DAVE’S AUDIOBLOG ENTRY #24: Why I’m Confused…no, I mean why I’m confused on how personal I should make my audioblog entries. What did you think I meant?

C’mon…that’s not how it works.

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When I set first set out to make a bog late last year, I asked the VO community for advice on what makes a good blog. The most interesting thing, to me, was how consistently I received two particular pieces of advice that were completely contradictory! The first one was, “Personalize your blog, so you can make sure it’s unique.” The other piece of advice was, “Don’t talk about yourself.”

…Umm…wait, what? Am I, like, the only one who was confused when I read that?

And I friggin’ heard it over and over again, too!

“Make sure that your blog is unique to you.”

“Don’t talk about yourself.”

“Personalize your blog.”

“Don’t write ‘ME-ME-ME’ Stories, no one will read them.”

“The best voice actors are the voice actors who let their unique experiences and relationship with words guide the delivery of their copy, and it’s the same thing with a blog.”

“Nobody cares about your personal trials and tribulations, they’ve got their own to worry about, especially since it’s mostly other VO talent who will read it.”

“Only by making your blog personal can you make it stand out among the cluttered blogosphere.”

“Don’t talk about yourself, that’s just advertising.”

The best conclusion I could come to was that good blogs were blogs where the authors kept their personal experiences brief, and then used them to talk about a larger point that was relevant to the VO community at large. So there were personal experiences, sure, but they were usually summed up in a sentence or two before moving on to talk about the bigger picture. For that reason, there is a line that divides blogging and advertising, but it’s pretty razor-thin if you think about it.

For example, here’s something I’ve been really conflicted about. Recently, I got a new website and a spiffy new logo created for me, and–

Wai-wai-wait, hold on, hold on! I’m getting to a broader point, I promise!

Anyway. I was thinking about writing an audioblog entry about the process behind its conception, and why I like my new website so much. The idea, of course, being that I would be starting a conversation about the larger, broader topic of what I think makes a good website (unique design, downloadable demos, easily-accessed contact info, stuff like that). The thing is, every time I sat down to write that entry, I kept thinking to myself, “Hold on…am I advertising? I don’t mean to…how do I make that last sentence sound more helpful and less like the copy for an infomercial…?”

There are a few audioblog entries that I simply never went through with for that exact reason. They just sat in my draft folder, and never saw the light of day. I started from scratch, because I couldn’t help but think, “Hold on…of what use is this to someone else? Not much at all, really.”

I set out, long ago, to divide my blog and my website as distinctly as I possibly could with regard to its goals. I’m not saying I don’t advertise myself. I have to. Go to my website, or my Facebook page (page, not profile), my Tumblr account, or a couple other social media profiles that aren’t particularly conversation-centered…and you’ll find that I advertise the living hell out of myself. Like I said, we have to, it’s the nature of our business. If no one is aware we exist, we can’t expect to get work. My goal, though, was to make sure, to the extent that I could, that my blog would be an open conversation, for anyone, on all things VO. My audience, after all, is mostly other VO talent. I’d have to imagine that if I just turned my blog into a long rant about myself, that the immediate reaction’s just gonna be, “Uh-huh, that’s nice Dave, we don’t care.”

So, for however little it’s worth, here are a few ways I tried to make my blog personal without turning it into a glorified ad.

1) Keep your personal experiences brief. A sentence or two, but a paragraph at the most. One of my earliest blog entries, entry #4, was an entry in which I talked about why I got into acting–namely, because I’m autistic, and wanted to get to understand people better. Personal, sure, but not very relevant to the vast majority of my other readers. Not surprisingly, it’s one of my least shared entries.

2) Add a (somewhat) unique feature to it. For me, that was the narration feature. I figured, I’m in voice-over, so it only makes sense for me to narrate my own entries, right? I figured it would give a personal touch. Sure, many people won’t listen and would prefer just to read, but the narration feature is there if they want it.

3) Add a blogroll, or a list of other blogs people can check out. It’s a nice little way of sayin’, “Hey, I’m not the center of the universe.”

4) Link to other social media in general. I post my audioblog entries in a number of forums on Linkedin, and whenever I find that good discussion has arisen on a particular thread, I go back and edit my audioblog entries to include links to those discussion threads. I think other people bring up great points about my entries and further the discussion to the point where I want future readers to know about it.

5) Acknowledge that it’s partially impossible. My website is for advertising, and my blog is for discussion, and I try to keep the two separate…but there’s no denying that my blog will help me a little bit on the advertising end. Each blog entry makes me a tad more Google-friendly (something we ALL want, let’s be honest), and while I don’t claim myself to be a VO superstar by any means, it did help my internet presence–more people knew who I was after I started blogging than before.

