If you are an actor and you’re not on social media then you were missing out about five years ago.

Social Media in general is a powerful tool in the arsenal of any creative for connecting and growing relationships with influencers in your industry, building a platform for your creative work, a following for your career and promoting your work.

With so many social networks out there and so many different ways to make them work for you it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the possibilities and end up doing nothing.

In this post I want to share with you 10 rules for you to start making good use of social media today.

#1 Listen And You Will Be Heard

If you want to make social media work for you, you first have to listen intently and religiously to what is going on in your industry and who is talking about what. By listening to what casting directors, directors, agents and other creatives like you are discussing you can become a part of the conversation with an informed and insightful opinion and add value to other people’s lives and the industry as a whole.

Find influencers to follow, groups to become a part of and start consuming what is going on around you.

#2 The One Thing

What is the one thing you are going to focus on. The one platform you are going to get good at before you add anything else. If you try to get on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest all at the same time you are destined to overwhelm yourself and not master any of them.

Choose one platform to learn all the ins and outs, all the tricks, all the methods and the strategies and get really good at using it. Figure out exactly how it can and should work for you and with you to enhance your career as an actor.

There is enough to be done on any one of these social networks to keep you busy for a number of years before you should consider adding in another one.

Take Twitter for example, the social network I rank highest in it’s usefulness for actors. You need to learn how to really listen to the industry on twitter, find who the influencers are, connect with them, consume their content, react and engage. You need to learn to add value, publish your own content, have your own opinions. You need to work on building a following, informing them, entertaining them, keeping them engaged and growing that audience. You need to learn how to effectively promote your own artistry, sell yourself the right way and strike the right balance to reap the rewards in your acting career.

Try doing all that on 6 different sites at once.

#3 Quality Over Quantity

This goes for both your content and your network.

Its better to have 50 meaningful valuable tweets than 500 useless ones. Its better to have 500 really engaged followers who connect with you and resonate with your content than 5000 who don’t really know or care who you are let alone want to engage with you.

It’s better to foster 10 meaningful, mutual relationships with key people who matter to the success of the next stage of your career than to spam 100 top dogs every time you want an audition or have something to promote.

Think about where you can distill your efforts down into only the most effective actions. Less but better.

#4 Patience Is A Virtue

Nothing that’s worth it is easy. Nothing that is likely to have a lasting impact on your career or life will happen overnight. Using social media is a long-term strategy to have a lasting effect on your success. If you put in the time and effort then social media can eventually be a powerful engine for your career but if it was easy everyone would be doing it.

Start out taking one small action and making that a part of your habit. Maybe that’s just spending one hour a week reading your twitter timeline. Once you have that ingrained in you it will be second nature and will start to feel less and less like work. Don’t try to act like a master your first day at it.

#5 It All Adds Up

It might feel like you’re trying to push a boulder up a hill at the start but once you get that social snowball rolling down the other side it will grow and grow.

All the little actions you take each day on social media, every follower you gain, every piece of value you add all adds up. When you spend the time, putting in the hours, diligently garnering friendships and connections online those will come back around to you in the future. Your small but highly engaged following will want to share you are your art with their own followers and your audience will begin to grow exponentially, sharing your art even further.

#6 Influence Is Powerful

To build your credibility and visibility online you need to build your authority in the eyes of your audience.

You need to spend time connecting and growing your relationships with people of influence in your industry which will allow you to connect with them more easily in real life but also add to your influence online. Connecting with those already in a position of influence can help you spread your message to a wider audience and demonstrate that you are a credible source of information and value to them. The more value and authority you demonstrate the more likely you are to build valuable relationships and have these people share your content with their audiences.

#7 Value First

Social Media is not a broadcast platform. It’s not just another place for you to shout about yourself.

You have to earn the right to promote yourself to your audience by showing them that you have value to add to their lives. Become a content curator; find, create and share the most valuable content for your audience and they will begin to trust you as a source of value in their lives, sharing that content with others, promoting you to their audiences and in turn engaging with you when you have something to promote.

#8 A Picture Paints A Thousand Words

Images are powerful online and you need to think of every photo you share as an opportunity to advertise what sort of professional you are.

You wouldn’t send a casting director a selfie so don’t post pictures of your drunken night out where you intend to promote your professional life. However, its’a always a great idea for you to share photos of you in the rehearsal room, on set, on stage, in front of the camera. Only use your headshots as your profile photos and it’s always a great idea to find a production or rehearsal shot of you that demonstrates lot’s of credibility and use that as your header photo. Sharing clips of you at work or your showreel along with production or rehearsal stills are a great way to promote yourself without “selling” yourself.

#9 It’s A Conversation Not A Billboard

Would you ignore someone if they walked up to you in the street and said hello? Probably not.

So don’t do it online.

When people reach out give them the respect they deserve and acknowledge them. Say thanks, reply, answer their questions. If they took the time out of their life to engage with you give a little back. When you share and publish content don’t just disappear off the face of the earth. You’re not a newspaper you’re a person. Get involved in the conversation and interact to build a strong connections.

#10 Pay It Forward

The law of reciprocity, what goes around comes around. If you want people to engage with you and share your content then you need to engage with people and share what they have going on too. Taking time to share other people’s content and engage with them demonstrates that you are interested in connecting and building lasting relationships online and not just in it to take what you can and run.

Jason writes about the business of acting and helps to inform and empower actors with the skills and knowledge they need to achieve success in their careers. Follow @Jason_Broderick on Twitter.