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Episode 260: Social Media with Heidi Dean

business tips Nov 29, 2023

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Heidi's YouTube Channel

About Heidi Dean:

Heidi Dean is known as the industry’s top social media strategist for actors and the creator of She’s a social media writer for Backstage Magazine and a frequent speaker at film festivals, SAG-AFTRA, AEA, conferences, podcasts and universities across the country. Her clients include Emmy Award-winners, Broadway stars, series regulars, directors, producers, casting directors, voice actors and audiobook narrators. Heidi turns social media rookies into ROCKSTARS!

How the heck did you get into doing social media with actors? 

The tweetable version is well, I really got my start in social media marketing and I was actually running social for my husband who is a Broadway and television actor and now audiobook narrator.

And a lot of the things we were doing for him and promoting his album and everything, just started taking off. And of course, working actors know working actors, and I started running social for other people, for actors, producers, and casting directors. 

What I started to realize is that I was not just running social media for them, I was acting like them, and the people interacting with me had no idea I was this person. They had no idea. So it was enlightening to me because I realized that actually, nobody was helping actors with their social media.

You had to be like an A-lister and have media training and social media training and really have someone running your social media to actually get that kind of education. 

And so that's when I started my blog, Marketing for Actors, now 2015. And really just talking about the mistakes I was seeing every day, as people interacted with me when they thought I was this producer, this casting director, or this big actor, and that's when the blog just took off because no one was helping. 

And there was a need that nobody was fulfilling unless you paid thousands of dollars every month to have someone run it for you. 

How important is it for actors to be on social media?

It's important for so many reasons, and I feel like the conversation gets stuck on followers all the time. 

I love that you're asking this because, like I said, I think this conversation of like, How important is it? Why is it important? 

It tends to get stuck on this conversation about followers and I think it's the wrong way to approach it and it's not even the most important reason to be on social media.

So let me give you a couple of reasons why I think it's important and hopefully, that's going to help reframe some things for your listeners. Yeah. 

First of all, it's like almost 2024. You may be listening to this in 2024 and social media is just part of the world. It's, and it's becoming part of your job, right?

Your next gig is probably going to have posting guidelines. They're gonna have some guidelines about when you can post, when not to post, what to post. There may even be posting requirements in your contract, which, just so you know, it's actually a powerful thing. If they require you to post, and you have any kind of audience, ask for more money.

This is powerful, okay? 

So you may have guidelines, you may have requirements. Your next job could have an Instagram takeover or they could ask you to go live or do live tweeting.

These are all just reality.

So it's becoming part of your job. 

It's also part of your first impression. We know this business has gone virtual and people are looking you up all the time. It's a business of referrals and also, people, they need to know who you are. 

So they're going straight to social, they're going to Google, and guess what pops up for a Google search for your name.

Your social media, your bio, you can read it right from a Google search. 

So if you're using social media, I want to make sure it looks professional because it is part of your first impression. 

Another reason I think it is so important is that it can help you get cast and this is not just about followers, but yes, whether you like it or not, having an actual, real live social media following can help you get cast. 

But I don't want to sit on that idea. I've witnessed it over and over again, social media helping actors get cast in so many other ways, from my students sharing a post with their special skills.

Or creating a post that has a certain location hashtags or special skills hashtags and people went online and they were looking for an actor with that skill and now they're auditioning.

It happens all the time or even now that we've been gifted vertical videos like TikTok and reels and Youtube shorts you have all been given a virtual stage to perform and yes actors are getting cast all the time because of it so you know It can help you get cast beyond the followers reason, right?

Honestly, I think the biggest reason, it helps you build relationships and your relationships are your career. 

I always say your network is your net worth as an actor and social media can help expand this network and you can actually put yourself in circles of the people you want to know.

But even more than that. It's the world's best tool for staying top of mind with the people you already know. 

And I really believe it's the people who already know you and your work, that's the fastest way to booking new work because they already know and trust you, right? 

For those four reasons alone I feel like social media is such a powerful thing for an actor.

If you're looking at it the right way. 

Because one thing I would say is, I can tell you everything I just told you. I could give you a hundred more reasons, but it's not going to matter if you don't switch your mindset toward social media.

I've worked with thousands and thousands of actors on their social media and I can basically group them into two categories with how they approach their social media.

We've got, actor A and actor B, they're both looking at the same pathway of stones, and actor A sees these social media stones as stumbling blocks, something they have to do.

Why do I have to be on social media? It's a waste of time. I just want to act, that's actor A. 

Now actor B sees the same path of stones as stepping stones for opportunity to, build their influence, to grow an audience for themselves, to meet more people in the business or as a virtual stage, for their talents, and you're never going to get good at something that you hate or you don't want to do. 

So if actor A, the actor that looks at social media as a stumbling block, looks familiar, I want you to switch that mindset and start seeing social media as a stepping stone because you're never going to get good at it if you don't want to do it.

You've got to make that switch. 

You're never going to get good at it if you don't want to do it. 

