Act Smart! Good Tools for a Great Career
by colleen wainwright | the communicatrixThis month: Tooting your own horn effectively (Part 4)

This last installment in what has proven a popular (and, um, long) series covers the finer (and, in my experience, “funner”) aspects of proliferating across the digital (and real-world) universe.

Before you dive in, however, please make sure you're up to speed on the basics. It's all well and good to fiddle with detail work, but your foundation is going to be what carries you. Here's a quick recap:

Part 1 (May, 2008) 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:  simple but frequently overlooked elements like headshots, outgoing voicemail messages, “verbal business cards” and bios.

Part 2 (June, 2008) The beginning of your online presence (your website, your casting website presences, etc.), and how to handle the information on them.

Part 3 (July, 2008) Choosing the basic branding elements you'll have on social media websites, and which ones to start with.

As I hinted above, once you get a handle on the basics, you can really start to have fun in your particular areas of interest. The idea is to find services where you can express yourself, share your knowledge in a field of interest or otherwise start being visible in a meaningful way. The beautiful part of this technique is that instead of just taking up room or shouting “dig me” at whatever volume and frequency, you're actually adding to the world's body of knowledge (hopefully) and connecting with people, or opening up the opportunity to connect, rather than just talking at them.

These are just a few of the bajillion things out there you can get involved in; more are cropping up everyday.

Big reader? Sign up for Shelfari or LibraryThing. Check out other people who like the books you like, and maybe initiate a dialogue with them. Show people what super-fancy-exquisite taste you have and carve out your place as a lit (or graphic novel, or chicklit) maven.

Love music? Check out It works with your iTunes by “scrobbling” everything you listen to and creating a playlist online that other people can view. You meet people with similar musical taste, they meet you, everyone is exposed to more great stuff. Incidentally, another fun music site is Pandora, a streaming Internet radio site that lets you plug in some favorite artists, genres or even songs and then creates “stations” for you based on the components of what you already like. Fun, free and now there's an app that lets you listen anywhere on your iPhone! Like you needed another reason to want one.

Also have good insight into what makes stuff good (or bad)? Sign up as an Amazon reviewer. Use your real name (they even have a “RealName™” certification) because remember: you're trying to build out your brand, not show the world how clever you can be when it comes to dreaming up handles. Consistency, consistency, consistency.

You can also create a “So You Want To…” guide on Amazon, to acting, dancing, singing or whatever your particular area of expertise is. Compile actor-friendly lists of books or lists of anything else you're a smarty about (please have read them!!!) with Amazon's Listmania feature.

Create a how-to guide about virtually anything. Have you made a study of a particular culture or person for a part? If you're an actor, a good one, anyway, you've got experience with some aspect of learning or performance. Share it on Squidoo and start branding yourself as an expert (or just help somebody out).

Squidoo was started by marketing guru Seth Godin and it lets anyone sign up and create a “lens” that can serve as an introduction to just about anything. Fill it with links, pictures, information, reviews, just about anything that will, in toto, provide a good “way in” to someone first diving into a topic. Here's a list of top lenses to give you an idea of what you can do.

Another good way to get out there and start connecting with people is via a slice of bandwidth that lets you express yourself, share your ideas and meet other people doing the same thing. Think “Facebook” or “MySpace,” but with more autonomy and room for true creative expression, as opposed to the canned variety.

Some favorites of mine are…

Twitter. Kind of an all-purpose, microblogging/IM platform, Twitter at its most basic is 140-character-maximum updates on where you are, what you're doing or what you're thinking. Check out mine for ideas; check out the people I'm following for a good range of examples on how you can use Twitter.

YouTube. Of course, I think all actors should be out there creating their own material and uploading it for the world to see. (Just make it good, okay?) But even if you're not creating your own, you should be on there rating, saving and reviewing videos. The YouTube content creators of today may be the major media players of tomorrow. (Well, the good ones, anyway.) Vimeo is another great video uploading and sharing service with quite a lively community building up around it. Bonus-extra: a much more artist-friendly rights agreement.

Tumblr. There is officially no excuse for you not to get off your lazy butt and have a blog, since Tumblr makes it dead simple. You can post quotes, video clips, pictures, pretty much any kind of content, as easy as 1-2-3. I use mine to catch all the overflow and weird stuff that's a little off-brand for my main site or other outlets; lots of other people seem to use it in the same, eclectic way, since it's more like a fancy bookmarking service than an old-skool blog in lots of ways.

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