Bristol's Badass Burlesque Show
Tiger Tiger discusses the trials and tribulations of social networking.
Networking is an incredibly important part of any industry, especially if you are self employed and self representing. In recent years, networking has grown to include the use of social media – facebook, twitter, LinkedIn and online forums in particular. With the rise in such forms of communication and networking, it is not surprising to find there are a lot of courses and workshops out there for people to learn more about using these mediums as a marketing tool.
Coming from a PR background, I thoroughly recommend these types of workshops, especially if you can find some aimed specifically at your industry – Khandie Khisses and Beatrix von Bourbon both run workshops of these types aimed at burlesque performers and are worth seeking out.
But in lieu of getting to a workshop sometime soon, I wanted to put together a list of simple tips. My main motivation for this is Facebook. I’ve noticed a lot of performers that have friended me in recent months on Facebook are often unwittingly doing themselves a disservice, because the way they are representing themselves online is unappealing to audience members, fellow performers and show bookers and producers.
Be Clear Who You Are
This is really the fundamental basis of representing a public image of yourself, but it can also be the first stumbling block that results in compiling misrepresentations as time goes on. Whether you like it or not, any online presence is representative of you, either as a person or a professional personae.
Ask yourself –
Are you using social media as yourself or as your performing personae?
When new performers first activate an online presence it is often as their real identity, or a joint identity with their real life identity. Some people make this work very well, but others find it easier to keep profiles separate. Either way, it is important for you to understand who you are and how you are representing yourself online.
Who is your performing personae?
If you are online as you performing personae, have a clear idea of who that is – is it an extension of your real life self, or is it a completely fabricated character? Either way, be consistent and appropriate (see below).
Understand What People Want to See
If you are using any social media as your performance personae, wholly or jointly with your real self, then be aware that this is your PR. This is the extension of yourself as an industry professional, no matter what level of that industry you are in, and as such, it should represent you appropriately.
There will be three main readership groups and networking targets of your online personae – your audience, fellow performers and show producers/bookers. It is really important to think about how you want to represent yourself to these people, and to a degree, think about what they want to see from you and how that can in turn benefit you.
Audience – these are the people that might have seen you at a show or have discovered you online, these are the people who pay for the tickets that fund the shows that pay your wages. It is not expected, as with any industry, that this gives them rights and privileges in your life, however, it is appropriate that you treat them with respect and kindness if that is what they have shown you (if they have actually shown you a penis picture in a private message with badly spelt chat up lines you can feel free to call them out on it and block them!).
Other performers – your colleagues, and likely a combination of those you know in person and those you do not. Either way, it is important to maintain civil and working relationships with these people, as well as giving support and encouragement, for which you will hopefully receive the same in return. Again, treat with the kindness and respect they show you (if they have actually shown you they are a complete asshole who you hope never to work with – be polite, if you can’t be polite be private – don’t let their shitty behaviour reflect badly on you).
Producers/Bookers – the people who might give you a job. This is probably the most important lesson in keeping things appropriate – understand that many producers might first come across you online, especially if you have replied to an online casting in a social media setting – so consider representing yourself as you would want to come across at a job interview.
Strongly consider having a separate profile for your personal and performance lives – there may be information and images you don’t want people on your personal profile to see, but there may also be things about your life you want to share with friends and family, but not with the 150 strangers you have added who may or may not be other performers, producers or audience members. Plus, should you have the time and opportunity to promote yourself further, a professional profile will always come across better than a personal one and early in your career can act as a reasonable stand in to a website for a while.
One thing the above groups have in common, is what it is not appropriate for them to see, and things that should arguably be kept for your personal profile, because, remember on a performance personae profile you are representing yourself as a business not an individual. You need to represent how you want to be seen, but also be interesting to keep an online audience – what is going to make someone press the hide button? Consider that what you post may result in someone hiding or unfriending you the day before you post that awesome video of your new act that would have been perfect for the show you didn’t know they were putting on.
Steer Clear of
Putting out too much personal information about you and your life, especially if you profile is not locked or you accept friends requests from strangers – keep that stuff for your personal profile for your safety and to keep your personae profile tidy.
Sharing potentially inappropriate images – do you want a bunch of strangers to see your family holiday photos? Be selective about what you put out there, think “do I want them to see this” and “do they want to see this”. Endless images of your new kitten might be equally inappropriate and off putting to some.
Complaining. We all do it, and sometimes it’s a good thing, but if you can look back and five out of ten of your most recent posts are you bitching about someone, something, your life, then stop. Seriously, stop!
Bitching. Don’t. Whether full on naming names or just passive aggressive crap, don’t do it. Keep shit like that private and professional. There are acts I haven’t booked because I don’t like the way they come across online – my thoughts being “do I want that person to be backstage at my show?”. It doesn’t matter if someone/something deserves to be bitched about – this is a professional environment, so keep it that way!
Spreading rumours. Really, don’t! If you have real concerns then pass these on privately, do not be part of rumour mill, especially if you don’t personally know the people involved, which is often the case in big industries such as burlesque.
It may seem like in a way I am advising you to potentially not be yourself, and maybe that is true. Just as you would represent yourself in a certain way for a job interview, or at work as compared to a night out with mates. Use common sense to decide what might or might not be inappropriate.
Absolutely your own personality should come through, but consider before posting anything whether it belongs in your personal profile or performance one, and how you should word it.
Be aware of how you are representing yourself – in the images you put up and the words you write – are those photos from 2009 great for showing your humble origins, or do they now just look dated and unprofessional compared that what you have done since? Consider how you want to come across in Cover or Profile photos – if this is the first thing people see, does it grab their attention and express you are a performer?
Occasionally share things of interest that might not relate to burlesque – this might be one or two personal photos, especially if they relate to something at the time – “Can you believe my hair cut from 2002! So much prefer my Betty look now, lol!”
Share who you are – this could be thoughts and feelings on things not related to burlesque directly but that you have an interest in, like charities and causes, or perhaps non burlesque events of interest, etc.
Rant! Yes, you can and should rant – share your disappointment and maybe anger productively, without slipping into bitching and complaining – “So sad that Jo Bloggs had to cancel their show because the venue has had to close! Hope they sort something out, there just aren’t enough good venues in Sopping Gusset! *sad face*” or the just as likely “Argh! So frustrated that my mum keeps saying burlesque isn’t stripping – I do take my clothes of mother!!”
Promote yourself – don’t ram it down people’s throats, but this is the place for you to market yourself, so make sure your new video is posted, put up those amazing new photos you had shot. Post about the upcoming shows you are excited about!
Going Forward – Consider Perception!
Like it or not, any form of online presence, whether social media or your own website, is a form of marketing yourself to your target industry. You don’t need a professional qualification in marketing to realise what common sense should already inform you – how others perceive you will affect how you are perceived in the industry.
Finally, these aren’t meant as rules, or even guidelines, what works for one person might not work for another. However, I hope it acts as a jumping point for considering your own online representations of yourself, and moreover, brings home the point that whatever you put out there online will reflect on you as an industry professional – good or bad.