Rihanna, Lupita + the Power of Social Media

Photo Source: Shutterstock; Twitter

Once upon a time, a big-budget feature film was conceived, greenlit, and cast with A-list talent because of a single tweet. Sounds like a Hollywood fairy tale, but it’s actually a true story.

Recently, a photo of Rihanna and Lupita Nyong’o sitting next to each other at a fashion show went viral after someone posted that it looked like a buddy film in which Rihanna scams rich white men and Lupita is the computer-smart best friend that plans the heists.

Courtesy Twitter

Lupita sent the tweet to Rihanna saying “I’m down if you are.” Rihanna replied, “I’m in...” That sparked a tweetstorm with fans suggesting story ideas: Ava DuVernay (“Selma”) to direct and Issa Rae (“Insecure”) to pen the script. DuVernay tweeted she was “Ready to call action.” Rae tweeted she was eager to write it. And then Netflix outbid several other studios for the rights. Incredibly, the film is now slated for 2018.

Inking a feature film deal from a single tweet is a prime example of how the power of social media can create opportunities. Even if you're not as well-connected as Rihanna, Lupita, Ava or Issa, you can use social media on a smaller scale to generate interest and attract creative collaborators. Here are five takeaways from this amazing story to help launch your next project!

1. Start with the people you know.
Your contact list may not be as star-studded as Lupita’s but don’t be discouraged by your lack of connections, resources, or funding. Use Facebook to find people you already know to join your project. Search your friends to find actors, cinematographers, crew, writers, etc. You may be surprised by how many of your friends have the skills you need and would be willing to help you out. If your funds are low, you may even be able to find actors who will work for footage for their reel.

2. Find your mutual friends.
If there’s someone you’d love to have on board but you don’t know how to get past their gatekeepers, why not see if you have mutual friends who can introduce you? It’s easy to do on Facebook. Type the name of the person you’d love to work with in the search bar and locate their personal profile. Don’t message them there, just use it for research. Click on their “friends” and see how many mutual friends you share. Reach out to these mutual friends to see if you can use their name as a referral or if they’d be willing to make an introduction for you.

3. Get on their radar.
If you don’t have mutual connections, use Twitter to get on the radar of people you’d love to contact. Add them to Twitter lists and engage with them regularly. Share their content, reply when you have something insightful to say, congratulate them on their latest success, or simply like their posts. They’ll begin to recognize you and over time, you may be able to open a dialogue with them about your project.

4. Who else is interested in this?
If your project is about a specific cause, interest, or hobby, start interacting with influencers who are passionate about it. These bloggers or public figures can help spread the word about your project and may even be interested in helping you fund it. There is strength in (social) numbers! Aligning yourself with influencers who already know the audience for your project could save you tons of time and money.

5. Listen.
Listening is just as important as talking. Had Lupita, Rihanna, Ava, and Issa not been actively listening to the conversations of their friends and fans on social media, they would have missed a huge opportunity. You can’t just set up your social media and forget about it. You must always check and respond to your notifications and messages. The success of your project and your career depends on it!

Now that you have five ways to make your project a success using the power of social media, make sure you’re creating an awesome first impression on all your accounts. My free 30-page eBook “The Ultimate Social Media Guide for Actors” shows you how!

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

Heidi Dean
Heidi Dean is the industry’s top social media expert for actors. She was a working professional actor for over 20 years and a proud member of SAG-AFTRA and AEA. Now she combines her years of industry experience with cutting-edge social media strategy to help actors open more doors for their careers.
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