I took one of your classes in LA when I lived there and have followed some of your online articles on acting. I started my own cooking show and blog this past year and wanted to know if you had any suggestions on how to broaden my base. I know you have a large online presence and thought you might have some helpful tips. If you have time to view the site and give some helpful tips I’d be grateful.
Thanks so much,
Congrats on creating your own content and looking into ways to reach your fans. A lot has been written in the past few years about using social networking to connect with one’s Thousand True Fans. Some folks have even made a career out of advising people on maximizing their online presence. Because I’m an early adopter, a huge tech geek (dropped out of my PhD in IT ABD), and a decent “connecter” of awesome people, I am asked all the time how to get more followers, more subscribers, more fans, more retweets.
That’s like asking how to come up with a concept for a vid that is guaranteed to go viral.
By focusing on how to get something out of doing the thing, you pretty much make sure you don’t get the lovely benefits from having wanted to do the thing in the first place.
You’ve gotta focus on doing the thing that makes you thrilled to do. And then your buyers will show you what parts of what you’re already doing they value. You can’t tell them what to value. They’re stubborn like that. And that’s a good thing. It means, by just doing what you love (and would do for free, forever — shh — don’t tell anyone that part), you will get rewards.
Case in point: I have been giving out advice for years for free all over the flippin’ Internet and at live events sponsored by universities and SAG and Industry for Charity and private acting schools and The Actors’ Network and Breakdowns and school career days and such. The ever-increasing demand for sit-downs and paid speaking engagements taught me (in 2002) that maybe I could write a book (or a few books), and so I did. Monetizing your voice is key. You need to make your voice clear, and available, and then you’ll be on your way to the money that follows. (Click here for a PDF of a piece I wrote for “Editor Unleashed” on “Monetizing Your Voice” in February of 2009, here for an archived blog post on a speaking engagement I had — in front of high school students — about getting paid to write in April 2007.)
It was actors who taught me that they valued my words enough (through message boards at Backstage, 1999 to 2003, and of course the old Wolfesden, the Showfax message board for a wee bit, PARF even still today — way before “social networking” existed as it is now) that I could write some books and get paid for the order in which I arranged words.
There is no amount of Tweeting or Facebooking or YouTubing that teaches potential buyers that they must spend money on my books or attend my free lectures or enroll in my classes. What social networking does is teach me what my potential buyers value! Most folks looking to increase their fanbase online are getting it exactly backwards. It’s not about growing the numbers so we can have more exposure. It’s about listening to the first fans (when there are very few — so they’re really easy to hear) and growing in response to what they tell us they value. The reward for that is the numbers most folks start out seeking. Don’t start by trying to be at the end first!
The fact that I have thousands of folks subscribed or following or whatever-ing is a byproduct of the fact that I am well-branded for what I offer (and have offered for free far longer and far more often than what’s out there from me for a fee, to any extent) and it’s also a function of having been an early adopter of tech tools. Meaning, trying to figure out how to make Facebook or Twitter work for you today is like learning how to Google today. Instead, be watching to figure out what the next trend is and be ready to be on it early, so when folks join the space, you’re an old pro at it, and you’re one of the users who is constantly recommended for a connection to new people when they sign up, since you’ve been there forever and have a fanbase there already.
I seriously recommend that you check out everything Gary Vaynerchuk has to say about this stuff. He’s a genius. And he does exactly what I do, in terms of connecting with the audience that is already showing you they value what you’re offering. (I had no idea that’s what he recommended ’til I became aware of him two months ago. I loved hearing everything he had to say, though, because it underscored so much of what I was already doing. That’s always fun.) I became aware of him in the venue I recommend those of you who don’t know he exists get into him now: He did an amazing live streaming event at SAG Foundation in February, as archived at a Backstage blog.
Where Gary and I differ is in the “following a bunch of people” thing. To me, that’s a lot of noise. And I’ve got enough OCD flowing that I feel the need to read everything and that means following too many people hurts my heart. I did accept everyone who added me at Facebook when I first joined, but quickly reached the 5000 max and spent the next few months defriending down to a number that is far more manageable for me, and valuable to how I spend my online time. As for Twitter, I see no benefit to filling my stream with lots of chatter and I prefer to go visit people’s individual pages to see what they’re saying, except for a very special few dozen folks whose stuff I so value that I want to see it, regularly.
