Are you an actor looking to market yourself and build your brand? In this in-depth guide, we’ll walk you through how to use Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and more to establish yourself digitally—and offer advice for other key marketing tools for actors, including a personal website and a media kit.
But what is personal branding, exactly? And why does it matter for actors? It’s a fair question—here’s an example from outside the acting world that may help clear things up. Let’s say you’ve cut your finger and need to cover up the wound. What will you ask for? That’s right: a Band-Aid. Even if you bought the generic store brand, you’ll still call them “Band-Aids” because the product’s branding is so ubiquitous that there isn’t even another good word for it in the English language.
As an actor, your personal brand is your story, the thing that casting directors and producers remember about you after you’ve left the audition room. Like a Band-Aid, you want your brand to be the first one that comes to mind for a particular role—and you’ll need to market yourself effectively for that to happen.
- What is a personal brand for actors?
- How do I define my personal brand as an actor?
- How should I market myself as an actor on social media?
- How should actors grow their followings on social media?
- Do I need a website as an actor?
- How do I put together an actor press kit?
- What other marketing tools do actors use?
- How do I network as an actor?
As an actor, your personal brand is a combination of two things: how others perceive you and how you perceive yourself. Actor and brand strategy consultant Ratana Therakulsathit defines personal branding for actors this way: “It’s your essence distilled into a few descriptive words and manifested in the work you put out into the world. Put another way, it’s the impression you leave behind after you’ve left the room and casting directors and other decision-makers ask themselves, ‘Do we want to work with them?’ ”
To define your personal brand as an actor, you should combine self-reflection with an informal survey of friends, family, and coworkers to see if there’s any overlap. This may sound complicated—but actor Ratana Therakulsathit breaks it down into three easy steps:
- How do you see yourself? Fill in the blank: “I am ___” and “I am not ___.” For example: I am organized, insightful, and playful. I am not rude, gruff, and unprepared.
- How do others see you? To get an answer, you could organize an informal survey on Instagram Stories or Facebook or send a quick email to 10-20 people in your circle—or look at past feedback from bosses, teachers, friends and family.
- Do you notice any patterns? See if any words or phrases pop up multiple times across your survey. You can use those similarities to help define (and refine) your personal brand.
Once you have a few sentences that defines who you are as an actor, it’s time to figure out how you can strengthen your brand. Or, if you’re not satisfied with the traits that have emerged from this process, it’s time to consider what changes you can make to bring your personal brand in line with who you want to be as an actor.
One of the best (and most cost-effective) ways to market yourself as an actor is to use social media. Most actors have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram—but LinkedIn, YouTube, and even TikTok can be helpful marketing tools, as well.
A number of actors have used their Twitters, in particular, as a way to solidify and deepen their brands. The Olivier Award-winning actor Lesli Margherita (the first to play Mrs. Wormwood in Broadway’s “Matilda”) made her Twitter handle @QueenLesli and has treated the social media platform as a way to “rule her own kingdom.” Oscar-nominated actor Anna Kendrick has also used Twitter to show off her comedy chops and was (not coincidentally) signed to write a book of essays utilizing her signature brand of humor. Actor George Takei, best known for portraying Sulu on “Star Trek,” has used his Twitter account since the 2016 presidential election and beyond to voice his concern for governmental proceedings and to share articles and opinions with his 2.3 million followers.
Our in-depth guide to social media for actors will walk you through everything you need to know about choosing the right platforms for your brand and creating an effective online network.
To grow your online following as an actor, be polished, genuine, and generous with your knowledge. Excessive hashtagging, generic commenting to gain followers, and brown-nosing via insincere compliments displays a lack of self-awareness. “[T]here’s a fine line between being authentic and annoying,” branding expert Carla Renata warns. “For the most part, people are not dumb—they’ll see through and remember inauthentic, contrived posts almost as much as negative ones.”
Irritating social media behavior even inspired the birth of a viral sensation: Annoying Actor Friend (written by actor Andrew Briedis), whose posts satirized actors’ tendency to humblebrag in overly-long posts on Facebook or Instagram. “Social media is a lot about marketing and publicity,” Briedis told Backstage in 2013. “It’s important to try and figure out what it is about you that appeals to your friends and highlight that part online. There really is a fine line between filling people in on what you are doing and blatant self-indulgence. I genuinely want to know what my friends are up to, and the best people present their news in a way that is casual, unassuming, and not repetitive.”
Social media expert and actor Heidi Dean suggests these strategies when it comes to engaging with followers online and building your brand effectively:
- Take over a bigger account. “Instagram takeovers” have become quite popular. 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 shoutout or two throughout.
- Join conversations with like-minded people in the industry. As long as your interaction is authentic and not simply a play for likes, replying, retweeting, and reacting to others’ posts is an excellent way to create genuine engagement (and gain followers).
