From Self-care to Self-promotion: Making your Social Media Marketing Work Better For You - PART I


As part of a series, this column highlights communication strategies for handling unpredictable circumstances and a variety of essential online tools and suggestions for you and your teams to implement in the coming days.

As many productions are currently being put on hiatus, so are the kind of life activities outside of our homes that, now paused by social distancing and stay-at-home mandates, have brought us here to this new and challenging place.

This place, if it does not include addressing health issues exacerbated or caused by the coronavirus, is one that can be filled with opportunities that may not have been otherwise afforded to you before that invaluable and most priceless gift - newly found time - became available.

BUT FIRST, SELF CARE

Not much else is above the care for ourselves, for our families, and for all of whom concern us, during times of crisis. But outside of where health and all other urgent cares are met, as artists, found time also provides the new opportunity to re-evaluate and re-assess. The LA Stage Alliance recently published a guide to recommended assessments and self-care to help provide affirming perspectives and advice during these times.

When you once again can breathe, it might then be time to re-visit that other invaluable and unique gift that is only afforded to you, which can be also best be served by this newfound time - the ongoing maintenance of your own self-promotion.

ARMCHAIR SELF-PROMOTION - A CUP OF COMFORT AND A SMART DEVICE

Self-promotion is not just a tool for self-marketing and networking. As artists in the entertainment fields, it is also sought for and expected by those who seek to promote on your behalf. Having a website to that effect is key, for sure. Having reviews to share are as well. But entertainment marketers who are considering “you” as that star power–the one who is going to make their project shine and bring in audiences - will want more tangible results from your self-marketing which come in the form of numbers.

And the numbers I am talking about are in followers.

A larger number of followers, depending on when an account was opened—and where viewable—shows marketers that you are not just active in your own self-marketing, but active in the engagement of your audience—which they see as their soon-to-be-audience as well. This is tangible. This is sometimes seen as bankable. It is an asset.

QUANTITY, BUT ALSO QUALITY

Follower numbers and social media activity tells marketers several things, both good and bad. Lack of social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, all where analytic information is most easily tracked and gained, can tell a marketer that you might not care enough to self-market. With regard to follower numbers on Twitter and Facebook, especially when low in older or abandoned-looking accounts, can signal that as well. In newer accounts, it can look like an after-thought, especially if close to a project's inception date.

A larger number of followers, depending on when an account was opened—and where viewable - shows marketers that you are not just active in your own self-marketing, but active in the engagement of your audience - which they see as their soon-to-be-audience as well.

This is tangible. This is sometimes seen as bankable. It is an asset.

But outside the actual “numbers” of followers, the number of posts, the quality of the posts, the type of content within, and the active, on-going, and regular engagement and conversation, both with and within your audience, is also seen as a tangibly marketable and well-branded tool that someone else can use to promote who is in the business of promoting.

DECISIONS, DECISIONS

"Hashtag" in "Comic-Con, the Musical," Sacred Fools {now The Broadwater], Hollywood Fringe Festival, June 2, 2017. ~ Photo by Monique A. LeBleu

If you are completely new to the use of social media as a promotional tool, and not just for casual social and family engagement and communication, here's a handy checklist to review first before you get started.

Because social media self-marketing does take time and maintenance, it is often the thing that gets pushed aside when the plates of creativity are spinning so fast that it might be perceived as just a plastic plate that won't break should it fall. But with time as a new friend these days, along with the additional benefit of just such similarly captive audiences as of late, a unique opportunity is now provided for all creatives and self-promoters to look toward beefing up their social media marketing and making it a priority.

Which and how many platforms you wish to choose and how much time now, and in the future, you wish to spend, is key. Choosing them and determining which are to be in your portfolio and in future up-keep should be based on the benefits they provide, the benefits you want, and the perceived value they have to those who market you best. Consult those people, where you can, to learn where they personally see the highest value to you (and to them) and where you can and should best place your focus.

