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What Social Media Does an Actor Need?

What Social Media Does an Actor Need?
Photo Source: Jesse Balgley

Are you an actor wondering if and how you should build your personal brand on social media?  Need to know what social media channels you should be utilizing? How about some rules on how you should conduct yourself as an actor on social media? Check out our guide below, which gives you the inside scoop on how to create a social media presence that’s custom fit for your acting needs and so much more!

Do all actors need to be on social media?

We get it: If you’re an actor, you’ve already got enough on your plate, and you don’t want to add something else to the meal. But we promise that social media has and will continue to have major benefits for your career as an actor. Many would go so far as to say that you really shouldn’t think about starting a career in acting without planning on taking the time for some social media upkeep.

It not only helps with personal name and brand recognition, but it can connect you with peers and industry professionals you should know (and who should know you!). Plus, when it comes to larger film projects, casting directors and marketing departments are definitely paying attention to actors’ social media followings to gauge their online reach—for better or worse.

“Social media is so important,”says Backstage Expert and casting director Benton Whitley. “When an actor comes across my plate, and I’ve never heard of them, the first thing I do is Google them, for sure. I Google you, I go on Facebook and type in your name and see what I can learn about you from there. I look you up on Twitter; I look you up on Instagram. I use everything,because I need to learn everything about you…. [Social media] is what sells you. I see you way more online than I ever see you in person, so that online presence is so important [today].”

Even if you’re naturally opposed to putting your name online and your life on display, social media is something you should consider in a professional sense because, Whitley says, a lack of it will automatically set you a few paces behind the competition.

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“I think what is important as an actor today is that you need to have an online presence, because there are people out there who are so good at it and that are winning at having a social media presence,” Whitley continues. “It makes them appear bigger and more involved than they actually are from the get-go. They create something out of nothing instantly; they make us pay attention, [and] they do it in a great, professional way.”

So that about sums it up, right? Make a social page, and you’re all set. Wrong! Yes, social media is necessary for early career actors working today, but there’s still a lot to learn about what channels you should actually be on, how you should be conducting yourself, and what, exactly, you can get out of having an active social media presence. Read on to learn all that and more!

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What are the benefits of social media for the acting lifestyle?

The best use of social media is to make connections with your peers and with industry professionals like casting directors, headshot photographers, filmmakers, publicists, and agents—the list goes on.

Marketing 4 Actors founder and Backstage Expert Heidi Dean puts it best: “Platforms like Twitter and Instagram are like a huge party where you don't know anyone, [and] the only way you’ll meet someone is by engaging.” That means there are pretty limitless opportunities for you to make a connection by staying active on your own pages and by responding and reacting to what others have to say.

“You can introduce yourself by liking or commenting on their posts or by following them,” Dean adds. “Social media gives you access to industry professionals without having to get an appointment in their office. Don't wait for them to approach you—take advantage of this tremendous opportunity by making a connection!”

Beyond the actual “networking” component of social networking, having accounts across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the like simply keeps you in the loop for industry news, casting calls, and audition and acting advice.

The best (and totally unbiased) option out there? Backstage, of course! As the industry’s number-one trusted source and top casting platform for over 50 years, Backstage can help you kickstart your career, land your next (or first!) role, and get discovered. In addition, Backstage features an almost endless supply of information on both the craft and performing-arts business to ensure you enter those casting calls with your best foot forward. We’re constantly updating our own social accounts (like us on Facebook at facebook.com/backstage, follow us on Twitter at @Backstage, and on Instagram at @backstagecast) to keep our readers in the know on a to-the-minute basis. Don’t miss out!

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What are my social media options as an actor?

The big three when it comes to an actor’s social media presence are Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, each of which can and should serve a different purpose. But there are others that can fulfill the particular needs of an actor in a number of ways, too; YouTube and LinkedIn among them. Below, we break down what you need to know about each one.

1. Twitter
In case you didn’t know, Twitter is used to share messages limited to 140 characters with your “followers” and is an ideal way to succinctly toss out anything from a joke, to a political observation, to a link to an interesting read, or to your latest project. Twitter is also a fantastic means of communication with others in the industry and, similarly, is a super simple and direct way for a fan of your work to reach out.

