Meeting Strangers on the Internet: Initiating the Conversation with Industry Professionals
Meeting Strangers on the Internet
As the perpetually single friend, I have plenty of experience online dating. While not the intended effect, it turns out that building attractive profiles, initiating effective first contact, and translating e-intros into in-person meetings are all highly transferable skills when it comes to professional networking.
In this post, I share how principles of online dating can be applied in order to successfully convert online interactions with producers, showrunners, directors, and CDs into successful work relationships.
Create an online presence that reflects how you want your future industry besties to see you
Your online profiles aren’t just for you, your college friends, and your crazy aunt who’s still living vicariously through you and your college friends. That said, when creating and maintaining your social media presence, it’s important to be honest, passionate, and be yourself.
To an extent.
Sure, you might like to get hammered on the weekends and make questionable decisions, but would the industry power players actually take you seriously if all they saw were photos of you letting it all hang out?
Filters. They’re for more than Instagram photos. Filter your content to present a version of yourself that the folks you’re trying to build meaningful relationships with would enjoy meeting and spending time with. Beyond what you post yourself, also be aware of what content you’re liking and commenting on (and what comments you ‘re making). All of that is part of your online presence and easily gets traced back to you!
Pro Tip… This is not about misleading people. It’s about putting your best foot forward and curating a social media presence that reflects who you are and what work you want to attract. After all, people want to hire who they know, like, and trust- your online profile is your opportunity to present yourself as likeable and trustworthy, so that people would like to get to know you!
Figure out what you want
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve said that to someone I’ve dated…but it’s also an important thing in this context. Do your research and find out who, specifically, in the industry you want to connect with. An agent who reps someone you know? A casting director or associate working on a show you’d be perfect for? Don’t forget line producers, 2nd ADs, and UPMs (unit production managers). They also often work closely with producers and may have the power and influence to bring someone in or pass along a self-tape!
Lead with a compliment
Great! You’ve matched! Now what?
You’ve spent time liking each others’ posts, maybe even re-tweeting or reposting ( basically 2nd base in internet friendship terms).
Now it’s time to slide into home base by sliding into each other’s DMs.
Deep breaths, you got this.
When reaching out, it’s highly effective to start with a compliment. You’re much more likely to get a response, advises the dating app Bumble and validated by my own experience. “Thank You,” “Congratulations,” or an engaging question about something they posted or are clearly passionate about are also likely to get responses.
After some back and forth, gauge the friendliness and closeness of this acquaintance and casually ask via DM if they’d be open to grabbing coffee (if they’re local), answering a few specific questions via Skype, or just having a quick 10-min chat on the phone if they seem super busy.
Don’t be weird. At this stage, they already like you! So just keep being your non-weird self.
You got the date! What do I talk about?
Outside interests. Please have some non-industry topics to discuss at your fingertips. Do not be that cliché needy actor who has no other skills, hobbies, or interests, and is solely focused on getting a job on this first date.
On my first dates with guys from the Internet, I’ve got a rideshare app open and ready to go in case they end up being too forward and sleazy, and I’d say these two scenarios are equally gag-worthy.
Networking is for the purpose of building a successful long-term (professional) relationship, so treat your date with the respect and consideration needed to create that foundation of trust, instead of bombarding them with questions and requests that make them think this meeting is all about what they can do for you.
Find an organic connection with the individual or individuals that doesn’t come from you needing a job.
Many industry folks have outside hobbies that they share and talk about as part of their online presence- via Instagram, Twitter, or vlogs/blogs. I personally feel Facebook should be reserved for people you actually know, but if people have public Instagram and Twitter profiles, that is, their account isn’t set to private and anyone can see their posts, you’re not crossing any social media boundaries by following and engaging, regardless of whether you know them personally or not.
There you have it. Have fun online dating/networking, Internet Friends!