Then, assess your current social media and marketing strategies that are already in place, begin the work - alone and/or in teams where you can -, pick the platforms that will work best for all, and go forth to create any new accounts. If you have more than three you may eventually need to use a social media management platform that can share between accounts. But as many of these often only link back between platforms, but simultaneously ignore media-rich content in their wake, I suggest sticking with just a few initially and keep things simple. In time, you will see those numbers increase, as well as your brand visibility.

In my next column, I will talk of the TOP SIX PLATFORMS and how, when, and why to use them for self-promotion.


 


THE BETTER LEMONS "DIRECTOR" CRITIC AWARD FOR 2019 GOES TO...

ERNEST KEARNEY - The TVolution

The "Director" Award goes to the critic who is most likely to write reviews that inform the artists.

Congratulations to Ernest from all of us!

Ernest Kearney is an award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note. He has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist three times in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His play Peddle was selected by the Midwest Theatre Network as one of the best plays of 1997. His most recent work 'The Salt Prince' was awarded honors from the Nathan Miller History Play Contest as well as the Fremont Center Theatre Play Contest. A passionate theatre and history buff, Mr. Kearney's reviews can be found on WorkingAuthor.com and TheTVolution.com.

To view all of Ernest's review excerpts, visit his Better Lemons page HERE.

To view all the Registered Critics on Better Lemons who post their own review excerpts and give each show a LemonMeter rating, go to Better-Lemons.com/Registered-Critics.

All Registered Critics write theater and art reviews for their own publications and then rate registered shows on our website and add their LemonMeter rating. Please contact them through their own website to congratulate them and to get them to review your production.

On Monday we will announce the winner of the "Up Late" Award - the award that goes to the most prolific critic in 2019.

THE BETTER LEMONS "FOMENTER OF REVOLUTION" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Ed Rampell from Hollywood Progressive.

THE BETTER LEMONS "NAME DROPPER" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Jill Weinlein from Onstage Blog.

THE BETTER LEMONS "SAY WHAT" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Lorenzo Marchessi from The Geek Authority.

THE BETTER LEMONS "SILVER TONGUE" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Vanessa Cate from Stage Raw.


Female Fusion - The Intersection of Art and Activism

Reena Dutt is exactly the artist that this column is named for. She creates art; theater, film, web, and video, that moves the conversation forward. The subject of the conversation changes, the message is sometimes obvious, sometimes more obtuse, but the medium stays constant. Art speaks and Dutt knows the language intimately.

There are so many stereotypes of what an ardent feminist, an activist, a person of color fighting for representation is; strong, powerful, angry. Dutt is quite disarming and funny. She laughs easily and often. She is petite, pretty and slightly self effacing.

She mocks herself at times. Do not let that fool you. This is a powerful, confident and driven person. Dutt was born in New Jersey but her family soon
moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, where she spent her first nine years. “It was this crazy white picket fences kind of childhood where we were this United Colors of Benetton neighborhood.....it was an idyllic childhood where you just playing.....all of the kids are together and all of the parents would just call each other to see where the kids were and nobody worried.” During this time they also had strong ties to the Indian community and a large extended friends and family network. The next few years involved some additional travel: Huntsville, AL then Dutt moved to India with her mother and brother for school before they finally all settled in Arizona, where they stayed. The South Asian community in Arizona was stronger than in the other cities that they had lived in, and it was here that her lack of belonging became a bit more pronounced. Her parents were not from the same areas, indeed they met in graduate school in Connecticut. Her father was Bengali and spoke Bengali while her mother is
Maharashtrian and speaks Marathi. Dutt doesn't speak either language fluently. They spoke English at home and Dutt enjoyed a very liberal upbringing with Christmas trees, Thanksgiving dinners, foreign students as guests and family outings to the local steakhouse. So, she didn't really fit in with the more traditional South Asian community. Her high school was mostly Catholic and Mormon, with a much smaller population of color. To find a place to belong, Dutt started ice skating, then dancing and eventually found her way to theater, where she stayed. “I was never the other, but I always was different.” She was never discriminated against nor held back due to race and she found her own community in what she did, rather than in her home culture. In fact, race didn't affect or define her until she came to Los Angeles to be an actor, when a casting director, in 1998, “asked me how I speak English so well, that blew my mind, I had never been asked that before...that's literally the first time I felt different.”

