What’s the biggest social media mistake you can make?
It’s this: not using social media to your advantage.
What’s the second biggest blunder?
Mistaking social for selling.
One of my older students admitted that she was intimidated by social media.
“Paul,” she said, “I don’t know where to begin, what to do, or how to do it. A year ago I didn’t even own a smartphone. Now I’m supposed to be on it all the time. I hate talking about myself. Bragging about my accomplishments makes me uncomfortable. I’ve never taken a selfie in my life, and I don’t even know why people would be interested in me.”
“That’s perfect,” I replied. “You know why? Because it’s not about people being interested in you. It’s about you being interested in people. Being on social media is about making connections. The best way to do that is by interacting with people you’re genuinely interested in as a person, not as a prospect.
In the beginning, you don’t even have to post anything. Simply start by liking things you like, and by making some friends you have a connection with. Giving other people sincere compliments is a lost art, and visiting places like Facebook are ideal to rekindle that art.
When people share milestones, congratulate them. When they feel down in the dumps, let them know you’re thinking of them. When they have a question you know part of the answer to, share it with them. The key is to be a helper. Not a complainer.”
Two weeks later we had our next session, and I asked: “How’s that social media thing going?” She smiled and said: “Well, I took your advice to heart, and something unexpected happened.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“When I reached out to people, they actually wanted to connect with me.”
“You sound surprised,” I said. “Why is that?”
“To be honest, I didn’t expect people to be interested in me.”
“That tells me more about how you think about yourself,” I responded. “Let me ask you this. Do you believe clients could be interested in what you have to offer?”
She took a deep breath, sighed, and said: “Maybe.”
“That doesn’t sound very convincing,” I said. “Before you convince a client you are right for a role, you have to convince yourself. A competent voice without confidence isn’t going to win auditions. We’ve got to work on that.”
“I thought social media wasn’t about getting clients,” she answered.
“You’re right,” I said, “but in our business, it’s sometimes more important who you know, than what you know. I get many of my voice-over jobs through referrals from colleagues who have never seen me in real life, but they know about me because we connected. People will never refer someone they don’t know or don’t like.”
“So, what you are saying is that selling should never be the purpose of social media, but it could be a nice side effect?”
“Right! The point is that you want people to get to know you, but not in a salesy, “pick me” kind of way. That’s one of the reasons why I tell a lot of stories in my blog. I’m not selling. I’m just telling stories. You see, you can always argue with an opinion, but you can’t argue with an anecdote, because…. it’s just fiction. People forget facts, but they will remember a good story.”
“But what if people don’t like your stories or your opinions?” my student asked. “Don’t you have a problem?”
“If that’s the case, I don’t have a problem, but my readers do!” I said, jokingly. “Listen, I do not post on social media or write a blog to get some kind of validation or recognition. I’m not looking to make enemies either, but I’ve learned that you can’t please everyone without betraying yourself.
Although I’m proud to have so many subscribers, I’m not writing to gain thousands of followers. Making a thought-provoking contribution to my community is much more important than increasing the number of visitors to my website.
Here’s the point though: these things seem to go hand in hand. As long as I have interesting stuff to say, people seem to be interested in me. This does help my Google ranking and that’s not something you can buy. It’s something you have to earn.”
“Do you see any downsides to using social media?” my student wanted to know.
“Seriouly, it’s a monster waiting to be fed,” I said. “And it’s always hungry for more. Being on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and what not, will eat up your time without much to show for. Our society favors instant gratification, but making a dent on social media takes time. It’s for those who are patient, persistent and consistent.
If you have low self-esteem, and you have a deep need to be accepted, social media can be a cruel place. My friend’s daughter came home in a terrible mood because her latest Instagram post only got twenty-five likes. To her, it felt like the end of the world because she thought she had lost the popularity contest.
My student looked at me, and sighed: “Children… they’re so vulnerable and impressionable.”
