During the current month and more recently this past week, I have been taking part in online debates on subjects such the Class System, the working life and world of the actor and other creatives. The one subject that seemed to have an impact on all the areas of debate I was taking part in was that of Social Media.
It had been my intention over the course of the past few weeks to write an article about the subject of Social Media. What I found over the course of the month was just how topical the subject was or rather is. The Federation of Entertainment Unions (FEU) Training last Thursday held a workshop on the use of LinkedIn. It was my unfortunate oversight of this that I only learned about the workshop on the day it was happening and that was via Twitter and on investigation found out the workshop was running while I was discussing it with one the facilitators. I say ‘unfortunate’ because when I attended a workshop on Time Management and the Uses of Social Media last year, I actually flagged up the need for a similar workshop geared up to the use of LinkedIn. How unpoetic to the one who suggested the need, rallied the troops, only to miss out.
The idea for this article came via a discussion on Social Media and how people don’t use it effectively, rather than how they use it. Facebook is marvellous and wonderful but I am at a loss as to why people expose their children to potential danger by displaying photographs of them. I know you have the choice to respond to ‘Friendship Requests’ etc., but why take foolish risks with the welfare of one’s children. That is a personal view on my part because I am so well-versed about child protection issues, having coached a childcare professional on writing and making presentations for their course studies but I digress.
Experience of Social Media
My experience of Social Media occurred I guess when I first registered with the actor’s online directory ‘Casting Call Pro’ in 2004. Casting Call Pro differed from ‘The Spotlight’, the Actor’s Directory of professional actors here in the UK, in that actors pretty much had input and access to network that The Spotlight did not offer. You paid your annual subscription to be on the Directory (Spotlight,) and that was that. Apart from updating your online CV, one had no more access and input than that. You are essentially advertising to the World of Casting that you are a professional working actor based in the UK. What Casting Call Pro offered was elements of that but they also advertised jobs, you got email notifications of those jobs specific to you (not always but most of the time,) and importantly, it allowed you to network with other actors, as well as promoting and marketing one’s self. That is how I became aware of how one can and should promote and market themselves. As a lifetime member of Casting Call Pro, I am extremely proud of my membership and the way it has become a valuable marketing tool. I am proud of my membership of Spotlight also but I felt the need to make the distinction between the two Directories.
I became aware of Facebook sometime during 2007 and set up a profile and forgot about it. It was only a year later when I began setting up a profile I was reminded that I had set up a skeleton profile a year earlier. Resetting the password allowed me access and I have since 2008 continued to build and maintain the profile that you may or may not be familiar with, depending on whether you know me, know of me or have no idea who I am. Can’t be famous to all and sundry. Nice thought and one that is potentially possible, as this article will reveal.
People have and are pretty fearful of Facebook for reasons that have completely baffled me, even if I can understand and appreciate the reasons why. Essentially the subscriber to Facebook – That is you, me and every other person on the Planet – Controls what they put up there for the world – the entire Planet or just your circle of friends and social network will see. If you put up every scrap of personal information and it comes back to bite you in the ass, then it is on you, no one else. On a personal level I have been guilty of such transgressions but fortunately I managed to contain myself somewhat where Facebook was concerned. My earlier Blog entries were not so diplomatic but they are there for the world to see. I felt I was right and justified to have my say, even if on reflection, I wonder whether I was so wise. Still I stand by what I wrote.
Social Media by the definition I am aware of, means you are connecting with people you may or may not know. I have noticed this aspect essentially because I have been warned by Facebook that you can only or rather you should only send Friendship Requests to people you know personally. That strikes me as strange because the vast majority of my Friends on Facebook live in London, and every far corner of the Planet and the majority of them I have never met but I consider friends. We talk from time to time, share ideas and information. One of the reasons I think I got those warnings and threats of closing down my account, is that there are people I know personally, have known personally or don’t know at all that haven’t bothered to confirm anything and as such a list has built up over the years. A complaint here and there and finally the ultimatum: Desist or else! Well, they didn’t say that but you get my drift and where I am coming from. So that is a downside of using Facebook but then that is again down to people.