Dutt's philosophy and ethic evolved from the juxtaposition of her rather inclusive childhood banging up against the expectations of the rest of the world.

“I grew up feeling supported by everybody around me, which is so lucky, and maybe that's why I get so confused about why people can't or don't understand how to embrace diversity. I have had so many people, from my theater community [in LA] specifically, say ‘well, being from a culture is so different and unique, you should embrace that' when all I want is normalized
diversity like it was when I was a kid.”

As a producer and director, diversity is absolutely at the forefront of Dutt's work. She explains that “representation isn't a THING, it just is.” and that “What you see is what you believe.”

Dutt asks a lot of questions. Every determination is well thought through and important.

“What is the social responsibility of an artist or entertainer? In my mind, that is the big question. We are in one of the most visual mediums ever. How do we use that? Even if it changes one child's mind--oh I saw that one dancer, that dancer looks like me, so I can go be a dancer. So when we start talking about dialogue driven stories where you are hearing someone speak in medical terminology or talk about a business that they started and they look like you, how much does that empower anybody who has a dream that they don't know if they can do because nobody in their family does it and they've never seen it before. SO I do think that art and media...is a social responsibility whether we want it or not and I know that there are a lot of artists who hate calling themselves activists but if you are putting anything in front of someone
else, you are an activist by nature so what is your choice of what you want to present? What do you want to show? You are responsible for that.”

Dutt takes the responsibility of diversity very seriously, both in front of and behind the camera. Production staff, writers, story lines, actors and audiences are all part of the mix and decision making process. Her body of work offers evidence of a well thought out and active agenda.

For example, she associate produced (and appeared in) the web series The Real Girls Guide To Everything Else, which could be tagged as a thinking brown girls' version of Sex and The City. It's fun, lighthearted and tackles much more important issues than shoes (though those are occasionally featured as well).

Parvesh Cheena in Squad 85

Squad 85, which Dutt produced, was an insane time traveling detective mashup starring Parvesh Cheena, now of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The casting was incredibly diverse, but nothing is made of it. It is simply a group of people who don't happen to all look alike and it is hilarious.

In honor of Asian Awareness Week, Dutt directed a series of PSAs called You Should Know This By Now featuring Asian actors saying pretty basic information that somehow gets overlooked. The short clips are funny and uncomfortable and make a point. The first one stars Vincent Rodriguez, who also stars in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Dutt may be a lucky charm!

Vincent Rodriguez in You Should Know This By Now

Snapshot plays with stereotypes and perception in a short film format. It was a finalist for the New Filmmakers LA series.

Check out Dutt's website for a much more extensive look at her prolific career.

Dutt's current project, which she is both producing and directing is Bodies: Place Called Us, A Music Video For Gun Control. She is reuniting with her first love, dance, putting her love of activism and diversity front and center, once again both in front of and behind the camera, and moving an important conversation into a realm where people might not ordinarily have access to the information. “I've put together an incredible team headed by female key crew. Our cast will be representative of all targeted communities in the States.” The video will launch in June, with an accompanying website that will guide viewers to concrete actions, such as voter registration, contact with legislators, and local events, that they can take to fight for gun control reform in their states. The video is being produced in collaboration with CineFemme and SeedandSpark and features Los Angeles singer/songwriter Alex Mackey. (Disclosure: I am the choreographer and a co-producer on this project)

Reena Dutt has a lot to say and a lot to do. She wants to make the entertainment world, and by extension the world at large, a place where a person of color doesn't have to be explained in any given circumstance, they are just there, being. It's both a shockingly simple premise and a huge undertaking. This woman is well on her way to making it happen.