THE NEWBIE’S GUIDE TO SOCIAL NETWORKING FOR CREATIVES
A little over a year ago, I took the dive into the social networking revolution. I’ve learned so much during my journey from networking novice to social guru and I often get asked, “What are your secrets?” I felt it was time to get my observations on paper and in a comprehensive list to help all the newbies out there. This list is in no way exhausted. But if you find yourself wanting to make the jump but you just don’t know how, here’s some social networking highlights to help get you started.
FACEBOOK VS. TWITTER & WHY YOU NEED BOTH:
Aren’t Twitter and Facebook the same? Nope. The difference is great: Generally, Facebook is for people you know directly and Twitter is for people you don’t know who share common interests. Both of these networks are very crucial in building a comprehensive online network. Most people are comfortable with Facebook, but I often hear a lot of disdain against Twitter. I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t much care for tweeting either and it’s high frequency rate somewhat scared me. I thought, “How could anyone care THAT MUCH about what I’m doing all day?” But I found that it’s SO much more than that. To my amazement, I quickly learned the filmmaking community on Twitter is vast and loyal. There was so much chitchat about projects and scripts, I was immediately hooked. With over 12,000 tweets in a year, I haven’t looked back since. I’m still amazed by all the wonderfully creative people out there and how willing they are to support other filmmakers. Through Twitter, I’ve created many amazing relationships that I would’ve missed had I kept on with my snobby perceptions of this incredible social platform. I’ll admit it. I was wrong about you Twitter!
FREQUENCY IS KEY:
I hear a lot people talk about social networking as “too time-consuming.” Although I definitely agree that maintaining your online persona can be a tiring undertaking, if you’re an artist trying to get your work out there, it’s just part of the job now. Likewise, the best way to engage your audience is FREQUENCY. Be sure to post daily and often. If you just winced after reading that last sentence, don’t fret. There are lots of applications out there that help you manage your posts. I use a free service called HootSuite, which allows you to schedule your posts for both Facebook and Twitter. Check out www.hootsuite.com. However, don't let these helpful apps make you complacent. Most followers are good at picking out the robots. Hoot Suite is perfect for those times that you're out of the office all day. But to avoid looking lazy, make sure to respond to all posts and tweets as soon as possible.
PROMOTION NOT SPAM:
It’s an exciting time to be a filmmaker, actor, musician, or any kind of artist. Never before has it been this easy to reach and access your audience. Facebook and Twitter are FREE business tools and should regarded as such. Gone are the days that Facebook is just for kids and bored housewives. It’s fine that you’re in this for self promotion, but you don’t want to turn people off. Post things of variety that interest you or relate to your field.
On Twitter, it’s acceptable and expected to post A LOT. This is a great way to build a network and make friends within your industry. Again, be sure to keep it interesting. If you’re posting a thousand photos of yourself from an event, then you might turn off some of your followers. A lot of users, both on Twitter and Facebook, frown upon spamming and it’s a good way to get unfollowed.
Specific to Facebook, be sure to engage your audience with interesting topics. One way to keep it fresh is to end your posts with a question. Do your best to respond to fan responses as promptly as possible to keep the discussion alive. Reposting is a good way to keep the content rolling in as well, but don’t just post a link or repost without putting a personal touch to it. On Facebook, try to include photos or links that include photos of whatever you’re promoting. Posts with visual references seem to do better. On Twitter, be sure to include a clickable link if you’re promoting or referencing something. In order for the link to be active or “clickable,” be sure to include the “http://” at the beginning of the link. Again, use common sense. Don’t hammer your followers with constant links to your work. Once or twice in a conversation is plenty.
NON SELF-SERVING CONVERSATION:
Social networking is, you guessed it, social. It’s important to engage in conversation that isn’t dealing with you, your projects, or your industry. Most people are pretty good at recognizing when you’re selling something and that can turn your followers away. To avoid coming off like a sleazy car salesman, be sure to seek out conversation that is non self-serving. Find fun ways to engage your audience that aren’t obviously self-promoting.
ALWAYS STAY POSITIVE:
Everyone likes to be on the winning team, so be sure to keep your posts upbeat. It’s important to look at your social networks like your online profile or reputation. One of the biggest mistakes of social networking is accidentally portraying yourself in a negative way. Your social networks are a place to show the world how awesome you are and all the interesting things you do. But far too often I see depressing posts about personal stuff that the world just shouldn’t know. When you send out a nonchalant tweet about your rent that’s two months late, that’s telling your audience that you’re basically a mess. In an age when employers are known to surf Facebook accounts in the hiring process, it’s in your best interest to stay positive even when you’re down in the dumps. It's okay to get passionate and emotional, but always professional. When you get the urge to be a Negative Nelly, try posting an encouraging quote from a respectable source instead. Your followers will admire you for your strength and positive outlook. Likewise, don’t engage in any arguments or harmful conversations. I think this goes without saying, but nobody likes to read a silly online argument. Save that for the school girls and move on.
SPREAD THE LOVE & BE GRATEFUL:
The secret to social networking success could be summed up with the adage, “I’ll scratch your back, if you scratch mine.” In order to be a part of the community, it’s important to help others spread the word about their projects, events, causes etc. Someday, you’ll need help promoting something and there will be a solid group of followers willing to hit you back. Recognize people within your industry, your community, and your team for their accomplishments. Send shout outs and congratulations to others releasing great content or doing awesome work in the community. We’re all in this together, so be sure to let other artists know YOU care too! Likewise, it’s important to say THANK YOU for any posts, tweets, or the like that help promote your projects and issues. You’d be surprised how far a little gratitude will get you!
