You need to brand yourself as more than an actor: Part I
Nobody told me there’d be days like these: Acting talent may only account for 7% of the reason a particular actor would be cast for a role. But, but, but I just want to act… I want to be a great actor… I want fame and fortune, yes – but that will follow if I am just a great actor….
That was the “wrong” buzzer going off, in case you were wondering. Fact is, all those notions have come and gone. Relying on talent and being discovered for your talent? That ship sailed. Don’t get me wrong – having talent is vital, but your ability and skill to grow an audience can enhance and boost your brand. When used properly to support your brand, social media becomes a powerful branding tool that can eventually open up multiple opportunities to add work opportunities
I spoke with a good friend of mine yesterday and we talked about the show he was shooting. He laughed about the hosts and other folks on the show not being talented at all – nothing new there – but what new are the reasons these jamokes got their jobs in the first place: Used to be that obviously untalented people in film and TV got there because of nepotism or worse.. but there’s a new game in town and it’s called “Social Scorecard”
The reason these talent-less and delusional folks got their gigs is because they have… drumroll please:
They’re what we call ‘Influencers’ and they bring with their non-talent, something way more important to TV executives, promoters, PR people, affiliates and producers. Eyeballs.
If you have a following of 20 million people who will receive weeks upon weeks of promotion, press releases, inside Hollywood photos and rumors and what not – you’re just more employable than great actors, huddled in dark theaters with no audience. You simply have to bring more to the table these days, and I’ve been screaming about this for years – diversify, build your online presence and become a one-stop shop for anyone checking you out.
You can do anything – so start acting like it. See what I did there? ‘Act’ like it? Get it? Oh, shut up.
In all seriousness – in addition to having a following, what else is everyone looking for? An actor who can write, produce, promote, understand the big plan and be willing to exploit every known social media and online effort available. Let’s get crackin’…
Why is Social Media Important for Actors?
Whether you want to be cast for more roles or build your own audience, social media can help you accomplish your goals. Social media has become such an integral part of how we live and communicate that actors can cultivate their own audiences and communicate with their fans directly, sans the need of paparazzi or mega media channels. In a way, social media allows someone with a large following to act as their own mini media company. But instead of paying someone else to run PR campaigns and contact communication outlets to run stories, it can all be done by you.
In Hollywood, public perception is everything. Yet so many aspects of how you are perceived are beyond your control. But you can control what your fans read on your social media accounts. In this way, you are able to regulate the information your fans see. Ultimately, your power and leverage as an actor comes from your ability to reach out to your audience by a simple 140 character tweet.
Actors can also use social media as a free, easy method to connect with their fanbase and as a valuable marketing tool to collect feedback. Interacting with current fans creates loyalty and facilitates the longevity of the relationship. Making the effort to ask questions, read comments and have open dialogue provides valuable information as to what fans want to read about and view. Having that information gives you the tools you need to create meaningful posts that are widely viewed and shared, simultaneously strengthening the relationship with existing fans and reaching new ones.
Social Media Affects Your Casting Ability
The number of people that follow you is more than a popularity contest. Your reach as an actor is a valuable tool for promoting your brand, and now your following also has a direct impact on your casting marketability for roles. For better or worse, actors are getting casted partly based on the size of their social media followings, so that studios can leverage an actor’s fanbase to sell the project. Although weighing an actor’s social media power over their acting talent has created some controversy regarding the integrity of the films, an actor’s audience size is definitely a selling point the actor and their talent manager can take advantage of.
According to a report by Variety, “talent agencies and casting directors are ditching open casting calls and instead are searching Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter for their next leading actor or actress”.
Incorporating social media into the casting process has changed the way casting directors and talent agents – even those that have been in the game for decades – find new talent.
For example, veteran US casting director Mike Fenton said last year, “There is no question that today if you have good numbers on social media, you have become a better choice to be cast.” He goes on to reiterate his point by saying, “if it came down to two professional actors, one of whom had great visibility in social media and one who was barely recognizable, we’d go with the one who could get the numbers.” Meaning that social media isn’t the main determinate of if an actor is cast, but it certainly plays a role.