The darker side of Facebook is that fact that everything you write, say and publish is held on their servers like forever, even if you delete it. The change over to the ‘Timeline’ feature brings this to the fore. I personally don’t want to see where I was exactly two years ago when my personal life was going through its own hell or so I thought. I voluntarily bit the bullet and implemented the Timeline across my account and examined it. I found it messy but have made the best I can of it. I miss the top-down old format of Facebook but have found ways to make the profile work by putting a meaningful poster- like picture of myself for the ‘Cover Photo’, rather than some obscure picture that means absolutely nothing to anyone. I could have tweaked and hidden a few features but by continually updating my status remarks, My Profile Page becomes something akin to an online scroll-down, multi-page digital information journal about myself, who I am, my thoughts, ideas and shared information and ideas from other sources. This from the Man who swore that as soon as Facebook imposed the Timeline on us all, he would no longer be using Facebook. Would not shut it down but would stop using it.
The Timeline feature is one way of backtracking and putting information from the years where Facebook wasn’t even an idea. I have tried this but so far it hasn’t worked. I am not sure whether it is because I signed up to Facebook in June 2007 and it will not allow me to enter information prior to that date. At the time of writing I am still investigating this.
From 2008 I have steadily built up a Profile of who I am, what I do professionally and socially, along with ideas of my own, not to mention shared ideas from other sources. There is also a social network of people ‘Friends’ if you will. We are talking about four years of developing an integrated professional and social network that given how one has gone about doing it, is multi-layered and one that works on many levels, because it is not a network consisting of any one type of people.
My Social Network consists of a diverse range of people. There are my fellow thespians, other professionals, dancers, models, artists, photographers, casting directors, film and theatre directors and a whole range of people from different backgrounds, cultures, right across the Globe. My Social Network is probably no different from anyone else’s but I have had people travel across the world, end up in London and I get to meet them. For me that’s great because that is what I eventually want to do. I want my work to take me around the world in a professional capacity but I would also like to do that for myself, as it is an ambition to travel much more than I presently do. With Facebook I have laid the foundation stones for that to happen.
At the beginning I mentioned LinkedIn. I am not going reiterate what I said above but expand on it further. One the biggest problems I have faced with LinkedIn, is what is it for? Who is if for? And does it work? And will it work for me? Like most people, I began by setting up a profile, not completing it and ‘connecting’ with people and nothing more. All I was doing was collecting a host of names of fellow actors and professionals I knew from other work environments and nothing more. Shame on me and shame on everyone else.
That great Motivator of People, Anthony Robbins said: “If you ask yourself a better quality question, you will get a better quality answer”. In light of my experience at the FEU Training workshop on Social Media, I much later began asking myself the same questions above but this time I was asking myself those self-same questions, with a determination to get answers. Thus far I have but those answers came by looking at how LinkedIn is set up. One answer I got to my questions was that LinkedIn was originally set up for the IT Industry. That made sense given the way it is structured and as someone who once worked in the IT Industry, I could see how it would work if you were an IT Professional who was marketing themselves and their career. My research flagged up none of this. In fact Wikipedia describes LinkedIn as a ‘business-related, social networking site’. So we are talking Facebook for professional here. That explains the very structured way LinkedIn is set up and how one goes about ‘connecting’ or making ‘connections’.
So what did I know about LinkedIn thus far? Well:-
- It is business-related social networking site (think Facebook for Professionals)
- It was set up with professionals in mind.
That was two of my questions answered. “Does it work?” and “Will it work for me?” still remained unanswered.
Albert Einstein once theorized that we only use four percent of our actual brainpower. Given that I know people who don’t use any percent, I was beginning to think I was falling into that category. People (creatives mostly,) keep asking me is there any purpose to LinkedIn apart from collecting a whole bunch of names. The answer to both remaining questions eventually came to me. Yes, there is. It does work and it can work for me.