I guess a funny way to end this entry would be a sentence with some sort of “wink-wink” humor to the effect of, “So remember, make your posts relevant, and don’t advertise yourself…like placing videos to projects you did, such as this one I recently completed for Miken Accu-Flex 2.0 hockey sticks.” However, I’m not going to do that. I would never, ever, EVER post videos of VO projects I recently completed below this paragraph.

Okay, sorry, now I backed myself into an uncomfortable position where I have to post the video to make the joke work–you don’t have to watch it, go ahead and ignore it if you want!

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DAVE’S AUDIOBLOG ENTRY #17: Why I’m Reclusive…no, I mean why I take an effort to separate my private life from my professional life. What did you think I meant?

I avoid being too expressive over the internets because it often leads to…well, this.

DON’T WANNA READ? THEN LISTEN!:

Several years ago, I signed up for an email list that posts jobs for actors. I’m not gonna say which one specifically because…well, you’ll see why. In any event, I observed that a discussion had started over the email list about proper audition protocol, and I was a tad–okay, VERY–surprised to see one particular email. The email–sent by someone that we’ll just call “Person X”–was directed at someone who had written earlier, and it was very rude…again, in the interest of not sensationalizing other people’s problems, I’m not going to drop too many specifics, but let’s just say that the email concluded with the following sentence: “So mind your own ******* business, *****.” I wouldn’t have known this were it not for the fact that Person X thought they hit the “reply” button when in fact they hit the “reply to all” button.

Say it with me now: tchhh……oooooooohhh……..

Despite being (UNBELIEVABLY) rude, I understand that sometimes passion takes over, so I gave this person the benefit of the doubt. Except that two days later, I–and everybody else on the email list–received an email from the list’s administrator. The email said that, in reaction to learning that their remarks were public, Person X sent several emails to other people on the list that were, at best, bullying, and at worst, life-threatening. The sympathy from me ends after that. If Person X didn’t understand that everything they said after their first less-than-polite email would be heavily scrutinized then they needed–and hopefully got–a harsh reality check.

On the other hand, it got me thinking about a growing trend that I’ve been noticing for the last several years, and I’m sure many others have too: thanks to the internet, private lives are becoming increasingly public, to the point where we have become afraid of expressing ourselves.

Especially with social media. I’m of the younger generation that was supposed to catch on to social media the moment it began, but I never signed up for MySpace when I was in middle school and it was all the rage, and I didn’t first set up a Facebook profile until my freshman year of college. The reason for that was because social media was this relatively new thing, and back when I was in school, “MySpace” was synonymous with “pictures of parties and drinking that were made public for all to see.” I’ve never been a huge party-goer (you can thank the autism for that), so perhaps this was a moot point. Nevertheless, I still didn’t want to be a part of “this MySpace thing” or “that Facebook stuff” because of the connotations associated with it.

I felt vindicated, though, when I started to hear a certain story popping up again and again from my peers: “Yeah, I applied for a job, but they saw pictures of me on MySpace and didn’t wanna hire me after that.” So I felt good after that. I was out, and now I had an excuse to be out–if I joined, everything I said and did would be so public that I would be vilified out of employment! I no longer had to be the “uncool” kid who didn’t sign up for MySpace or Facebook!

…Then college rolled around. I missed my high school friends. I wanted to talk to ’em. I got a Facebook account. Quite simple, really.

I would have been left behind in the dust if I hadn’t. The evolution of a global cyber-society more or less forced my hand. Social media is no longer this thing for people to post party pics on (though many still do, regrettably). Rather, it is the avatar through which we interact with the world at large. Now people are expected to have profiles on many different social media platforms, and marketers are regularly setting up Facebook pages so people can “like” them, and Twitter pages so people can “follow” them. Not having an online presence is simply crippling nowadays–on a business and a personal level.

Which is why I have two of each: a “business” profile and a “personal” profile.

On the one hand, we’re expected to have social media profiles, but on the other hand, we’re expected not to express our opinions too blatantly for fear of alienating the wrong…people (okay, let’s be honest, here’s where I should put “read: employers”). The best available compromise I could think of was to simply create two profiles for each platform. I have a “personal” profile for interacting with my friends and family, and a “business” profile for interacting with employers and colleagues, and since I don’t use a headshot, nobody has any way of knowing which of the Dave Wallaces out there is me. While I don’t have a radically different personality on my personal profiles, I’m a tad more open on those, and I take a little more risk with my humor.

Still, there’s only so much risk I can take before somebody will Google a joke I made that they will take out of context and find wildly inappropriate or offensive. There’s only so much risk I can take before employers screen my social media pages–and yes, they DO do that, click here to be amazed at the extent to which they do it. I’m not sure it’s right that my sense of expression has to be limited, though. Who in this world has ever lived a perfect life in which they never did anything they regretted?