We all want to be actor B.

Learn how to love auditioning because you're going to be auditioning for the rest of your life in some way or form, even if you're being offered stuff, you're still going to be auditioning, when you meet a new up-and-coming director, when you have those new opportunities in your life.

Can you quickly talk about know, like, trust factor?

In terms of relationships, this is a business of you will get more jobs from people who already know and trust you than just random auditions, right?

It's a business of referrals. 

It's a business of who you know, and who knows you.

So the more people that can know and trust you know and trust your talents, know and trust your accountability and that you're consistent, you're going to show up and that you deliver in the room, the more opportunities you will have.

When I talk about relationships, I actually invite actors to first look at the people who already know them. Because, like I said, those are the people that know and trust them. If we can stay, the more they can stay in contact with them between that, the phone ringing, the email coming in for an audition, the more auditions they will get.

And that's what social media can do is it can, help you stay top of mind. It can help increase that know and trust factor. 

And the reality is that meeting new people online, it can create a relationship and also build that know and trust factor online. So it actually ends up being an audition, being an actual new connection as well.

Your network is your net worth.

How you stay in touch with people that you know in this business is going to change the trajectory of your career. 

Who do you know and how well are you staying in touch with these people? 

It will change your career. Your network is your net worth. 

What is a good social media following for an actor to aim for?

A following is not their goal. Like I actually when I work with my clients and students I would say, okay, let's figure out what your goal is.

Is it to share your talents? Is it to share your projects? Is it to build relationships? Is it to grow an audience? What is it? It might be a combination, but what are the main, what is your main goal? Because it doesn't have to be to grow a following at all. And that is completely fine.

What I want you to do is make sure you're growing your following with every job you book. 

So whether it's fans of that project or people, the casting directors, the producers, the associates, everybody, fellow actors, you're always building your following with every job you book because you're getting these little fans, whether it's the fans of the project or the fans that, are working with you on the project.

So I do want to put that out there first because, in terms of numbers, this is impossible to answer really, because if you talk to people in the industry there are smaller projects that, having a hundred thousand followers, even having 10,000 followers and the other person up for the job has no social media. 

That's a that's an advantage because you're a team player. 

You have more people you can share it with. 

But when we're talking like big blockbusters, we're talking millions of followers really turn, make it make a difference. And a lot of times it's just the tipping point.

At that point, both actors are right for the role. They both are funny and beautiful. They're both right. But one person has a larger audience. And a lot of times now, I really want people to hear this. We're in a different time in the past. This used to be an influencer. Now, you're getting [00:15:00] Juilliard trained.

Actors, you're getting NYU-trained actors. You're getting, conservatory-trained actors that are growing they're following. So it's not just, it's this person that's never had an acting class getting a job. It's actually trained actors that are taking control of their career and growing their following.

That's something I hear a lot too. It's people saying, oh, it shouldn't be about followers. I'm like these people are, they're taking control. And I do want everybody to hear this too. If you're becoming an actor in this career, it's hard to hear. This career has always been a popularity contest.

We have different metrics now with social media. So the job you got into in the first place, it's always been about putting butts in the seats, whether that's a movie theater or a theater, it's just the metrics are slightly different now, and we can complain about it, but that hasn't changed much.

The thing that has changed. Actor B. You can grow your audience. That's the thing that changed. And in the past, you couldn't control that. You can grow an audience now. 

And I wanna say again, I'm putting in a plug to be actor B, a stepping stone.

The biggest mistakes I see actors make, and I think it comes out of this idea of, they're so set on hearing about followers, is that they treat their follower count like a number instead of a person.

Stop seeing numbers, start seeing the people behind that number. You're not just growing a number, you're growing an audience, you're growing a community, and I encourage all my students, all my clients, to not call it a following, but to call it an audience. 

Number one, I don't know an actor out there who doesn't need an audience, performing for yourself, but you're growing an audience; these are actual people with actual struggles and hopes and dreams, just like every single one of you.

And I really want everyone tuning in, look at your follower count and I want you to think about it. If you have 400 to 500 followers, you filled a 747 airplane. If you have 3,500 followers, that's the audience at the Oscars. If you have 1,800 followers, you filled the Hollywood Bowl. 

That's a whole lot of real people. I want you to think of these as people, not just numbers, and take five minutes, hop into the comments of your post, and have a conversation with some of your audience. Or click over some of your followers accounts and show them some love on their post.

Make a connection. Because when you make this switch, everything changes for your social media. And you start approaching followers in a whole different way.

And you're trying to get more and more numbers when you're not even honoring the followers that you have. 

I'm going to share with you what I think is the biggest mistake that actors make in social media. “I'm having a really tough day today.”

And they shoot that. Because what that makes me as a casting director go is, “Okay, that person's emotionally unstable.”

That's rough to say, but I don't feel that's appropriate to share on social media. What I want to know is that the actor that I'm hiring, I need people who are emotionally stable, they are going to show up early, going to be prepared, they're not going to bring their shit into the room, and they're going to concentrate on what I consider the actor's most important thing to do, which is they're going to focus on the work and getting the job done.

