Tooting your own horn effectively (Part 3)
Way, way back in May, I sketched out the basics of what we're calling "branding", what I like to think of as uncovering your unique fabulosity and expressing it to the world. These are basic building blocks like, your headshot, outgoing voicemail messages, "verbal business card" and bio(s).
Last month, I covered the basic places you should have a presence online, and what kind of information you want to have up there: your acting website (must! must! must!) and actor submission site(s) like LAcasting.com. Please address these things before you move on to the horn-tooting tools in this month's column! But you have, right? Right?!
Okay, on to the advanced class¦
#1. Pick your handle
Ha! You thought I was gonna say "MySpace" or "Facebook," didn't you?
Well, those are fine places to be, and we'll get to them in a minute. But before you go proliferating across the 'Net, figure out how you're going to do it with consistency.
Remember: everything you do everywhere is an expression of your brand; and everything you do on the Internet lives forever, somewhere.
That means choosing:
A main headshot. Yes, you have a ton of looks; I know, you can play anything. But remember, at least in the beginning, if you try to be all things to all people, you will be memorable to no one. Pick one shot that's your key shot. That means picking something you can use for a while, and something that looks just like you, only the way you want to be seen primarily. Of course, you've already picked headshots that look just like you because you're a smart actor, but really, winnow it down to one main shot. One that, you're going to turn into...
Your avatar. For you non-gamers and people who have been living under Wii-free rocks the past several years, your avatar is a symbol that is you. You are free, of course, to pick any avatar you like to represent you, image, manga art, cartoon, but I'd suggest that since you're an actor, you pick one great shot of you, crop it to a square, and call it a day. If you don't have an image editor on your computer already, there are a ton of free ones offered now; Photoshop just released Photoshop Express for free! The new tools are plenty powerful; if you're really timid, ask a savvy friend. Or a kid. The main thing is to get your main image at a bunch of different pixel sizes: 300 x 300, 500 x 500, 50 x 50, etc. Most of the sites now will resize down for you, but it's way easier if you have them all neatly organized in a folder, to upload as needed.
A username. If you want to post somewhere anonymously, fine: choose something that completely obscures who you are. (But beware: â€œanonymousâ€ isn't always as anonymous as you think!) For everything else, I suggest using your name. You're an actor, and your name is part of your brand. If you have a really common name and the service you're signing with requires a unique username, you may need to get a little creative. But be creative in a consistent way: don't be PogoBoy one place and KingOfHearts another. (Actually, don't be either of those things anywhere, that's just weird.)
A "wardrobe" of "about you". Remember those bios I hammered you about? That Verbal Business Card™? What you're going to do on all of the places you live on the Internet is have an "about you" that is somewhat related to all the other "about you". You can dial up (or down) the sass, earnestness, foul language or what-have-you. What you don't want to do is come across like a schizo. If you're leading a double life (and some of you probably are), this is where that totally separate handle comes in. But please, if you're a soccer mom be careful about expressing your dominatrix side on the web. At the very least, it's confusing; at the worst, it can cost you work.
#2. Get on the 500 lb. gorillasâ€¦or clean up your profile there
A general word on all of these: for the love of all that's holy, be cool: don't go hitting up people you don't really know, but think are important for friend status or groveling like a peasant at an idol's feet; nobody likes a needy actor. Be cool, cultivate your garden and what's meant to be yours will come to you. Dig? Okay...
Facebook is great for connecting with old friends, seeing who knows whom, staying in touch and yeah, Scrabulous. (I stay away from games, but I get the appeal.) I also confess to being somewhat anti- cutesy, poking-type stuff, but I realize that I'm a curmudgeon in this respect. All I'll say is if you're going to err on the side of anything, let it be caution. You don't want to be that guy.
MySpace is not my favorite site, but then, I'm way out of the demographic. I use it to point people to my other sites, and as another place to keep my bio, my interests and my media lists. If you do develop a custom profile, make sure it's on brand, meaning, please don't think that adding flashing GIFs and other uglifying elements is great. Unless it's very specific to your brand, it's not; it's annoying. I use the pre-loaded template; here is an example of a custom one I think is tasteful, and suits the actor's brand.
LinkedIn is a great place to keep your work resume, but I've also seen it used successfully by performers. The trick with this is to walk the fine line between having a sense of fun and goofing off. Mine, I think, does this fairly successfully. Here's another performer/artistic director whose profile is nice, but don't forget to change your link to something meaningful, rather than the default link LinkedIn gives you.
Plaxo has become more than a glorified (and spammy) address book service, and now lets you do all kinds of stuff like aggregate your online content and track other people's. But I still think the most powerful feature is that it emails you notices about upcoming birthdays. People LOVE to get birthday wishes. Many do not like to get eCards, so be judicious in your use of them.
That's it for this segment; next month, we'll get into some other places you can carve out some "me" space on the web.
In the meantime, I'd love to hear from you about what kind of online presence you have, and where you feel like you need a little guidance, so hey! Why not email me?