Bottom line: I feel like hanging out in our global cyber-society is like hanging out at a party with the most conservative and humorless people in the world sometimes. Say one thing that’s even slightly undiplomatic, and even if it was in the interest of creative expression, you are branded as a moron. I’d rather not be branded as an unreliable VO talent for making a joke that some people didn’t like…but I can’t help but feel that social media’s atmosphere is such that creativity is often squashed in the interest of diplomacy.

DAVE’S AUDIOBLOG Entry #8: Why I Shut People Out….No, I mean why I’m a little particular about who I connect with on (some) social media sites. What did you think I meant?

Awkward Connections

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“I’d like to add you to my professional network on Linkedin.”

Okay, so I may not have the best social skills in the world (as outlined by my fourth audioblog entry). Having said that, in spite of my disability, I put in the effort, even when it’s not that easy for me. So, to be perfectly honest with you, those first eleven words that I began my audioblog with are, hands-down, the words that annoy me most on a regular, day-to-day basis in social media. In case you don’t recognize it, this is the stock message that you can send to someone when you want to connect with them on Linkedin. It’s a bland, lifeless, and kind of awkward message that Linkedin provides for people who don’t want to bother to write out an actual reason for their connection.

So, my simple question is…”Is that all ‘ya got?”

Lord knows that there’s business to be had with connections. Connecting with the right agents, the right clients…heck, connecting with the right voice actors, even if you never meet them in person, can work wonders through the exchange of information that can be gained through good discussion. I’ve had the opportunity to “meet” some great voice actors entirely through the internet. I’m hesitant to name names because I’m afraid that I’ll forget some–which would lead to awkward emails–but suffice to say, I truly do love the VO community. If you know where to go, you’ll find some of the friendliest, most knowledgeable, most giving, and most informed people–who will be more than happy to give you their opinion on the industry, whether it’s friendly and informative or grim but honest.

So why not appreciate that by giving a reason for your connection? Why attempt to make connections with people that are not going to make use of the connection in any way, shape, or form? I hate to pick on the stock invitation for Linkedin, but in my mind it is that eleven-word phrase that sums up what annoys me most about connecting for no reason. ‘Cause think about it for a sec. If you were going about your daily business in real life, would you ever respond positively to something like this?

“Hey man.”

“Oh, hey, how you doi–”

“I’m doin’ fine, so I can I say that I know you?”

“Well, why?”

“Well ya’ know, uh…just ’cause.”

That’s the “conversation” that I hear every single time in my head when somebody just sends the stock Linkedin invitation. It doesn’t send me into a furious rage, not by any means. It’s just…a tad annoying.

For the record, I’m not saying that one has to know the people they’re connecting with like they’re siblings. Like I said, I’ve met some wonderful people online who, in the interest of honesty, I probably will never meet in real life purely because of geographic distance. The other day I got an invitation from somebody I’ve never met who simply wrote…

“Thank you for posting [your audioblog entry] ‘Aiming From the Hip.’ I enjoyed listening to your read. Incidentally, you are quite correct regarding how an officer aims for his target. However, not unlike the Fictional Western Hero, the officer is merely hoping to hit …something.

Best,
      Eric Anderson”

Okay, so, first and foremost–thank you, Eric Anderson! 🙂

Secondly, see how simple that was? I’ve never met Eric, and–again, purely for geographic reasons–probably won’t. In spite of that, he offered to connect with me on Linkedin because he was thankful for me posting a blog entry that he enjoyed (I KNEW officers aimed from eye level!). Gestures like that, simple and short as they are, are all I’m asking for, especially on business-related social media sites like Linkedin.

However, the more observant among you may have noticed that the title of this audioblog entry was “(some)” social media sites, and that’s not a typo. When I was just learning about social media with regard to business, I learned that there are, in essence, two possible strategies: connect with as many people as you can to form a vast, wide web of connections, or connect with select, targeted people for specific reasons to cultivate fewer but stronger connections. I tried out the former with Twitter, following a lot of different people so long as they were involved in some sort of media production according to their profiles.

Honestly, in hindsight, I think that was a huge mistake. I’m following thousands of people who didn’t follow me back, and whom I’ve never gonna correspond with. And to top it off, if I get followed by a deal finder from Finland one more time, I’m considering legal action against the Finnish government. At this point, I’m convinced that all those “deal finders” are part of an elaborate spying process, and I got what I deserved for all my mindless following when my Twitter account was…hacked…by somebody offering weight loss solutions. Again, I blame the Finnish government.

Oh, and uh, yeah…if you got one of those tweets from me, sorry…that wasn’t me.

Anyways. I have come to find that I value actual, legitimate connections in social media, not “numbers of followers/friends/people I’m connected to.” Even if the connections are fairly simplistic, I also love meeting new people online, hearing their thoughts, and discussing the industry with them. So by all means, if you want to connect with me, or any other voice actor for that matter, go ahead and do so…just remember to say why.

PS: Thanks again to Eric Anderson for allowing me to use his invitation as an example. While you guys are at it, check out his website here!