If you create it, they will come.
At first, I just had my web-site. So then, big deal? Now what? Most all of my previous web-design clients have been artists: actors; directors; musicians; and authors. Most authors. Word-of-mouth. I haven't spent one dime on advertising. I've never had to. And the biggest thing that I, as a webbed-mistress have harped to my clients, is that they need to exploit themselves as much as possible. We spend all this money on professionally-photographed headshots, acting classes and clothes for auditions, but we think we can get by without a web-site? Or if we don't, then we design our own web-site and business cards?? Uh, no.
Here's a quick run-down of the first things I tell my clients once we get their site live:
- Get business cards, and if your web-designer hasn't designed them to look like your web-site, then at least find a company who will, or who will get the design close. Your web-site should be your first portal to new "fans" on the web, and it represents you in EVERY way, so make sure your business card, which is the first portal to new fans in real life, matches the rest of your promotion materials. I always try and design a business card template for my new clients, unless I find they already have them, then don't waste money making new ones. Use up what you have.
- If you wish to incorporate your identity, then hire a professional logo designer. This person will be able to design a professional logo that will A. stand out in the mind of anyone who sees it, and B. will make it look good either on the side of a bus, or the side of a pencil.
- I encourage anyone like an actor, director, voice-over, musician or comic--anyone who needs a promo pack--to have it professionally done. Part of my job as a web-designer (Which put my skills as a comic and writer to work.), is knowing how to present my client's company or my client in the best possible light, and that means knowing how to BS the hell out of the process. I don't mean make things up--I mean, to know how to put advertising spin on the product that's being advertised. There is a heirarchy of information that newspaper editors consider all the time when involved in layout for the next edition. It's a skill that comes from years of working in design, watching the trends change on a dime and keeping up with the technology to do it. Also, unless you're Mr. Serious, have this designer incorporate a little levity into your copy, be it web or promotional materials. Now, I will acknowledge there are some pretty nice site templates available now like Joomla and WordPress. But, however pretty the template may be, you are still responsible for its content, and isn't it better having someone who knows what they're doing, so you can concentrate on what you should, and that's learning new monologues?
- GET THEE TO A FACEBOOKERY. Ok, so it's not Shakespeare, but you get my meaning. Let's admit it: you're *going* to waste time on it anyway, so why not use it to your advantage? I have not only my personal page, but also now have a "fanpage," where I advertise upcoming stand-up gigs as well as books I have available for download. And I can interact with anyone there, which, if they're a fan of your work, makes the people very happy. There are new social networking sites cropping up all the time, but when you're just starting out, in order to save yourself some time and sanity, stick to the big ones: Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, GoogleConnect and LinkedIn. Most require profiles, so either give your web-designer one piece of copy of what you want written so that they can do it for you, or you will spend much time filling out profiles and preferences.
- Get a blog. I resisted this like the plague for a long time, then suddenly last week when my career exploded, I realised its value. People WANT the personal touch when it comes to you, their public figure. If you're a director, then blog about your current production, or the time when you directed "Titanic." If you're an actor, blog about your current production, or the time you acted in "Titanic." People are nosey--it's in our nature--so play your strengths to this human weakness. There are ways you can link a blog into your web-site, or, some people even have just a blog, which its capabilities and power are being expanded all the time, for photos, videos, even audio. Some buy just their domain name and then host it on the Blog servers.
- Pretend you are already a star. Wha?? I do it all the time when no one's looking, so make it work for you. I don't mean go out and buy expensive crap you can't pay for, I mean advertise yourself and get your name out there as if you were already a big-name. "But Carla, I'm not in this for fame." Right--and I look like Christie Brinkley instead of David Brinkley. Fine. Your motives are your motives, but remember this: your "fans" who purchase your product or see your show will treat you like you're famous, so give them what they want. I learned this week on one of my sites where I contribute. This one lady, an author with a novel already under her belt and a new one due to be released soon, had a mentor. A publisher, I think. And the first piece of advice she was given, was to do just this very thing. Now she has a huge fan-base, and is primed and ready for sales as soon as the novel hits Kindle this fall. See, people LOVE confidence. Not hubris, but sheer confidence. And to put yourself out there and have yourself marketed as if you're John Malkovich instead of John Doe, well, people, even if their reaction is negative (Who IS this guy, and who does he think he is?), will be forced to sit up and take notice. Write your promo copy as if people have been living under a rock because they don't know who you are! Make them feel stupid for not knowing you. (Hmmn. Says he's got a movie coming out. Guess I'll see how good he really is. Once that happens, you've got them hooked. Hey--it's how it happens.)
- WRITE A GREAT NOVEL; BE A TREMENDOUS ACTOR; DIRECT SO WELL YOU ARE INDISPENSABLE. In wrapping up, all of this fluster in advertising and hard work, well, it won't mean a hill of beans if you neglect the basics, and that is to learn all you can about your craft and make it better. This works no matter in what area of art you are. Why take the time to get Joe Blow located in your line-of-site and get him enticed into watching your upcoming movie, if your acting skills are no better than Heather Graham?? You've wasted all that time and energy and for what?
- Do not give up. This business is fickle, so when you put on your advertising hat, be thicker-skinned than when you are wearing your artist hat. Think of it this way: every time you fill out another profile, orpost to another discussion thread, you are planting seeds, and seeds take time to root and come to monetary fruition.
- Specifically for actors: Do NOT stop living your life. You're on-stage or in front of the camera maybe 4 full hours out of an 18-hour day, so go back to school, take a floral design class, learn basketweaving. Stop falling into depressions because you're not in a job. I love and highly recommend the book by Katherine Mayfield, called, "Good Actors, Bad Choices." She discusses this in-depth. Get it.
All this to say, do not dismiss out-of-hand the power of social networking until you've been "unfriended" by it. :D