2. Instagram
Instagram is a picture-sharing app where users post photos or videos and earn “likes” and comments from followers. It’s a great way to keep your network in the loop of what you’re working on; a geo-tagged photograph at a regional theater, for example, will do the trick.

Additionally, “Instagram takeovers” have become quite popular (we’ve even done them at Backstage!). This means a cast member of an on-camera project or theatrical production will log onto a company or brand’s Instagram account for the day and take followers behind the scenes of filming, a two-show day, etc. It’s fantastic cross-integration for the brand, the production, and the individual actor, who can definitely give his or her personal handle a shout out or two.

Of particular interest to actors on Instagram is its ability to connect you specifically with photographers. Did somebody say headshots!? You can either find and reach out to established photographers who you like and would like to work with or, if you’re open to playing model for a photographer who may be a little greener, you could find someone to coordinate a spec shoot with that’ll leave you with a ton of new images while also helping said photographer bolster his or her own brand. We recommend that your headshot is done by professionals, but when it comes to a portrait portfolio for modeling gigs or photos for your website, the more the merrier.

3. Facebook
As the oldest and most popular platform across all social media users, you surely know what the deal is with Facebook. Nevertheless, for actors, Facebook is the most comprehensive social media platform and is also the most essential. Keep in mind, though, that many actors keep their casual social lives and their professional lives separate, even on social media—and rightly so.

Facebook has you covered there by giving you the option to make a fan page for your acting career. This will give you an online space to spend less time interacting with your real-world friends and sharing cute dog videos and more time creating a professional dialogue between yourself and those who are searching for you on Facebook as an actor. It’s a space to add a reel; link to your website; post links to your other social accounts; digitally list your credits in film, theater, and TV; and share news and professional updates that may be of interest to your fans or incite a conversation with others. 

4. LinkedIn
“I know the stereotype is that LinkedIn is for boring white-collar business professionals. wrong. LinkedIn is for everyone,” says Backstage Expert Tony Howell. While this social media platform may not be the first thing you think of when branding yourself as an actor, it proves useful because it’s a space to concisely lay out your résumé with your credits and skills as an actor.

You can add media like your demo reel and headshots, and it helps, too, that everyone on LinkedIn is there with the intent to network in a professional sense. Not everyone likes to discuss work on Twitter; here, you won’t be bugging anyone by reaching out and talking shop—in fact, it’s encouraged!

Furthermore, you have the option here to join acting-specific groups, which, in their best form, will attract like-minded professionals with the singular goal of helping one another along in their careers.

5. YouTube
This is a big one, especially in today’s world of new media and the shifting ways in which media is consumed. YouTube isn’t quite the best place to lay out your credits and credentials; instead, it invites creators to show, not tell, what they’re really made of.

If you’re a vocalist, share a video of yourself singing, whether it’s at a recent showcase or just you at your computer. If you’re an actor, embed your demo reel. Better yet, make a web series with actor friends (or with others you met via the above channels). You should also be interacting with other creators who excite you or you perhaps want to work with one day.

No matter what you’re putting out there, though, it’s important to be proud of it and to be confident that it’s an accurate representation of who you are and what you can do. “[Your] YouTube channel [should have] actual videos that represent you and what your skillset is right now, not what your skillset was five years ago or 10 years ago,” Whitley says. “You’ve got to go through every year and reassess how you’re being displayed online and [make sure] it is actually a valid and helpful and good representation of you.”

How do I choose what option(s) is right for me?

When it comes to this question, the long and short of it is that, as a working actor, it would be most beneficial for you to be on all of the platforms listed above. You never know what medium or quick online connection could lead to your next big thing.

That said, it would be a disservice for you to be on these platforms without the proper upkeep and maintenance; with that in mind, you should only have a professional acting presence on social media platforms that you can realistically groom and update on a regular basis (with the exception of YouTube, which, even if you’re not doing regular web projects, serves as an adequate host for your reel and other clips as they come).

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What should my image be on my social media accounts?

Remember: Social media is meant to build your personal professional brand. And as Backstage Expert Heidi Dean says, “McDonald’s doesn’t use different logos for different locations. Your logo should be the same across all platforms.” In this case, your “logo” would be your headshot. No matter the platform, “your profile should show what you’re most castable as,” Dean says. “Don’t use different headshots on different platforms.”

