Yes, social media is absolutely terrifying, especially if you're a creative! A lot of what we do is based on personal experiences, traumas, opinions etc that to open yourself up on something like Facebook feels like too much of a burden or an unnecessary extra thing to do. But if you want people to find you... you should give it a go.
The fact is, I'm an unrepresented screenwriter who has had two features produced and multiple short films. I also consult on other peoples projects and help to make them ready for the screen... In fact the last time I actively tried to get an agent (fair enough it was a while ago) I think I got two rejection letters and a lot of no responses. Disappointing? Yes, but not when you look at the bigger picture. Do you need an agent right now? Or do you need to focus down on making good content and finding your audience?
I cast about 60% of my debut feature actors by meeting them on social media, be it twitter or Facebook because they had heard about the film and approached us directly about being genuinely interested in whether they could be a part of it. I wouldn't have met half the people I now call regular collaborators were it not for social media, both through the accounts linked to my work but also through people personally reaching out and making themselves and their interest known.
Why on earth would you deprive yourself as creative looking to get stuff made by isolating yourself from the hundreds, if not thousands, of people out there who might like to get involved and make it happen with you?
I also managed to make a distribution sale on my second feature to a distributor who found the project via social media and loved the concept! They became our American/Canadian distributors just from a meeting on twitter! So lets break down the main social networks and how you could use them to market yourself to potential collaborators
Lets start with the obvious one, the big one… Facebook. How obviously there are a lot of criticisms aimed at this particular social network for it’s somewhat lenient view of client privacy however lets discuss the rather fantastic ‘pages’ element of the site because that I think, whether you have a profile or not (why not everybody else does?) it’s important to have a professional presence on the thing.
Pages on Facebook allows you to create your own micro-site in a way that can link potential clients and colleagues to your websites, your showreel, testimonials and above all else, allows those people to feel connected to you. Not only does having this page connected to a personal website (more later) help your S.E.O (search engine optimisation) but it also starts to build a web of social proof of your ability to both do your job and promote yourself, which is an attractive trait and creates a trust that you are a real writer/professional, with real credits and the distinction is important.
Does your favourite celebrity have a Facebook page? Your local cafe where you sit to write or create your next masterpiece? The cinema you went to last week does as well… so why on Earth don’t you have one? You’re a business, a brand and having one is an invaluable part of creating a scenario in which that can happen for yourself. It’s the easiest thing in the world to set one up, requiring a maximum of 5 minutes of your time and a recurring hour of your week to post informative updates and interesting stuff to your followers, which you can either invite yourself or spend a little money promoting your page to add.
Now of course, comes the tricky thing of what to post and what not to post and I’ll concede here that getting it wrong is probably worse than not doing it at all. But it’s actually fairly easy to get it right, once you decide on your brand.
I guess the point here is that nobody cares about your dinner, how amazing you’re feeling today and certainly it’s not a platform for you to build any kind of narcissistic image of yourself (although we all know somebody that does) and even though you can ‘buy’ Facebook likes on your page into the tens of thousands, NOBODY is falling for it.
If you’re flicking through looking at pages and somebody has say, 12000 likes on Facebook and yet most of their posts have less than 50 likes, maybe one or two comments, then this is a sure fire giveaway that this person has paid for their likes. From experience, this is actually a really good way of figuring out what kind of person you’re dealing with and that, if they want to lie about how famous or interesting they are, their deceit probably doesn’t stop there. If you do it, you’ll be setting up a red flag for experienced industry figures and if you spot it, take note of the red flag warning and get out of dodge.
Twitter is still one of the biggest social media sites in the world. Obviously, the longer things go on with it the more people suggest it has a problem with innovation and that may be true but with a lot of film fans, film makers hanging out on twitter, a surprising amount of business networking happens on there. In fact, when I was casting my debut feature (Survivors although Extinction was released first) I actually met one of our lead actors through Twitter and a whole bunch of the crew found us on there because we were so active. It helped us build a kind of buzz around getting the film made and momentum around your project is crucial, once you have it you must never let it go.
The use of twitter as a fundraising platform has certainly declined and with good reason. The rise of crowdfunding has justifiably and wonderfully created outlets for talented filmmakers who maybe don’t have access to the kind of money they need to find an audience and express themselves, but on the flip side, it has also led to a saturation in the fundraising market for such projects who may have been built on goodwill that have not delivered in a timely fashion or have outright failed to deliver a film in any capacity. My own experiences crowdfunding in those early days were wonderful, we connected with so many amazing people who I still talk to and chat with today as friends and associates. We would never have met without that connection on twitter and it’s worth thinking about that in terms of not just your access to audience members but their access to you… it works two ways. Always.
One of the main things I see happening on twitter is that people post once a week and wonder why they don’t gain any followers or interest, and so they give up. Unlike Facebook, Twitter is an instant medium. A tweet is there and then it is gone, lost in the billions of other instant messages that are shared. To really succeed with twitter, you have to love it and invest time in it… you actually have to want to do it, you have to enjoy actually talking WITH people as opposed to talking AT them.
I’m going to sound like a broken record here but again, this is the kind of platform where you can buy likes and follows. And again, I don’t really think anybody is buying the illusion of it.
As an aside, use your hashtags appropriately and not just as cynical attempts to get more followers, this isn’t a vanity parade, or at least it shouldn’t be if you want to be taken remotely seriously.
This is the platform I have the most problematic relationship with. Firstly because I really love offensive or politically incorrect memes and humour generally and that’s not always the kind of thing you want people to find out about you first! I learned the hard way to be a little more careful because things can really be taken the wrong way and on the internet, everybody is far more vocal than they would be on the street to you!
Secondly, it’s a more personal platform, at least in my opinion. You do see more people posting photos of their kids special days or special moments which is great but it means you must always be mindful of how much you want people to know about you. I think it’s fair to say we don’t always take our whole selves to work with us and the same is true here, really for all social media I suppose.
You don’t have to spend all the time discussing your career, your social media presence should be a reflection of you that in some ways deepens a connection with your friends, colleagues and even your audience. And let’s face it, everybody loves photos of dogs and not everybody wants to have your ‘hire me’ spiel every day.
Vary it up!
So that's my two pence on how you could take social media and use it to support your creativity. You cannot make a film on your own and you can't take over the world without people knowing who you are first...
What are YOU doing today to promote yourself?