GROWING A NETWORK:
Social networking as a business model means reaching as many people as possible while continuously growing an active network. Let’s start with Twitter. If you’re not a celebrity, the most efficient way to get TONS of followers is to follow LOTS of people. Find an influencer that you like or that you find interesting. Search through the list of accounts they follow and follow every that tickles your fancy. Keep in mind that you’re looking for people that will FOLLOW YOU BACK. You don’t want to follow lots of celebrities because they’ll never follow you back. Likewise, you don’t want to follow someone who has a hundred thousand followers and are only following two hundred accounts. Look out for people that tweet everyday and don’t have a huge gap between their followers and following lists. And beware of using the hashtag, #Followback. You’re bound to get spammers on your tail. (Read below for an explanation about hashtags.) Twitter will only let you follow 2000 accounts until you reach 2000 followers. If this happens, you’ll need to unfollow accounts to keep growing. I use an application called Tweepi that allows you to easily and quickly flush inactive or unfollowers from your Twitter account. Check out www.tweepi.com.
Unlike Twitter, Facebook is much less lenient about their friending policies. That being said, Facebook is a huge promotional resource and you need a large active profile there too. Be sure not to friend people that you don’t know or that might reject your friend request. If too many people deny your requests, then Facebook will put a hold on your account or suspend your profile. To avoid all your hard work going down the drain, use the “Find More Friends” tab on your Facebook homepage. It will allow you to search via location, school, work place, etc. If you’re unsure of a contact, send a private message first to make sure you know that person. Although Facebook is more strict, it’s still a place to make friends with people you don’t know, but that aren’t your direct contact. Again, be sure not get too many friend rejections and send private messages to any potential new friends that might not know you.
WHAT’S THE BUSINESS WITH HASHTAGS?
Definition via Twitter: “The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.” A hash tag is a simple way for people to search for tweets that have a common topic and to begin a conversation. Here are some examples: #SupportIndieFilm #CrowdFund #ScriptChat. Hashtagged words that are popular and appear many times often become Trending Topics. They’re aren’t really rules for hashtagging, but it’s generally frowned upon to use a lot of hashtags in one tweet. Usually 2 or 3 hashtags per post is plenty, more may appear spammy.
FACEBOOK PROFILE VS FANPAGE:
Your Facebook profile is a personal platform meant for your personal life, not for advertisement or promotion. Again, constant promotion can be aggravating and relentless, and you can be tagged for spam from unhappy friends. The solution? Create a Facebook Fanpage for your films, projects, businesses, etc. The Fanpage is the place FOR promotion and to help your audience keep updated with the progress of that project or business. Once you make a Fanpage, you need to invite your friends to like it. Go into your “Admin Panel” and click “Invite Friends” under the “Build Audience” tab. Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to mass invite your friends. Facebook makes you work for it by clicking on each individual friend. Just like your personal page, it’s important to post on your Fanpage often to keep your audience engaged and interested.
SMART PROFILE PHOTOS:
Just like your online profile needs to be positive, your icons or profile photos need to be clean and clear. If you’re an aspiring actor but your icon is a photo of your cat, it may be difficult to connect with serious filmmakers or other actors. Just like a marketing “brand,” your profile photos need to be recognizable and a strong representation of yourself. Keep in mind that you want your audience to be able to cross-connect with you over many platforms. Make sure your photos are easily recognizable, so that your followers don’t have to work too hard to seek you out.
WHAT THE HELL IS KLOUT?
Klout is a application that measures your influence among your social networks. Like any social platform, you can connect with other “influencers” by giving away “K+” points on their prominent topics. Not only is it a great motivator when building a network, but Klout ALSO awards you FREE perks based on your score. I’ve been awarded lots of cool stuff from facial products to gift cards. It may sound silly, but Klout is a really helpful tool to gage your social networking improvements and who doesn’t like free stuff? Check out www.klout.com.
THE SKINNY ON INSTAGRAM:
Instagram is an application ONLY for your smart phone that provides a great platform to post photos to both your Facebook and Twitter accounts simultaneously, making it even easier to connect with the world through photos. PLUS you get to play with funky filters which is always a good time.
CROWDFUNDING? BETTER HAVE A GOOD NETWORK:
If you’re thinking of starting a crowd-funding campaign via Indiegogo, Kickstarter or the like, then make sure you do your homework first. As explained on Indiegogo’s website, crowd funding is a platform based on DIWO (Do it With Others) activity. Since you’re asking people to donate ONLINE, the it only makes sense that a large online network would make the fundraising task easier. Although I’ve completed two successful campaigns that funded my last two films, I’ll be first to admit that I was ill prepared for my first campaign. I didn’t even have a Twitter account. In my first few days of raising money, I quickly learned that social networking is the key to a successful campaign. The more people you’re connected with the better. You’re not only asking your audience to donate, but you’re asking them to help you promote the project as well. Take my advice and be sure to build a big trusting network, on both Twitter and Facebook, BEFORE you start your campaign. Trust me, it’s worth it! There are SO many more secrets to crowdfunding, but that’s for another post.
Meg Pinsonneault is an award-winning filmmaker/screenwriter in the LA area and a crowd-funding veteran. She is known for her enthusiastic and contagious dedication to indie and DIY filmmaking. She is the co-founder of Weird Pixel and the director/producer of the upcoming feature documentary, Gwapa (Beautiful). In the filmmaker’s own words, “Where there is a camera, there is a way.” Follow Meg on Twitter and on Facebook.
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Be sure to catch Meg's Film Courage Podcast interview here.
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