Social media is a big part of our lives. I would not say that I am an expert at navigating social media platforms, but I have been responsible for content for a few organizations and for my own professional use. With everyone – including colleagues and potential employers – now owning some form of social media account, how can you ensure that you effectively build your professional network and engage in exciting discussions while maintaining appropriate professional behavior?
Whatever you put on your social media accounts is a direct reflection of you – so, it is good to know how to use it strategically and responsibly. Technology is impacting the arts in much the same way it is affecting our daily lives. It is in a constant state of flux, and the adoption of multiple platforms is the driving force in marketing trends and opera performance practices. Many cultural fields that may not have traditionally engaged in technology use are now adopting and embracing it to reach, engage, and attract audiences. This fact has never been so evident than during this pandemic when social media is almost the only connection artists, schools and companies have with their audiences. Artists are caught between two worlds: A hundreds-of-years-old art form and technologically advanced platforms.
As a young emerging artist, what should you be putting out into the world? What is appropriate content? You may already have accounts, and a firm grasp of how to put yourself out there, but here are a few suggestions of how you may want to look at building your Social Media presence:
Creating a Digital Persona
Step 1: Develop your “Brand” (“branding” describes the process of creating a recognizable name or image attached to your work)
- Who are you? What makes you unique?What do you do?
- What do you want to highlight about yourself? What makes you stand out?
- Create a digital portfolio of your work. (Start with what you have and build on it.)
- A professional headshot you can use for all platfroms including your website
- Video(s) of a performance(s): It is important that you only post recordings which show you in the best possible light because everyone is watching. Make sure to regularly replace them with current content.
- Photos of yourself in action in opera productions; concerts; etc
Step 2: Research: Look around and draw inspiration from what you see.
- How are other performers in the arts utilizing Social Media?
- Whose profile is interesting and why? Analyze their techniques and what draws you to their content.
- What can you take as inspiration from these accounts without becoming an exact copy?
- Which technology platform(s) will give you access to the audience you want to engage?
- Watch tutorials on how to use the different platforms. Choose platforms that are interesting to you.
- Start with one platform and build your brand.
Step 3: Start Using Social Media
- Start small: choose one platform and create your account.
- Include interesting posts and information: Save photos of your cute pets and your culinary skills for your private account. You will want to look at your professional profile as a business card-what you put out into your professional network.
- Keep your message/content focused on a clear subject. If you are a singer, you want to be seen as a singer.
- Numbers will increase in time: Don’t worry about how many followers you have. This takes time, so be patient!
- Make sure that your Brand always drives your social media presence.
- Have an identifiable name. Choose a name that is related to your field (Many singers use their full name and voice type)
- Each account you use should represent your brand; if possible, use the same name and photos on all your accounts.
- Think about the feel and look of your account
- Use the same banner or profile images (make it easy to tell which performer is attached to your account)
- Use a similar account name which also builds brand recognition.
- As your account becomes more advanced, you may wish to create an email address for professional correspondence. It is a good idea to set this up initially – even if you will not be using it right away – as it enables you to create an account that matches your brand name.
- Link accounts. This way, your audience can find you on multiple platforms. You can also encourage responses on various media platforms and engage with multiple audience groups.
- Keep information up-to-date on all of your accounts. Refresh clips regularly as your voice grows and you become more professional.
Step 4: Keep Track of New Trends
- Don’t get complacent – review your numbers and decide which responses matter most to you overall.
- Keep track of new technology and explore new social media trends and concepts. Not every trend fits everyone, but it is good to stay informed.
- Regularly post fresh and engaging content but be careful not to over-post as this can make your audience uncomfortable, and eventually, they may end up unfollowing you. Posting for the sake of posting is not how you keep your content fresh.
- Be yourself. The things that make you unique are the things that make you stand out from the rest of the “noise” online.
Pitfalls of Social Media
The significant amount of data available via social media platforms makes it very easy for the public to develop a perception (positive and/or negative!) about a singer based solely on their digital content. Therefore, you should decide which aspects of your life you would like to share on social media and which elements to keep private. Filtering your message before posting it is of the utmost importance. Social media can influence your standing with an employer and potentially affect your present and/or future employment status. Professionalism in posted content and online interaction is essential and helps the singer retain and build a positive reputation.
