How many hours do you spend in front of a computer screen every day? How long have you spent studying help files and reference manuals or watching tutorials? How many forum posts have you written asking for assistance? How much of your life beyond standard working hours do you devote to continuing to refine your skills and learn new things?
I'm going to help you out with this accounting exercise and round up your numbers to "a whole freakin' lot." We spend a lot of our non billable hours on this stuff, so it's not surprising that so many video professionals don't bother to maintain any sort of web presence or social media interaction. For video noobs and seasoned veterans alike, this crucial step of a career is often skipped over - lack of time, lack of interest, or just lack of faith in the Internet, I guess.
What if I told you that this stuff is turning into a make-or-break situation for your career?
Sure, it's not a dire situation. You aren't going to find yourself out of business if you don't have a Twitter account. Your word-of-mouth reputation might still get you more gigs over a website. But take a look at the world around you. Things are a-changin', and you'd better keep up with the times.
And it's not even difficult to get started with being a more engaged video professional online. You're not going to spend the same number of hours on social media as you do learning new software (unless you get addicted, which I take no responsibility for by the way). Allow me to explain.
1) Sign up for Twitter already.
Just do it. It's not going to bite you. It isn't filled with people tweeting about what they had for breakfast - if you follow the right people. Twitter is a phenomenal resource for video professionals. Think about it: a lot of us are alone and working on lonely projects. A lot of us have downtime during renders. Instead of wasting that downtime on something silly like making coffee or calling your wife, why not take a moment to check up on Twitter? You can see what other people are working on, keep up with the latest announcements and reactions on products and software, or even jump on and ask a question. Let me give you an example. A couple of weeks ago I was working late on a project, maybe close to 1AM ET. I was having a difficult time with something in Avid Media Composer 6, so I asked Twitter for a solution. Within a couple of minutes, I had responses from 5 different people providing troubleshooting advice. Within a few more minutes, the issue was resolved. Ta DA! That's Twitter.
Here's the thing with Twitter: you need to follow the right people and be engaged. It doesn't work if you only get on it when you need something. Twitter is about interaction from both sides. And who are the right people? That's entirely up to you. Follow, unfollow, cultivate your own list as it pertains to your interests. This list is a good place to start finding video production professionals who use Twitter to the fullest. Another place to find interesting people is the weekly #postchat. Every Wednesday night at 6PM PT/9PM ET, post-production pros tweet for an hour with the hashtag #postchat about a given topic. You can read some of the past transcripts to get an idea of how they go. It's a good place to find interesting people.
2) You have a website, right?
Well, you should. A lot of people are discovered through Google these days. Do you pop up when someone searches for "video editor in city"? No? Why not? You should! Think of all the business you might be missing!
And do you know how often people will Google you that don't really know you that well? You know, to make sure you aren't a serial killer? What do they find? Maybe you have a common name and they find nothing. Maybe they find that one forum post you wrote 6 years ago where you asked how to copy and paste. Or a weird picture someone posted of you from a misguided Halloween in 2003. You never know. You should take the lead in maintaining your online brand (because that's what you are on the Internet) and create a website.
No internet skills? You're in luck, because it's honestly never been easier to have a website. There are tons of free services where you can build a website at low or no cost (though no-cost sites will be branded with their advertising) with no coding skills. If you want to try something just slightly more difficult (but really, not difficult), Wordpress. You can get a yourname.wordpress.com account for free, use a free template, and you're pretty much set. Or you can get a Tumblr account and use one of their free templates. Both of these services have ways for you to purchase a custom domain name (www.yourname.com) and link it.
Build your site, keep it relatively updated with new project work samples and a demo reel updated a couple of times a year, and put your name all over it. It'll be up in Google before you know it, showing people that you probably aren't a serial killer and you're pretty darn talented.
And if you just can't find the time or energy to build a website, at least get a YouTube or Vimeo account. Use your real name. Plaster your real name on everything, including within videos themselves.
3) Try blogging.
This one takes a little more effort than building a website or having a Twitter account, but it possibly has the greatest return. Websites pretty much run themselves minus adding new project work. Twitter becomes fun after you get to know people, and it's only 140 characters at a time. A blog is a blank slate and can seem intimidating. Writing words, forming sentences. Who wants that? What is this, English class?
Actually, if you think about it more like just sharing things you know with friends, it's a lot easier. If I learn something new, find something interesting, or want to learn more about a subject, I write a blog. It doesn't have to be long. There's no teacher looking over your shoulder at it, expecting long flourished sentences and illustrative language. Just blog like you're talking to a friend. Because you are, basically.
There are three good reasons blogging will often yield the biggest return on your time investment. First, it allows you to explore new subjects. Not sure about something? Blog about it. You'll learn a lot just writing about it, and you'll get outside feedback. Second, it also shows you're committed. People who Google your name might find a treasure trove of blog posts you've written about video production. Who would you hire for a gig -- a person who writes regularly about the industry, or a person who is MIA from the Internet other than that awkward photo that may or may not be them? And, third, it gets your name out. If you contribute valuable content, your network will start to open up a little. In other words, people will see that you MAY actually know what you're talking about.
You can easily get a blog started on Wordpress, but if you want something even faster to set up, check out Blogspot or even Tumblr. Any kind of regular postings -- pictures, text, videos, links -- will not only help you maintain your online brand, but it'll help you in your quest to be the best damn video professional ever.
That's a pretty quick summary of getting a web presence established, and it probably just slapped you across the face. Just relax. You don't have to do all of this immediately at once. Each of these deserves (and will probably get) its own blog post, as there's a lot more to using Twitter, a website, and a blog to gain a competitive advantage in your career.
But for now, just have an awareness and take the first little step. I recommend getting started with Twitter. It's fun, easy, and pretty engaging. You might find after a couple of weeks that you're actually having fun with this whole social media thing. At that point, I'll attempt to teach you Google Plus. Just kidding.