“Almost as much as voice actors…” I said.
“Now, listen… when you’re ready to put yourself out there as a creative professional such as a voice-over, it’s probably best to lose these three things:
– your desire to please
– your need for praise, and
– your urge to compare
Comparing yourself to other, more experienced talent, will make you as miserable as the characters in a Victor Hugo novel. Please compare yourself to yourself and be happy for those who seem to be doing well. Remember that on social media people are trying to show their best, socially acceptable selves, and not necessarily their true selves.
The need to be praised makes you dependent on the approval of others. I hate to break it to you, but that approval is something you have no influence over. Of course you want to do well, but you want to do it for the music. Not for the applause.”
I opened my iPad to an Irish Times interview with Outlander leading lady Caitriona Balfe. She recalls a valuable lesson she learned from an LA acting coach. He was…
“talking about releasing and destroying the need of whatever ‘it’ is. Whether you’re going to go in and audition, and you’re so nervous because you want people to like what you’re about to do: release and destroy the need to be liked.”
The Times continued:
Balfe learned to give herself permission to let go of those things that tie us all in knots, to move on from feelings. “It’s something so simple and so silly, but it works for a myriad of reasons. Whatever it is … just to walk away, to let go of that.”
My student nodded and I went on…
“In my mind, the desire to please has us focused on the wrong things. People-pleasers are constantly wondering: How am I doing? Am I messing up? Will they like me? I, I, I… Me, Me, Me…
As (voice) actors it is our mission to serve the script. We are a conduit. Our body is a vessel to communicate meaning. It’s not about “I hope they like me.” That’s a needy, egocentric approach. If we do our job well, our performance allows the audience to emotionally and intellectually connect with the text.
When a voice actor is struggling, I often wonder:
Are they self-conscious, or content-conscious?
It’s usually the former, and as long as they’re too busy dealing with their insecurities, they’ll never be able to immerse themselves in their read or in their role.”
“I think I understand what you mean,” said my student. “But how do I get there?”
“The way I see it, there are at least two elements that will take you there. One is preparedness. It’s the ultimate antidote to nerves. Good practise will prepare you. Once you know what to do, you can focus on being in the moment and getting the job done to the best of your abilities. It’s the difference between playing notes and making music. To make music, you need to know the score.
“What’s the second element?” asked my student.
“It is conviction. It’s having faith in your talent and your abilities. It’s something I can’t teach you, but it comes a lot easier when you’re well-prepared. In her interview, Caitriona Balfe put it like this:
“(…) a lot of it is just having the f***ing balls and grit to stick around and be persistent in the face of a lot of rejection. But I think that also comes from having a belief that if [there is] something you love to do so much, something that feels that it comes naturally, that in some way it has to be what you’re meant to do.”
My student’s face lit up like a Christmas tree. I continued:
“As your coach, it’s not for me to tell you what you’re meant to do. That’s for you to know, but I do know this.
If there’s enough of a voice-over fire burning inside of you, you stand a decent chance of having a long, rewarding career.
And you know what?
I’ll be the first one on social media to follow you, and cheer you on!”
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
PS If you want to know how Caitriona uses social media, read the last paragraph of her interview.
PPS Be sweet: subscribe, share & retweet
patricia corkum says
So beautifully put together!I’m smiling just because I see your student in myself..and good, professional, honest coaches telling me the same thing!It’s confidence – not bravado combined with intelligence, honesty, humility and a healthy dose of respectable persistence! Thanks for confirming a “best practice”! Kind regards, Patricia
Paul Strikwerda says
You’re most welcome, Patricia!
You are an amazing writer and I love reading your posts!! Your post is spot on about insecurities (you gotta work those out for sure) and using SM as a tool of connection. Especially in the voice over community which is the most supportive, nurturing and encouraging community ever!
Paul Strikwerda says
Thank you for your kind words, Deirdre. I agree with you: we have an amazing community!