your career.
Tucking yourself away in a corner, making small talk with people you already know, isn’t going to expand your range of contacts very much. Alternatively, starting to approach people at random, screaming your name in their ear and barging into existing conversations so you can talk about yourself not only creates the wrong impression, but also means that the people you already know will start distancing themselves pretty rapidly.
Sadly, this is a fairly accurate picture of how some new – and not-so-new – social media users operate. Actors are constantly being told to network, but not given much advice on what networking actually is. Perhaps the biggest myth (in real life or online) is that networking is somehow a substitute for actually working.
All the contacts in the world won’t be of much use in moving your career forward if you haven’t honed your acting skills and made a proactive career plan, so that there’s something to move forward in the first place. In that fact also lies the antidote to shameless self-promotion on the one side, and the ‘I haven’t got anything interesting to say’ block on the other. Despite the ‘social’ title, your aim in using social media is actually to move your professional career forward and, as with most activities, the main reason that the kind of professionals you want to interact with (be they casting directors, producers, or agents) are spending time on there is to move their own businesses forward.
At a very basic level, this actually takes the pressure off you to be fascinating all the time – instead you can start off by following accounts that are of interest to you and the kind of actor you are aiming to be, reposting what you find interesting, and commenting when you have something to say.
This has the twin effect of bringing to the attention of likeminded people items they may have missed that they will find useful, as well as giving them a picture of who you are without resorting to screaming or the other (equally counterproductive) ‘actor on social media’ technique: blatant flattery. And yes, you’re right – it may take longer to build followers and a social media presence this way, but at least this time you’ll be building a presence that’s actually useful to your career in the real world.