Need help taking the perfect headshot for your acting needs? Read our Backstage Guide for “everything you need to know” about headshots here.

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And while your headshot may be a constant across your professional Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts, it’s important to adopt a similar shrewdness when posting photos in general. “Publish photos that show you at your best,” says the Actors Market founder and Backstage Expert Gwyn Gilliss. “No silly or obscene photos—mooning someone at a party is a good example. Photos with you on a film set or onstage doing a play give you great credibility. Agents want to know you’re proactive and working.”

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What are the differences between my private and professional social media accounts?

Social media shrewdness is indeed a habit you need to incorporate into your online life in both professional and personal outlets. A lot of actors have a private Twitter or Facebook account with limited visibility so only their friends can interact and see what they’re posting. But even those channels can help inform a casting director’s or creative team’s decision to cast you or have you in for an audition. “Truth is…you need all of that. It helps tell the truth. Your truth,” says Creative Social Media founder and Backstage Expert Tony Howell.

Your personal channels may show you in a more casual setting that still highlights traits that may benefit you professionally. “That photo of you on vacation in your bathing suit? It shows your physique,” for instance, Howell says. “All your photos out and about with friends? They show how you might act in company housing. All the photos backstage or on set? They show that you’re a working actor.”

Whether or not you have a personal social media account and a professional social media account is ultimately your decision, but contrary to what many actors may think, Howell advises that an actor’s social media presence be limited to just one account per platform. “What you don’t want to do is separate your personal life from your professional career,” he says. “Many actors try to do this with two accounts on the same platform. What ends up happening is that you divide your fanbase and double your workload!

“I know we all have different comfort zones surrounding privacy,” he continues. “However, social media is minimizing our privacy (on a global scale). Maintaining a real personal/professional divide is increasingly difficult.” With that in mind, Howell recommends one profile that’s as public as possible. “Why?” he poses. “We hire the people we know, like, and trust. You’re a public figure! Streamline your accounts when possible and stay transparent—yet conscious and strategic—with your daily life.”

How often should I be posting on social media as an actor?

While the most important thing about the output of your social media channels is what you’re posting over how often you are, it’s still important to stay engaged and active on a regular basis. A rule of thumb to this end, according to Backstage Expert Gwyn Gilliss, is to “post frequently, but don’t be a pest! Daily is too much—weekly is probably better.”

What should I be posting on social media as an actor?

When it comes to building a personal brand via social media, it’s important to adhere to (as thoroughly as possible) the 80-20 rule—which is to say that only 20 percent of your posts should be explicitly about yourself and your work. The other 80 should be about other things: sharing others’ work, engaging with other users, commenting on the day’s events, or offering an interesting piece of information (or even a joke!). While social media by its nature hinges on one’s desire for “me, me, me” attention and self-promotion, it’s called “social” for a reason. You have to engage.

“Rookies treat their social media like a television, constantly broadcasting messages out to the world that are all about them. ‘Look at my site! Check out my reel!’ ” laments Backstage Expert Heidi Dean. “Before you send your next tweet, think about how you can engage your followers by asking them questions, providing fun facts, trivia, or a [conducting a] Twitter poll. This doesn’t just apply to your tweets and posts. Even your video content on social media should be more like a conversation. The best live streams engage their audience by inviting questions and comments, not just broadcasting.”

Additionally, that 80 percent doesn’t need to be all about acting just because you’re an actor. “Inform your fans by sharing content that revolves around your other hobbies, interests, and values,” Dean continues. “Because you don’t have to create it, sharing content is the fastest and simplest cure for social media writer’s block!”

So feel free to share your demo reel or post about and link to your latest project—even sneak in a humorous quip about your audition that day, your acting class, your survival job, and more. But also be sure to acknowledge and respond to what others in your network are doing and sharing and to be on the pulse of what’s happening outside of your acting bubble.

Dean concludes that some of the most successful social media posts find a way to inspire those reading them.

