Dear West End Producer: ‘Has Twitter forced actors to become brands?’

West End Producer West End Producer Photo: Matt Crockett
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I wouldn’t say social media has forced actors to become a brand – rather just to be more aware of how they can market themselves. With the everyday use of social media and importance of having an online presence, actors must now be savvy and know how to put themselves out there.

Many agents expect an actor to have a Twitter account and website – although I wouldn’t say a website is essential. In fact, some actors’ websites look more like webshites, dear.

It is a sad truth, but some directors and producers will actively check an actor’s Twitter followers before offering them the job – and sometimes it can be the thing that loses them the role. Having a bit of a name is important in commercial theatre, and if two actors are perfectly suited for a role, but one has 10,000 followers and the other has 100, it’s obvious who will get it.

So, as you see, it’s not all about talent these days. Particularly in bigger shows, producers want actors who have influence and will help sell tickets.

You ask if social media makes actors aim to be a celebrity. Any actor can be a minor celeb if they have a little following, or have the odd fan who likes their work.

Twitter allows fans to contact actors easily and in the public domain. Some actors love responding to their fans and having an open dialogue with them. However, others simply don’t have the time or energy – and much prefer spending their time concentrating on the show.

Also – you can’t always believe a person’s Twitter account. Sometimes an actor will have bought followers, so it appears that they have thousands, but in fact most of them are fake. This is very easy to spot – as all of their followers will have no followers themselves, and will never tweet. Don’t do it. You’re better off having fewer followers who are real.

Another cheeky thing is when people start their own fake ‘fan’ Twitter pages. It’s very simple to do. An actor just opens another Twitter account and pretends it’s run by their fans – but they’re actually running it themselves (usually alone at night, naked, while staring at production photos of themselves). I’ve even heard of people starting fake Twitter accounts to tweet how good they thought they were in the show. It’s so easy to spot. These people think they’re being clever. But they’re just being desperate divas, dear.

To conclude, the best way actors can utilise social media is by using it to spread the word about their work and allow fans and fellow professionals to know what shows they’re doing. It’s not about trying to be a celeb, or being a brand – it’s simply about marketing yourself. Besides, an actor is their own business.

And regarding becoming a celebrity – if an actor has the talent, they will hopefully get that anyway (although sometimes the talent required is simply having no talent – take Joey Essex for example, dear).

Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer