Social Media: yes you should tweet

Warning: I’m going to talk twitter.  Not about things that happened on twitter, but about twitter in general.

Let’s face a sad truth: most actors don’t have a publicist.  Heck, most actors don’t even have enough of a following to need one.  Most actors don’t have a following at all.  Using social media can help.  Oh sure, chances are that you won’t be the next Wil Wheaton, but you can gain a bit of a following.  And even more importantly, you can use social media to network with other actors and other industry types.

I’m going to skip over Facebook, since it seems that practically everyone on the planet is on Facebook, and those that aren’t have decided not to be for some very good reasons.  On the topic of Facebook, I will say this:  since “practically everyone on the planet” (if you’ll excuse the gross exaggeration) is on Facebook, refusing to make use of this social medium may limit your ability to connect with both other people in the business, and with people who might want to follow you.  Maybe I’ll cover this in another post.

But for the moment, I’ll cover Twitter.  To get the basics out of the way, wikipedia describes twitter as: a social networking and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author’s profile page and delivered to the author’s subscribers who are known as followers.

So why would you want to use a “microblogging” service that limits you to 140 characters? Isn’t there a massive signal to noise ratio problem?  Well, the honest truth is, yes.  But you control who you follow, and if someone annoys you, simply stop following them.  The benefits of the medium far outweigh the detriments.  A social medium like Twitter works best when it is considered a two-way communication.  That should be your goal: communication.  People who follow you will do so because they find you interesting.  The best way to keep them around is to be interesting (I know, no pressure).  So, how do you do that?

Well, first off, I’m not an expert.  I’m not a “Social Media Guru” (a phrase thrown around quite a bit these days), but I have been on twitter for three years, so I know what I like.  And more importantly, I know what I don’t like.  Here’s what I don’t like:

  1. Over-sharing. Don’t share things that you wouldn’t share with acquaintances.  Or things that you wouldn’t want a potential employer to know.
  2. Staying “on message”. There are a lot of politicians who try to use twitter, but fail because they don’t consider it a two-way communication.  Check out Jack Layton or Michael Ignatieff.  These two politicians use twitter as a broadcast, just sending words out into the ether, all of them words that stay on their political message.  There is no insight into the individuals behind them.  That makes for bad tweeting.
  3. Infrequent updates. Just like a blog*, you need to update often.  If you only update every week or so, I’ll forget about you.  Worse, there are many users who will purge tweeters that don’t update very often.  You need to make sure that you update regularly to keep you followers engaged.
  4. Flooding. While it is important to update regularly, it is possible to over-tweet and essentially spam your followers.  Nothing is more annoying than a flood of tweets, especially if those tweets don’t present anything new.  Much as I love the Ontario Arts Council, their twitter feed tends to flood its followers.

As you can see, there’s a fine balance.  Tweet regularly, but not too much.  Don’t just broadcast but engage with your followers.  Retweet when you find something interesting that you want to share (its a way of saying “this is cool” about the person you’re re-tweeting).

So, why is this important?  I stated earlier that you could use twitter to build a following.  That’s true.  You can also use it to network with other actors/directors/people interested in theatre.  As a Canadian actor, you know that we don’t really have stars here. We don’t have a machine that makes people “famous”.  If you want to put the word out about the work you do, maybe get a bit of a following, you should use every tool you can.  And twitter is one such tool.

On its own, it won’t make you famous, but it could help.  And it definitely can’t hurt.

* This is me, throwing stones at my glass house. Yes, I know I don’t update my blog as often as I should.

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