Ah, another day, another public figure tweeting their point of view on the latest trending topic. Simultaneously, the notoriety-seekers among us brazenly reveal their most intimate life moments in pursuit of likes and your relative is just sharing adorable cat videos. Then, there’s you. As a budding actor, you’ve been told that having a solid social media presence can benefit your career, which given the current virulent virtual landscape may cause you some amount of angst and confusion.
How exactly do you play to win in this eclectic, hectic cyber sandbox? After all, you’re an artist, not a digital marketing expert and when you’re starting out you don’t have a publicist to help guide you along the way.
While there are plenty of nuts and bolts social media tips available online covering areas like the best days to reach an audience, the public relations perspective behind social media for the actor is rarely addressed. Yet, understanding the “why” behind the “how” can dramatically demystify this endeavor and guide your online activity.
So, here’s some insight into what you should and shouldn’t do when you’re on social media before you have a publicist.
1. Keep to business.
You’re on social media for one reason: business. For a developing actor, social media is not so much about the social as it is about media. Because you’ve chosen this profession and your goal is singular, you don’t get to be like your friends. Although your content should feel personal and authentic, the sole purpose of posting is to leverage the business of “you.” If you must have a separate, personal Facebook or Instagram feed because you want to be able to share other things with friends, go ahead and make accounts but make them private. Just keep in mind that it’s easy to access and screenshot private accounts these days so you still need to be smart about what you post.
2. Work to build social capital.
It’s one thing to share your unfiltered opinions on social media if you’re a working actor who’s banked both millions of dollars and public goodwill, and quite another if you’re an unknown trying to make rent. Don’t get ahead of yourself by assuming you have the same level of professional resilience as an established star. It would be like boarding a flight as a passenger and expecting to pilot the plane. Can you really afford to alienate the internet before your career takes off? You need to log a lot of credits and public support before earning your license to fly. Besides, you should save your bully pulpit posts for when you’re well-known and can actually influence others.
3. Praise others, but be careful of critique.
Go to town praising fellow actors, filmmakers, and projects. Be careful of critiquing or criticizing any person or project specifically, or even the industry itself. For starters, you’ll sound like sour grapes. Second, the universe has a wry sense of humor and a year from now, you might find yourself taking a meeting with the director whose movie you flippantly roasted on Facebook last week. Awkward. No, you don’t have to love everything that comes out of Hollywood, but neither do you have to comment. As a new actor, there is absolutely no upside to denigrating anyone in the industry, but there is a definite downside.
4. Don’t respond to critics.
Now for the toughest PR principle to swallow and follow: You don’t get your day in court. In other words, if someone posts a snarky message about you, your friends, or your project, you should never respond. At least, not at this point in your career. This might feel counter-intuitive because it’s natural to want to react, especially if you feel personally slighted. But remember, for you, social media is about business. If you do reply (even nicely) you automatically lose for three big reasons. First off, you feed the story. Chances are good not everyone saw the hurtful post and replying introduces it to more people. Although this may appeal to you because you want to highlight the perceived slight for the world to see, you’ve really only extended its lifespan another day. But if you don’t feed it, it goes away starved for attention.
By responding, you’d also reinforce the negative. Suddenly, your name is once again associated with a disparaging post and that’s not good. Finally, perception is everything. If you respond, it means you have nothing better to do then answer this troublemaker’s missive and if you’re serious about your career, that should never be the case.
The bottom line: While you don’t have a publicist, you can play nice on social media even if others aren’t doing the same and achieve everything you need to kickstart a great career.
*This post was originally published on Sept. 12, 2019. It has since been updated.
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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.