What one has to do is actually engage with those people and talk to them. You can of course do this directly or join the myriad of membership groups within LinkedIn, specific to your interest and profession. Within each of these groups, are many debates and discussions going on. By contributing to these debates in an intelligent and sensible way (need I say this,) people get to know who you are and will follow your activities on LinkedIn generally and make contributions to any discussion/debate you start up. Any contributions you make can be directed to your Twitter Account. I will come to Twitter later on.
All of this is great communication but it is doomed to failure if your Profile contains nothing about you, your profession or your history. Complete the Summary of yourself because this is your Mission Statement – This tells the professional online community and people in your Network, who you are. If you have any difficulties, with completing the profile, look at how it is structured, how it is set out. What are they asking for? What is the best way of presenting the information in the best possible light? Look at it, think about it and you won’t go far wrong.
Look, I have a varied work history as an actor, my working life before that was even more varied. Not the easiest of people to put onto an application form, which is one of many reasons, I became an actor. Having said all that, Social Media has enabled me to market and promote myself far more effectively that any application form arriving in the post or online application ever has.
Probably one of the easiest of all Social Media because in a world of sound bites, Twitter matches the times so well. Personally I only ‘Tweet’ i.e. say something meaningful when I feel I have something meaningful to say. I don’t think anyone is all that interested if I am going on a date, making a cup of tea or cleaning windows and doing chores but each to his own. This is the World of Social Media and many are called and all are accepted. What I learned about using Twitter, the more you ‘Tweet’ something interesting, the more likely people will follow you and what you have to say. Up until I attended the Social Media Workshop, I had no real idea how Twitter worked. I would say something meaningful or an idea every once in a while and that was it. The Saturday evening after I got home from the workshop, I went onto Twitter and Tweeted like a condemned man on his last day on Earth and you know what? I got more people to follow me in that one evening, than in the whole year I had been a member of Twitter. Amazing.
I mentioned in the LinkedIn section of this article how you can link comments and contributions made in debates and discussions to Twitter. What this does is tell the Twitter community of the debates that are going on via LinkedIn and your contributions to those debates. If they have LinkedIn accounts, they may well be interested to take part and better yet, send you an invitation to join your network on LinkedIn. That is another way Twitter can work in one’s favour.
I guess one could argue at one point that Plaxo was a competitor of Facebook. As well as being a Social Network site, it also incorporated an excellent address book and calendar service. In the past year there have been changes to the Plaxo service where it is now only an address book service. The Social Networking element has been removed. This is crying shame because this facility allowed you to automatically update one’s Facebook status. I haven’t looked at Plaxo in any great detail in the past year but it is still a useful utility to have if only for its online address book service.
Billed as the ‘The Skills Base Social Network’, Skillpages pretty much speaks for itself. I have not found it as diverse as LinkedIn in terms of marketing my skills but the jury is still out, as I have not completed by work history. That aside, I have not found it that easy to build a profile that says who I am, in the way I have on LinkedIn and Facebook for that matter. However the jury is still out on Skillpages as I am still grappling with it.
What I have found with Skillpages and other Social Media is that it allows you to either login with the details you set up yourself or via either your Facebook or LinkedIn details. This is good in one way because your contact information can be transferred into Skillpages. The danger is to remember that whichever you use you are logged into them so when you are done and have logged out of Skillpages, open a tab and go into Facebook or LinkedIn. You will find you are still logged in there so log out. This is where and how people get hacked, especially if they are using computers on a shared network.