“Inspirational quotes are the most shared posts on social media. Why? Because they’re relatable, and they inspire and motivate people to get through their day,” she says. “You can share quote images or turn the camera on yourself. Was it a long week on set or is it show eight of an eight-show week? Why not tell your friends and fans what inspired you to get through your week? You can also motivate your fellow actors by sharing career milestones or unforgettable experiences working with inspiring directors, writers, or actors.”

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Who should I be following on social media as an actor?

We’ve touched on it a bit already, but when it comes to who you should follow on your social media channels, think beyond just your peers to non-acting industry professionals who may have an opinion or a piece of information that you want on your feed.

Casting directors, acting coaches and teachers, writers and directors, photographers, news and acting resources like Backstage and other industry trade publications, and successful actors you admire are all fine candidates for whom you should click “follow.” Then when the time comes, it’s also great to follow some of your upstanding fans, as well. Having a dialogue with your audience is very important for most high-profile actors today.

Can I submit myself for projects via social media?

For this query, we turn to Backstage Expert Gwyn Gilliss: “No. Absolutely not. Social media has very little to do with casting major roles,” she says. “Submissions to casting directors via email through legit agents and managers is the accepted norm. All actors still have to have the talent, training, and marketing tools to qualify and be the right type for the role being cast.”

Casting director and Backstage Expert Jeremy Gordon echoes the sentiment. While social media is a great tool for brand building and networking, it “is not the place to submit yourself,” Gordon says. He breaks down the proper way to go about submitting to casting directors in full below.

There are a few general rules of thumb in this paragraph. This is not black and white. It’s not concrete. It’s not true of every project or every casting director every time, though it’s safe to say this next part is true a large majority of the time. Casting directors use specific industry websites to disseminate the breakdown either directly to actors and/or to agents and managers. When we only send the breakdown to representation and not to actors, that usually means the casting director is only looking for actors who have agents and managers. Most breakdowns for studio feature films and network TV shows will only be sent to agents and managers and not directly to actors. It’s not because we don’t love you. We do. There are many reasons why we do this—(many of which are out of our control and at the hands of those that hire us)—but the easiest to grasp is that there are just too many actors for us to have the time to go through all the submissions we would get directly from actors and those from your rep. When I was casting Season 4 of “Hell On Wheels,” we generally had about 2500 submissions for each guest star and those were directly from agents and managers. Imagine what that number would be if I had released the breakdown to actors. However, if you didn’t know this and wanted to reach out to the casting director on social media, and you know for certain that they want to be contacted on social media about work, please do it the right way. From the moment you make first contact or submit yourself on the appropriate website, your job interview begins. If you apply for a job incorrectly or don’t include the necessary information, you will probably not get the interview. That holds true for any industry whether you’re a lawyer, architect, model, teacher, or actor. The moral of the story is, “Don’t be that actor!” You’re all smart. Don’t leave your intelligence in bed sleeping all day. Bring it with you and use it every single time you have any type of professional interaction. I all but guarantee better results.

Do casting directors, agents, and filmmakers care about how many followers I have?

The short answer to this question is increasingly yes. As Benton Whitley said before, one of the first things he does when he’s presented with an actor he doesn’t know is Google them; that means your social media accounts are some of the first things he is seeing in addition to your headshot and résumé.

In the case your are Googled and found on social media, a sizeable pool of followers doesn’t just look better than tweeting out to 40 or 50 people; it indicates that you know how to conduct yourself well online and that you’re an active user who knows your personal brand and the importance of staying in communication with others in the industry. You’re not closed off.

Talent, of course, matters first and foremost. But the truth of the matter is that there are a lot of talented actors auditioning today. If a casting director is met with two actors who are comparable in talent and can both plausibly fit a role, the actor who has a massive social following is more likely to book the job because he or she can help ensure a greater audience for the project by directly advertising to his or her fanbase.

How do I gain more followers on social media?

“Followers must be earned,” says Backstage Expert Heidi Dean, and part of earning those followers is by instilling a killer first impression. “Before you do anything to build your audience, you need to optimize your [social media accounts],” she says. That means making sure your profile photo, cover photo, bio, and output of posts are all up to date, on brand, and professional-grade. “A great first impression makes people want to follow you. If you skip this step, you won’t get the results you want.”

