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Necessary Evil

Full disclosure, this post is going to be biased based off my personal experience and childhood upbringing. Any controversial commentary should be considered through this understanding.

That being said….

Social Media Marketing is like showing up to a stranger’s birthday party uninvited and grabbing the karaoke mic to give a speech about how you and the ‘birthday boy’ should be the best of friends.

It’s public, it’s abrasive, and there’s a good chance that it’s unwanted.

Now, you may very well disagree with me. You love introducing yourself and meeting new people. That’s great! But who’s to say the recipient feels the same way?

Look, I’m not saying all Elevator Pitches are obnoxious. At a Networking Cocktail Party, it’s expected. But that’s not what Social Media is, is it? And that’s my point.

Take any Online Social Platform you can think of – Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn – how do you get someone’s attention? You either publicly comment on a post they made or you PM/DM them, assuming the platform allows you to do this without being their friend/follower. If not, you have the added obstacle of reaching out and trying to sell your acquaintanceship.

How is this not invasive to the other person?

Not all cases are like this, of course. Someone might have invited you to a closed group that allows you to have that ‘connection’ or you met at a gathering and are following up online or perhaps you are responding to a Direct Request of the person looking for something you can provide. These instances are not what I’m talking about.

My qualm has to do with the “cold calls” of today. There is a marketing technique where one business – in this case, the Voice Over Talent – calls other businesses to see if they are interested in their services. This would normally be like Dunder Mifflin selling companies paper; they say their prices are better than buying bulk from Staples and there ya go, they’re in!

And that’s fine. Business-To-Business Sales are thriving and it’s how great collaborations work. But have you ever had a company call you on your personal cell phone? Usually, that’s considered crossing the line unless you reached out to the company first. Fun fact, I used to work at a Compliance Company that handled “Do Not Call” lists that protected against this very thing.

Why? Because it’s unwanted.

The problem with Social Media also happens to be the focal point – it’s personable. You can connect to so many people that you otherwise wouldn’t have. I don’t have to call all of my cousins to let them know I got a puppy. I was able to see pictures from vacations and weddings and see my high school friends’ kids grow even though I haven’t seen or spoken (in person) to them since High School. I am of the belief that, at the root, social media is a good thing. (Is it oftentimes corrupted or used to supplement living life outside? Sure. But that’s another discussion).

When we talk about Networking Online, we don’t usually mean “write the company in a PR move”. Yes, sometimes that works – take Wendy’s Sarcastic and Cocky Social Media Campaign. There is a voice that would match those personalities; tweeting @Wendys might get a ‘like’ or even a funny response. But the Manager behind Wendy’s Social Media probably doesn’t have the clout to hire voice talent for a TV or Radio commercial. That’s a different department (Unless their company is smaller than I’m imagining).

No, to actually get the attention of the client you are pursuing, you need to reach out to “the man” directly. The Casting Directors and Producers of the shows or products you want to be a part of. And – just for the record – no, I am not making assumptions. I have gone to several Networking Seminars and they all say the same thing. Find the PERSON within the company.

Does that mean you could call their work number or email their work address? Certainly. But that’s “old school”, isn’t it? Social Media is the new focus in all things business. I’ve actually gotten a few gigs because someone found my Twitter.

Say that I want to be involved in a Dreamworks production (because I do; Disney too!). Well, it doesn’t take me long at all to discover that Christi Soper Hilt is the Head of Casting. Great! Let’s ignore the fact that the very place I found out that information, I also saw that notice of “No unsolicited submissions. No calls. No drop-offs.” Because that’s old-school, right? I’m not going to just DM her my demo; I’m just ‘reaching out’ organically. Sure. Already I hit a dead-end because I’m not seeing her Twitter account but not to fear – I found her on LinkedIn.

No, this isn’t sounding like a stalker at all! It’s BUSINESS. Right? Let’s go with that…

Christi and I actually have a 3rd-Degree connection and I have the opportunity to try to connect with her. Great, that’s my in! Except, it’s not, is it? While LinkedIn isn’t as personal as say a Facebook or Instagram account would be, I’m still essentially spamming her. I know she does not want “unsolicited contact” or “drop-offs”. So, I can imagine how she’d handle me reaching out, asking if she’s in need of vocal talent. No, she’s not. That’s why she posts auditions.

Now I know, you’re thinking, ‘Well, that’s a bad example’ and maybe it is. Dreamworks is huge, they’re in the animation business. But… that’s where I want to do business and my seminars said ‘reach out to the people you want to work with.’ I enjoy voicing commercials sure, but I’m not going to DM the Marketing Director of Borders (RIP best bookstore ever!) to see if they’re planning a commercial this quarter.

And maybe I’m rushing it a bit too much. I’m now “following” her LinkedIn account, so if she ever posts an article, I might be able to learn from her and comment on it and start a discussion that way. Maybe.

But as a Freelance Artist, an Entrepreneur – whatever you want to call me – time is money. I’ve been advised to “audition and move on”; it’s a numbers game. So, to play the “long con” of building up an online relationship just in the hopes of one day opening an opportunity to give your elevator pitch to that person feels a bit…. shallow. Or ‘catfishy’ even. Because sure, Christi is definitely a strong woman in business and I have no doubt I could genuinely learn a lot from her. But that’s not why I started following her, is it? Not really.

And that’s my problem. Networking through Social Media is hardly ever organic. Yes, I’ve met a few talented people through just responding to a tweet. But honestly, the only reason I was so active on Twitter was to try and build an audience for my business. So really… that organic friendship started as a calculated marketing strategy.

Perhaps that is the point. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” This sort of thing has happened long before social media. It just seems more rampart now. And the end result is mutual benefit, so perhaps it’s not as conniving as it feels.

But it’s still something I am personally struggling with; how do I make a faked “accidental meeting” feel genuine and organic? Am I approaching it from the wrong angle? Should the building of a relationship be priority and the potential business be “bonus”? Because I can get behind that. But unfortunately, that’s not what I’ve been taught in these seminars.

Where is the line between genuine connection and artificial association?

Maybe this is a personal issue that I have to overcome. Because it seems to be the way business is run these days. And if I want to join the race, I’m going to have to get in the lineup. Or at least pass along my name to the race’s announcer while we’re in line for the bathroom.

P.S.: Please do not harass Christi Soper Hilt; I solely used her as a real-world example to backup my article.

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