Act Smart!: A gatekeeper’s take on social media

It’s all well and good for me to talk (until I’m blue in the face, most times) about the best way to use social media to further your goals as an actor. For this month’s column, though, I decided to go to the source: an actual agent who actually uses social media well and excellently, and who has some very clear ideas about how actors should, and shouldn’t, use it, too.

Completely by accident (and largely because of social media), I met the amazing Chaim Magnum, principal of the cutting-edge commercial talent agency LemonLime (whose very tag line, “Talent with a twistâ„¢”, deserves a column of its own).

Trolling around on Twitter looking for examples of people in the industry using the media well, casting director (and good friend) Bonnie Gillespie hooked me up with Chaim. I figured as long as I had his attention, and perhaps especially because of the way I was able to get it, I should take it as a sign that it was time to look at social media from the perspective of the industry gatekeepers, you know, those folk whose attention you’re always trying to grab.

Well, you have. Grabbed it, I mean. Only not in the good way, for the most part. While social media sites like Twitter offers actors a great opportunity to gather information and present themselves in a positive light, too many of them abuse the privilege, or are just clumsy about the way they use Twitter to interact. “It’s a great fly-on-the-wall opportunity for them,” says Magnum, adding that he likes when actors follow him, as it shows they’re interested in learning how the industry works. As time permits, he’s happy to answer any smart questions about the industry in general, or about how LemonLime works in particular.

But a smart question is one that hasn’t already been answered. “Look at the landscape,” he advises the would-be questioner, suggesting that a little upfront research is in order before you start firing off queries to busy agents, casting directors and industry execs. Hollywood is happy to add to your knowledge, especially as it benefits them, but “no one is going to spoon-feed you this stuff.” Have you checked LACasting and other actor resources? Done a Google search to pull up info on the agency, what kinds of people they represent, how they like to accept submissions? (Email only, in LemonLime’s case, and the site itself has info on whether they’re looking to add to their roster.) Nothing makes you look dumber (or lazier) faster than asking a question on Twitter or Facebook that’s plainly answered on the agency’s own website, and no one wants to be remembered for that!

There’s not really an art to asking questions, but there are some common-sense principles. Magnum keeps an eye on the interaction between other agents and their clients, specifically whether “the clients are respecting the information their agents are giving them.” He adds, “If you’re going to ask the questions, don’t try to outsmart the people you’re asking them of.” In other words, don’t ask questions just to get attention, because the kind you’ll get ain’t gonna be the kind you want.

Magnum also enjoys social media for the easy access to industry news, and you should, too. As I mention in all of my talks about social media for actors, smart talent follows a variety of industry resources to stay on top of things. Back in the day, it was the trades and certain sections of the daily newspaper; today, you can get a lot of terrific breaking info from following a carefully edited selection of resources. (No, I won’t spoon-feed you a list; remember what Chaim said, above! But a good start would be to look at the list of people that someone like Chaim or Bonnie is following, and follow them, too.)

Some other social media etiquette and best practices for actors:

  • Don’t ask for a follow. One of Twitter’s main benefits is that it allows for an asymmetric follower ratio, more people can follow you than you follow. Yes, this means that they may not follow you. But it also means that you can follow them and get unprecedented access to great info without knowing them from Adam! (Just don’t be creepy, or you can get blocked and lose that access.)
  • Be yourself, but be patient! In his own searching for the perfect clients, Magnum admits to seeking a “certain spark.” When he feels that, he knows it’s a good fit that will benefit both parties. By all means, ask (good) questions occasionally; you can also link to great stuff, including your own (even more occasionally). Far better, of course, is to make great stuff and trust that if it is awesome, it will surface. Magnum related a story of one follower whose Twitter stream led him to a site about her music; he loved it, and tweeted about it, without her asking, just because he thought it was cool! Do you think he’d have done that if she slavishly begged him to check out her band’s MySpace? Uh, no. No, he would not. And he would have been right not to.
  • Watch how much you share of yourself. No-brainer, right? Only it’s not yet, apparently. As Magnum says, “You can post what you like, but you may not get hired because of it.” Clients have the same access to Google that you do, remember, and the Internet lives forever.
  • That goes double for proprietary information. As bad as it might be to post those topless pix of you at Burning Man, it’s ten times worse to post any privileged information about the client whose job you’re working on. That’s not just stupid, it’s actionable. Be smart: when in doubt, shut your trap.

A huge and hearty “thanks!” to Chaim Magnum for so generously giving of his time to help all y’all get it right. Any follow-up (and well-researched, non-dumb) questions? Hit me up via email or ping me via social media. I friend pretty much everyone on Facebook who leaves a nice note (and then doesn’t spam me!); I’m an asymmetric type on Twitter, but I will reply to (well-researched, non-dumb) queries there, too. (I’m @communicatrix on Twitter.)

CHAIM MAGNUM (Co-Owner LemonLime Agency) has been a leader in the Commercial Agency world for over a decade.  As one of the founders of Dragon Talent, an agency that focused on hip and cutting edge talent, Chaim’s latest venture is LemonLime Agency: Talent with a twist. LemonLime has maintained its street edge, while adding a more accessible and wide reaching talent base. Chaim’s clients have appeared regularly in commercials such as iPod, Gap campaigns, Pepsi, Levis, Verizon and hundreds of other national and worldwide commercials.  The attention given to the most current trends in Commercials, Music and Art has earned Chaim the unique place of being one of the most sought after agents in Los Angeles and the business.

Next month: Your holiday (I know! Me, neither!) checklist of to-dos in preparation for a spectacular new year ahead!

Ready to learn more about using social media the RIGHT way?

Sign up for my (free) newsletter! Every month I send out a free missive about how to promote yourself without being a tool, and connect with people in a way that makes them love you. It’s not about acting explicitly, but since you’re a smart actor, that shouldn’t scare you. Check it out, then sign up.

Email me your questions: If you’ve got stuff you’d like to see addressed in a future column, email me at colleen AT communicatrix DOT com. But please, check the archives, first!

Colleen Wainwright is a writerspeakerconsultant who started calling herself “the communicatrix” when she hit three hyphens. She spent a decade writing commercials and another decade acting in them for cash money. Now she uses her powers for good and not evil by helping actors and other world-changers to uncover their unique fabulosity and get it out there via low-cost tools like the web and not being a doofus.

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