A Simple Rule to Follow: Never post anything online that is damaging or negative regarding a production; performance; director; conductor; administrative staff; faculty; fellow singer; costume worn in a performance; etc. An opera company may not discuss the consequences of a negative post with you. However, posts of this nature can lead to professional disaster(s) for future seasons.
Social Media Platforms Currently in Popular Use
It is a good idea to set up a professional page to keep private and professional posts separate. You can still post professional content on your private page, but I would discourage photos of a personal nature on your professional profile.
- Suggested frequency of use: post content 1-2 times per week or on special occasions (concerts, events, or announcements)
- Types of posts: Articles, photos, concert announcements
- Goal: These posts show up on your contact’s newsfeed. Ask yourself: what would you want to see from a performer as you are scrolling through your feed? In other words, what do your followers want to see vs. what you may want to post
- Profile: Your two photos (profile and cover) should immediately tell followers about you or your story. Ensure that the photos are related to your profession (i.e., a headshot and a photo of a performance) to let followers know what to expect should they decide to “like” your page.
- Suggested frequency: Every 24-48 hours or periodically
- Types of posts: This is the visual diary of your artistic journey. Keep captions short and hashtags relevant to what is in the photo (people swipe through their feed much faster on Instagram).
- Goal: Visually represent an emotion or an important moment in your journey. Stay loyal to your brand.
- Instagram stories and reels: These are a more spontaneous version of your feed. Even though the stories vanish after 24 hours, be responsible and only post things that cannot come back to haunt you. The screenshot function exists, and nobody is safe from it and remember…everyone is watching!
- Tips: IG takeovers generate more followers and can be fun. Generally, a company or an organization invites you to do a takeover as a form of promotion, so it is good that you become familiar with this medium.
- Suggested frequency: There is no real limit on the frequency of posting on Twitter. The platform was designed for prolific posting.
- Types of posts: Text-focused, but also great for sharing articles and other links
- Goal: Quick shoutouts to other artists, articles, or thoughts about your art. Mentions (@) and hashtags (#) are a huge part of building a Twitter audience.
- Suggested frequency: 1-3/month
- Types of posts: This is your platform to showcase/share your performances. Your presence here is the quickest way for people to get to hear what you do.
- Goal: High-quality videos that show you in the best possible light.
- Profile: Create a YouTube channel with a nice photo and good content.
- Tips: The titles of your videos let people know what they will be viewing. List your name and other vital information, for example, your pianist, your ensemble, the date of the recording.
- Use extreme care in choosing your material. Regularly delete videos that do not portray you in your most current state or vocal and artistic development.
Be mindful of what you are posting on these platforms. The most important thing is to be true to yourself. You want to show your online professional personality, but you don’t want people to fail to recognize you when they meet you in person. Here are a few of my what-NOT-to-post tips:
- Copying others: Be inspired by other accounts-remain true to yourself, and do not copy other accounts. You don’t have to recreate yourself for social media, and it should not feel like a chore to create your content.
- Don’t post anything overly calculated: Unnatural poses and setups stick out like a sore thumb and are not your most authentic voice.
- Repetitiveness: Captions like “best cast ever!” get old when you use it in each and every post.
- Negativity: Refrain from venting about your problems on your professional feed.
- Consent: If you post about others or have other people in your photo and/or video, don’t post unless you get consent from the other individuals involved. That is just common courtesy.
- Negative or hateful comments: If you are getting these kinds of comments, congratulations, you have arrived! It is a sign of success, and the more visible you are, the more people take it upon themselves to tell you what they think. The best course of action as a young emerging singer is not to engage or separate yourself from them by blocking them if it gets too heavy.
The amount of time and effort devoted to creating a well-executed digital persona also impacts its success level. The most engaging online content consists of genuine observations, photographs of performances, and experiences that provide the audience with a real connection to the artist.
As we embrace and use Social Media and all technological advances in the arts, it is crucial to keep in mind that it will be accessible to everyone and they will all have an opinion. Content that is personalized and genuine stands out from the online “noise” generated by millions of users. Keeping a narrow and focused message format is vital to attracting people to your accounts. There is a fine line between posting content that is genuinely engaging and posting content for content’s sake. The adage of “quality over quantity” will serve you well as you work to develop a strategic and effective professional social media presence!