- Use hashtags. Hashtags on Twitter and Instagram help you be discovered by new people. If you have a new TV episode airing, track the trending hashtags associated with the show when it airs live, and try to participate in the conversation.
Yes, you need an actor website! A website is basically your entire existence as an actor digitized in one easy-to-find location. Here, you will have your résumé, headshots, clips from projects, as well as your entire reel. Additionally, your website should have a brief bio, which includes a synopsis of your life, if you will, with intermittent professional achievements but also nonprofessional milestones that have lead you to the very day you find yourself reading this sentence.
In a prominent spot on your website should also be relevant contact information: the name and address/phone number/email address of any representation you have, as well as links to all your social media accounts. The importance of a professional and aesthetically pleasing website cannot be overstated, as it will very likely be the first thing casting directors or creatives click when they Google you. This, of course, also means stakes are high not to make any errors. Check out this list of six things that could be wrong with your website, all of which should be avoided or immediately remedied.
An actor press kit is a toolbox of the materials you’ll need to market yourself as an actor. Before the digital age, it was just your standard fare (headshot, résumé), but now, of course, your marketing toolkit is far more comprehensive.
Backstage Expert Heidi Dean explains that, based on whom you’re marketing yourself to, you’ll have to employ a different tool in your handy kit: “Depending on the person you’re trying to build a relationship with, the marketing tools you’ll use will change,” she says. “Some casting directors aren’t on social media and so will welcome postcards or snail mail. Others won’t even look at anything on paper, but love interacting on social media. Even the specific social media networks you use will vary. The director on your last project may prefer to communicate via Twitter and Instagram, but not Facebook. That casting director you’d love to meet may not be reachable on Facebook but you might be able to open a dialogue about your common interests on Pinterest. In short, do your research and you’ll know which tools are appropriate for each contact.”
Other common marketing tools used by actors include blogs, podcasts, and newsletters.
Blogs: An actor’s blog is basically the confluence of his or her social media profiles. It’s a place where you can divulge long-form writing, like an expanded tweet or Facebook status, as well as post photos and videos without the professional expectations of a website.
Many actors have taken up blogging as a way to converse publicly about the more difficult aspects of the business. Actor Patti Murin, who will play Anna in Disney’s forthcoming “Frozen” on Broadway and who has a recurring role on NBC’s “Chicago Med,” has used her blog, “Literally Patti Murin,” to wax on matters such as setting weekly goals, theater message boards, and handling the question that every actor dreads: “What’s next for you?”
Whatever you ultimately decide to do with your blog, be sincere and, specifically, be yourself, particularly as it pertains to strengthening your brand. Here, Backstage Expert Carla Renata breaks down the three ways to blog yourself into a brand.
Podcast: Podcasts are hardly “new,” but the landscape certainly has proliferated in recent years thanks to both the affordability and accessibility of tools to record high-quality audio, as well as the relatively simple software to upload and edit. Not only are podcasts a great resource for any working actor, they’re also a neat way for one to gain a following, discussing subjects relating to the business or entirely outside of it.
“Hamilton” star Rory O’Malley, for example, began a show-biz podcast called “Living the Dream,” in which he shares stories of his own along with conversations with industry pals who are decidedly not of the “dream-living” realm. Emmy Award-winner Lena Dunham, meanwhile, started a podcast called “Women of the Hour,” in which she speaks with other women both in the business and completely outside of it about issues surrounding
Newsletters: Sending postcards to casting directors is no longer the right move; my unofficial poll concluded that most CDs throw them in the trash. Sending an email newsletter, CDs and filmmakers, however, can be a good idea—but keep them to a minimum. You don’t want to clog potential employers’ inboxes. If you haven’t used it before, check out Mailchimp for future campaigns.
Business Cards: While postcards are out, business cards are always in. Remember that it’s not just you giving a new acquaintance your card; you are receiving their card as well. Make sure to follow up on that connection. You can even print your headshot on the card along with a QR code to lead them to your website!
Are you logging your auditions? Use a blank notebook, an audition log, or an app to record your auditions. Remember, marketing is about building and nurturing relationships! It’s easier to write a thank you note when you get home if you know the names of the people who were in the room. If you’re already logging your auditions, analyze your log! Which casting directors are calling you in the most? What shows are they working on next season? You don’t need relationships with thousands of people for your career take off. Focus your marketing efforts on these people!
Get off the couch and find a local group of actors to network with! If you are in NYC, Backstage has its monthly networking event. For a very small fee you can get out and meet new people in the industry! Volunteer at your local film commission or for a cause that supports people in your industry like the Actors Fund. Not only will you be doing a good thing for others, you’ll be expanding your circle of quality friends in the business! If you want to network from home, expand your online connections by joining a Facebook or LinkedIn group of like-minded people.
Polish your digital profiles by learned from other actors with our Social Studies series!