Because honestly, once we get into a studio, once we get in on a set, the most important thing is the work. 

I also realized that I might be having a generational thing here go on, but keep in mind that a lot of people from my generation are in, are watching it, and are going, my husband and I, who I do a lot of casting with, he goes, “Oh my God, did you see so and so's post?”

And that's not reflecting well on that actor. 

Now, it's not that we don't have compassion. That person is having a bad day or, is going through a tough time and I'm not talking about I just put my animal down or my mom just died and sharing about that verbally.

I'm talking about, you're in the car, and you're just crying and sharing about whatever. I just find it, for me as a casting director, it does not reflect well on you. 

Now, mind you, if I need that person for a particular job, of course, I'm going to hire them. I think it comes from a couple of places.

I think some of them are doing it for views and I immediately know when they're doing it for views, which makes me not like, know, and trust them anymore. 

My trust in that the actor would be able to get onto a set the next day goes down.

I invite you to take the Insta out of your Instagram. 

As an actor, you're a public figure. So number one, if you are a parent of a child actor, take the insta out of your Instagram. You should never be shooting at the Magic Kingdom when you are there.

Take the insta out of your Instagram for safety, for spoilers. Too many projects have been spoiled because you shot something thinking you weren't giving anything away but your location did or something did.

When we take the insta out of Instagram, we're able to take that second and really ask, put together a good post and should we be posting this? 

And it directly relates to what you just talked about as well. If something just happened, I think it is a generational thing, some people just turn on the camera and go and, as your career goes, you need to take a pause.

And, either enjoy the moment or deal with a moment.

Really take the time to reflect on what you're going to say. It does not happen just because it happened right now doesn't mean you have to post about it right now. 

And I feel like when you take that little bit of time, it does make us create a different post, usually a better post, and tell a better story with what's happening.

Even if you're hopping on video, it's going to help you make a better video for watch time, which more people will see, if you just take a second to think about what you're saying. 

Stop, take a step back, observe. Is this healthy for me? Is this unhealthy for me? Respond. 

A response is a reaction with a pause and a thought behind it. 

And that's precisely what you're saying here. Just because it happened right now does not mean you have to post it right now.

What platform should actors be most active on in 2024.

It's hard for me just to give a blanket answer for everybody here because your social networks which you choose, should always be based on your goals, no matter if it's 2023, 2024, 2030, it always has to be on goals.

I want you to write down these questions. 

This is what I do with my students, my clients. 

These questions will help you decide if the platforms you're using are right for you and your goals. 

They're also really good to go through when there's a new platform that you're not sure if you should use. 

Yeah, grab your name on that platform, but these questions will help you decide if you should play there. 

So write these questions down. 

Number one, will this platform help me reach my career goals? 

Number two, does it help me with my networking?

Meaning do the industry pros I know and do the people I want to know spend any time there? 

And then number three, after you have learned the 101 of that platform, do you actually enjoy it? 

Use the networks that play to your strengths and talents. It's not the same for everyone. Like I said, you're never going to get good at something that you don't like to do.

Does it help you reach your career goals? 

Does it help you with your networking? 

And do you enjoy it? 

And there's a bonus question, too, so I guess it's really four: if you're in a show, do the fans of the project spend time there? 

And that's important because sometimes you like a certain platform, maybe you love Facebook, and you've been there forever, but the show you're on, all the fans are on X, or they're on Instagram, or maybe they're on TikTok.

Every job you do is an opportunity to gain a fan base. 

And if the fans are on a different platform, you should be spending time there. 

Now, I want to reframe this question a little bit instead of what platform for 2024. I want instead of what platforms I want to think about what features.

So many actors are afraid of vertical video: the vertical video thing, TikTok, Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts. Vertical video is the future, which is now; it was the future two years ago. 

I have been preaching this. I've been preaching TikTok for a while, but I've been preaching Instagram Reels since the day it came out; I think it was August 5th; I know this because I was camping for my daughter's birthday in 2020.

That's how long Instagram reels have been out, and I know some of you have never made one. 

Vertical video. 

It does not mean dancing on TikTok. It doesn't have to be lip-syncing, pointing at things, or doing trends. It could be you sharing your talents with the world, with a video that is just shot vertically.

Vertical video is the best way to get more views on your talents. Vertical video is not going away. Video is not going away. 

I want to challenge everyone listening today to lean into more video in 2024 and beyond.

Because it's so important, you're actors. We need to see you on video. It will change the game. Okay. So choose platforms based on your goals, but please lean into features that are going to help reach your goals and share your talents as well. 

And I know this is scary for people. It's so funny because actors they're on camera, but it's scary for actors.

A great resource for you. Totally free. 

My YouTube channel. I have a billion videos on Reels, TikTok, and all of those things. Plus, my recent videos how to be more confident in videos for social media. 

That's going to be a good first step for you to push past and start using features that are going to help you.