Those involved in the casting process take online videos seriously and use them as a way to judge an actor’s talent, almost like a screening before inviting an actor to the main audition. In a panel discussion at a recent South by Southwest, casting directors revealed that acting talent may only account for 7% of the reason a particular actor would be cast for a role. They suggested actors start recording short films, comedies, and sketches on YouTube and Vine to get exposure.
In this business perception is everything and there are a lot of variables that are way beyond your control, but I’m sure you know that already, right? But you can control what your followers, fans and friends (and casting directors, agents and producers) read on your social media accounts. So you can have some control over the content, right?
Actors can choose to use social media as a free and very easy way to connect with followers and as an extremely valuable (And powerful) marketing tool to interact with and collect feedback from fans, friends and followers AND the business folks that matter.
Interacting with fans and followers creates a deep connected sense of loyalty and builds powerful foundations over time that strengthen that relationship.
When other actors ask questions, read comments and chat back with you they show their support AND they give you feedback . Having that feedback is very useful info because it gives you the tools to create meaningful posts that can be viewed and shared amongst other actors and peeps in the business while simultaneously strengthening the relationship with your existing fans and reaching new ones.
Social Media Strategy
Once you establish your ‘why’ for your acting career, your next step will be to determine your exact goals and develop a social media plan to achieve those goals.
The most effective way to plan for this is to implement SMART goals into your planning. It’s a simple way to create actionable and tactical social media goals.
SMART goals are:
Specific Have you been specific in what you want to achieve?
Measurable How will you know if you’ve achieved your goal?
Achievable Is this a goal that you can realisitically achieve?
Relevant Is this goal aligned with your mission, vision and values?
Time Specific When do you want to achieve this goal by?
After you have developed and recorded your goals, you will need a strategy to help lead you on the best route to reach your goals. Here are the questions you will need to answer to for determine your social media strategy.
The last component of your social media plan is to develop tactics. Tactics are the details of what you need to do specifically on social media based on the strategy you set in order to accomplish your overarching goal.
For example, if one of your goals is to build up your social media following to 10,000 fans, your strategy could be to focus on Instagram because you generally want to reach millennials interested in comedy. One of your tactics could be to post one comedy sketch every week. Another tactic could be to follow users on Instagram through specific hashtags related to comedy that your ideal audience may likely use.
Facebook is the original social media king, with almost 2 billion users worldwide. It’s the site most people join and a safe bet that most actors will probably be at least somewhat active on this platform. Facebook is especially useful for providing great audience insights and tracking information from Facebook ads. Their video stream service, Facebook Live, provides a lot of opportunities for actors to engage with their fans and cultivate a strong following. Be sure to create a business Facebook account instead of solely depending on a personal account to promote your acting. Although Millennials dominate this platform, Facebook tends to have a slightly order audience compared to other platforms, making it a must use if your target audience is over 35.
When it comes to entertainment and celebrities, Instagram is the #1 platform right now. It has expanded a lot in the past few years and now has 700 million active monthly users. As a visual platform, it’s the easiest to upload engaging photos and videos to. With the addition of Instagram Stories, the same feature that made Snapchat popular, Instagram has become the all in one platform. Not only does it have Snapchat-like face filters, it has its own live video function to create deeper fan connections.
Although it is on the decline in terms of attention, Twitter is still a popular platform for actors and celebrities to communicate on. According to a survey done in 2016 by Variety Magazine, Twitter is the second highest used platform for engaging and interacting with celebrities. When it comes to being social, Twitter is the ideal platform to interact with fans directly and keep your name in front of businesses and agents that have the potential to hire you.
Youtube is the platform most used for video content. If you’re trying to make a name for yourself, this is the platform you need to be on to create easily accessible and original video content. Starting your own Youtube channel is a good way to showcase your talent and build your audience to jumpstart your career. As an added bonus, when you add your videos to Youtube you automatically help your search engine discoverability.
Although Snapchat lost a bit of its luster when Instagram and Facebook copied its core features, it’s still a network to consider using, especially if you appeal to the Millennial crowd and younger. It has the allure of being more personal and intimate for fans, making Snapchat a useful tool for deepening fan relationships rather than simply accumulating many unengaged followers.
The act of posting on social media is essentially a small, individual step to reach the overarching and mini goals you defined initially. Although it may seem like what you post isn’t directly helping you reach your long term goals, if posts support your overall strategy, you are progressing forward and getting closer to achieving the goals you have set for yourself.