Blogging is all the rage and everyone is now a journalist or a writer, writing about all sorts of things and interests. Hey, I am doing it by writing this. A journalist who worked for the Guardian Newspaper here in the UK once told me ‘Journalism was dead”. His reasoning was due to the Internet/Web etc. Clearly somebody had not told his Newspaper’s editor who clearly embraces the online community – Indeed, look at The Guardian’s Website. It is one the best websites of any Newspaper in the UK, in my humble opinion. Mr. Guardian Journalist has clearly not joined the dots. Blogging and online journalism is not killing conventional journalism, if anything it is greatly enhancing it. Everybody (if they have deep pockets,) can be a journalistic James Bond. You have got the digital camera that can take pictures as well as video, you can upload that footage to YouTube or some other website and stream it across the world. Or publish your own report with pictures, still or moving and again get it out there on the online world. The world of journalism is no longer concentrated in the hands of a few large media corporations. The new breed of online journalist potentially can and will complement what the big media corporations put out there by giving an alternative viewpoint. Fox News for many years has been criticized for giving a less than objective viewpoint in its reporting of domestic news and worse, it’s reporting of foreign news.
I make use of WordPress .com – I find it easy to use and have the option of changing my Blog’s look and feel whenever I want to, as there are a wide selection of templates and themes to choose from. There are many more Blogging websites out there. I even have a blog section on my official website (http://danieljudegennis.webs.com/apps/blog/) also.
I write Blogs not because I want to brainwash anyone. I write for the love of it. I am not being paid to write this (it would be nice,) I am however writing this for the reasons I discussed much earlier on in the article. I write only when I have something I want to say or wish to say. This time around I am giving a personal perspective on the aspects of Social Media – My aspect. It isn’t the Gospel or definitive truth about Social Media but my experience of it. And most of my Blog entries are from a personal viewpoint. Unlike big media organisations I don’t have a hidden agenda. The only agenda I have is to write thought-provoking pieces that that people may like to comment on or give an alternative take on. Social Media is a wide subject and impacts on people in very different ways. Mine is but one experience. There are many more.
I have over the past two years, written sporadically on a wide range of subjects that interest me. Some of been intensely personal, some have been personal perspectives on an idea, a TV show, a political election and my life as an actor and what impacts on that.
People write and publish blogs for all sorts of reasons, I love to write, I love to write about things that interest me and impact on my life.
I mentioned my first introduction to marketing and promoting myself via Casting Call Pro back in 2004. Three years later, I was using my Casting Call Pro as a launch pad to networking myself, because my profile page acted as my webpage. When you google my name my webpage was the first thing that came up.
At the same time I had the odd film credit under my belt so created a profile on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). The odd thing here was the indie small budget films I worked on and never got paid for, couldn’t be bothered enter their credits. If the film made it to a festival, then they would probably put it on IMDb but enter the name of the lead. This is one reason why I stopped doing those kind of films. Many actors with good film careers may not see the importance of having a profile on IMDb (that is done via default for them anyway,) but it is immensely important if you are carving out a career for yourself. For a monthly or annual fee, you can also have an IMDb Resume, essentially an online CV linked to your profile so while the bulk of your work may not appear on your profile, people can look at your ‘Resume’ and get an overview of your work and career.
Professional websites catering for your chosen career and are a good place to have a presence. As I do the occasionally photographic work as a model, I have a profile on Model Mayhem (http//:www.modelmayhem.com) as an example. I have mentioned Casting Call Pro, The Spotlight and of course one’s own website. If you have piles of money then you can always get someone to construct a website for you. If you are an actor or showbiz professional I would recommend ‘The Actor’s One-Stop Shop’ they are amazing at putting things together including showreels etc. However, if you are of the struggling, jobbing actor type, then you need to do it yourself. I tend to fall in the latter category, I had to do it myself. In fact I have two websites I built myself. I used Webs.com and Wix.com and achieved excellent results, as they allow you to select templates in order to design and construct your website.
Putting it altogether and making it work
Okay, you have worked tirelessly for what seems like years (and in my case it was quite literally years,) and now you have accounts with Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Skillpages and a whole host of other social media websites. Did you realise that you can link all these websites together so that they can update each other. It is possible.