Also in a departure from Gary’s advice, I actually have different Twitter accounts for my various endeavors. The book Self-Management for Actors tweets once a day, Monday through Friday. That’s all it does. If someone asks “the book” a question, I answer it at my personal account. That does two things: Lets folks who follow one but not the other know there’s another entity out there that might be of interest (especially if they’re one of those oft-mentioned “thousand true fans”) and keeps the SMFA3 twitter stream from being anything more than a broadcast of tips from the book, which is all some people want.
Same with “The Work” (tweets about the podcast, upcoming guests, a place to gather questions from listeners). Same with Somebody’s Basement (one tweet, Monday through Friday, to promote that day’s featured vid at our network). Same with Cricket Feet (tweets about upcoming casting and producing gigs, press about past projects, development concepts, behind-the-scenes vids, trailers, photos). Same with Casting Qs (one tweet a week, to promote that week’s interview with a casting director going live online).
By compartmentalizing, I actually reinforce the brand of “Bonnie Gillespie” without alienating anyone who only wants ONE element of what I’m offering (i.e. folks who follow Cricket Feet to find out when I’m casting something new; they don’t want or need a book? No biggie. They’ll never have to hear about it).
Some general tips for your posts include NOT using URL shorteners if you’re going to be tweeting links to people who don’t know you. I personally never, never, never click on a link that’s masked via TinyURL or Bit.Ly if I don’t know the person who is sending me there. Also, if you’re sharing something you found (but didn’t create) and are just passing it around, proper etiquette includes crediting the source. (The journalism student in my REALLY gets peeved by this one, especially when today’s celebs pass off others’ well-traveled quotes as their own.) You erode your credibility if you take credit for content you didn’t create.
Pay attention to what sort of things cause you to lose followers. It’s usually stuff like getting Twitterrhea that causes folks to bail. Don’t get too chatty (and if you do need to get chatty, do it at “non-peak hours,” a stat you can observe using Xefer).
The bottom line — and the question you need to ask yourself before setting off with a goal of getting more followers, more viewers, more commenters — is knowing what you would do with thousands of followers. What’s your goal in having thousands of people following you? Just to say you’ve got some number, some benchmark met? Eh. That’s not the point.
The point is to connect with your buyers, to cement your brand, to be sure your name is the one at the top of the list when they are asked whose work they recommend (for whatever it is you’re hoping to get known for doing).
You can’t force that. But giving away the goods is the first thing I’d recommend. Because just like the “copy, credit, meals” part of your acting career leads you to the days when you are “offer only,” we all have to give stuff away to teach the buyers we’re worth paying for, no matter what we do. Check saved searches on Search.Twitter.com (as Gary suggests) and direct replies to people talking about your area of expertise to connect — by giving free info away to folks already excited about what it is that you do — with potential buyers. Don’t sell or promote anything. Give it away. This is a concept covered well in books like Free: The Future of a Radical Price and Trust Agents and The Thank You Economy.
Key factors are: Knowing how much to give away, LISTENING to your buyers so you know what they’re valuing (and by how much), and then becoming aware that it’s time to stop giving it all away… because the buyers are ready to value your work with money.
Good luck, finding your fans. Or better yet, good luck putting your goods out there and letting your fans find you! The folks who find their way to you will be with you for decades (I am living proof of that). The ones you have to teach to love you? Eh. They’re fickle and will sometimes decide they’re done loving what you put out there.
Put it out there. Let the world know it’s out there. Keep doing good work even when you think no one is paying attention. People will talk. They will hit the share button. Everyone likes to be the friend who turned another bunch of friends on to a “cool new thing.” You just be that cool new thing (because it’s fun, not because of what it’ll yield) and keep getting it in front of your circle’s “trust agents.” Find your generation’s E.F. Hutton (I’m showing my age with that reference). You want your chattiest, most trusted friends to start talking about what you’re doing.
And you can’t force that. No matter how high your Google ranking may be.
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001329.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.