If you’re new to social media, the easiest way to grow your follower base from the start is to find people within your network and in the real world who you know: friends, family, colleagues, and others. That’s through various platforms’ “people you may know,” “discover,” and/or “who to follow” features. You can also streamline the process by linking your accounts to your email’s address book.

Beyond the social aspect of reconnecting online, it’s important to remember that a lot of your work will likely come from people you’ve worked with in the past (work begets work!), so be sure to comb through your acting studio’s social accounts and more to see if you catch a familiar face or two.

The third step to building your online following, according to Dean, is to find new “fans.”

“If you’re an actor, you’ll want to spend a few minutes every day finding like-minded people in the business to connect with,” she says. “See who your friends are connected to or connect with fellow voice, TV, or theater actors. Follow interesting people who follow the same resources as you (like Backstage).

“If you’re an actor who also creates content, your goal is to get your web series or film content in front of an audience that’s already inclined to like it. Figure out what other TV shows, web series, or films your audience would enjoy and engage with their existing fans. You can retweet, reply, react to their posts, or even follow them. Your audience will grow organically by doing this a little bit every day.”

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Where should I be linking my social media?

You should link your social media wherever an audience might find it. You’ll often see a Twitter handle listed on a résumé or business card, for instance. You should also link your social accounts to one another to combine your audience reach, but better yet, link them all on your website.

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Don’t have a website? Get a breakdown of what to include for the perfect actor’s personal site below.

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How do I turn my social media relationships into meaningful professional ones?

Backstage Expert Heidi Dean offers five simple ways to build relationships with social media. Much of the advice offered in the body of this Backstage Guide will prove useful in engaging with and building online relationships with various social media users, but it bears repeating Dean’s first tip: These relationships begin by you joining the conversation in the first place. One way to do that is by searching and linking to hashtags.

“You can use hashtags on Twitter and Instagram to find interesting conversations to join,” Dean says. “When you use a #hashtag, you are essentially joining an existing conversation. Discover the hashtags other people in the industry are using, and, if you have something interesting or insightful to add, join in.”

Dean’s second tip is to respond to others because “simply creating a profile on social media isn’t enough. To effectively build relationships, you’ll need to have a steady presence,” she says. “Make sure you check your notifications regularly and respond to anyone who replies or comments on your post or tweets in a timely fashion. And don't forget to thank people for retweets or shares, especially if they’ve done so on multiple occasions. It’s another opportunity to start a conversation.”

And just like you’re responding to what others have to say to you, start in on their conversations by sharing and retweeting their posts. “Done over time, [retweeting is] also a great way to get on someone's radar,” Dean says of her third step to building relationships. “If you want to stand out even more, instead of just hitting retweet, try hitting ‘quote’ instead. That way, you’ll share your thoughts or thanks for the piece while sharing it with your followers at the same time.”

With that in mind, these conversations don’t have to be just one-sided responses. Incite a response yourself by asking questions of the people you’re retweeting or sharing. “Asking questions is a great way to start conversations with other industry professionals,” Dean says. Or when you see someone else asking a question, you can answer it yourself! That way, “you’ll get on their radar as an engaged and interested member, fan, or colleague.”

Dean’s last piece of advice is a biggie: listen, listen, listen. “Just like offline relationships, a meaningful conversation online involves speaking and listening,” she says. “If you join a conversation, make sure you read the whole stream before piping in so you don’t comment on the last statement without understanding its context. When you disagree with someone, find ways to speak for what you believe in instead of focusing [on] why you’re against their views. Be sure your thoughts are insightful, positive, and not all about you. Remember: you’re establishing and nurturing relationships.”

In keeping all of this social media etiquette in mind, you’re more likely to get in the good graces of your followers and of those you follow, which can lead to real-world interactions that can benefit your career further. Did you have a particularly good string of interactions with an actor you admire? Or maybe you made an acting coach you respect laugh with a joke. Now that that door is open, don’t shy away from asking them for a coffee! While it’s ultimately unprofessional to submit yourself for projects or audition consideration via social media, a face-to-face interaction will further lock in the bonds every actor need to make inroads within the industry.

Ready to become a working actor? Check out Backstage’s film audition listings!

 

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