I have already mentioned how you can link comments you make on LinkedIn to update Twitter. On my LinkedIn Profile page, not only does that happen but my Blog is linked to LinkedIn and shows up on my Profile page also. There are links to my professional websites and Twitter accounts. Speaking of professional websites, My Official Website (http://danieljudegennis.webs.com) is a virtually one-stop shop, as it has a Links section in the Main Menu on my Homepage that contains all the links to the various websites where I have a presence. My IMDb page also displays links to Twitter updates and my Blog on WordPress.com so film people can see and read what I am thinking and writing. If it is done well, you potentially have a Social Media Network that updates itself.
A cautionary warning. If you choose to integrate your various memberships of Social Media websites, ensure that what you write or comment on, is meant to be seen by everyone. People have been with faced disciplinary measures and have even been fired from their jobs or have been sued because they made certain comments about individuals or the company they worked for and those comments were picked up on. Just a warning. Integration can have its drawbacks.
The Social Media Journalist
Now you taken note of the cautionary warning, you have linked your Social Media Websites together, everything pretty much updates each other (as far as possible). So now you have integrated and linked everything together, you pretty much want the online world to be aware of who are and what you have to offer. While you have been building up a network on each individual social media site, these are going to be the people that you start telling about what you are doing. You were probably doing this anyway, as with each new account you opened elsewhere, you mentioned it on Facebook or LinkedIn as obvious examples. If like me, you probably discovered as you went along that one website will transfer information to your new site, if you logged in with your Facebook or LinkedIn Account. I forgot to mention that it was also possible to login to LinkedIn with one’s Facebook account but then I never did and only discovered that recently.
So essentially, at some point it will become apparent (as it did with me four years on down the line,) that I am essentially a Social Media Journalist with my own network of subscribers. Strange but true.
The Virtual Rupert Murdoch
A strange concept you may think but let us look at it for a moment. Depending on how much time and effort you have spent on this. For me it was an evolutionary process that took place over a period four years since 2008. I use the Rupert Murdoch analogy for a reason and here it is:-
Rupert Murdoch over a number of years, amassed an ownership of television stations right across the United States. They were separate entities, which became part of his media empire along with his newspaper and publishing interests. The big deal and change came in the mid-1980s when he acquired/bought 20th Century-Fox – A major Hollywood Film Studio. What this gave him was access to a massive film and television library. What was he going to do this massive library? Well, he owned hundreds, possibly thousands of TV stations across America. The foundation for a new TV Network (His TV Network,) was there and that was what happened. The Fox Network was formed and pretty much changed the face of Television in America.
This is what you are aiming to do with your own Virtual (Fox) Network. You now have a Social Network, whereby you can promote yourself, your skills, knowledge and background. You can also market yourself effectively by telling your core subscribers (Friends, Connections,) what you are doing. If you Blog it is integrated like everything else, people across multiple platforms will be updated on what is happening, what you are doing and what is on your mind because your blog and the discussions you have online will be conveyed to them via Twitter and other sources.
So what do you have as the Virtual Rupert Murdoch?
- Power without spending billions in acquisitions
- The ability to say the right thing at the right time
- The ability to say the wrong thing at the wrong time
- The ability to say the right thing at the wrong time
- The ability to say the wrong thing at the right time.
What a hell of a responsibility but there it is. That is the real power you have. You haven’t spent fortune doing it (if you have got any sense,) but you have spent time and effort doing it. For me it was an evolutionary thing. I did it gradually and think most people have but once it is there, it is there to be used be it to inform people, entertain people, communicate with people or just to say, ‘Hi, this me, this is what I do.
I began doing it to develop and expand my acting interests but it has developed much more because people are people. They are complex, interesting and multi-faceted. That makes for an interesting audience if your remit is entertain, inform and educate via your work. Hope you have managed to stay with me and found this article informative as well as interesting. Thanks for reading.