How to Network

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

By Marci Liroff

In light of the pandemic, I am offering special pricing for my private coaching (remotely of course!) You can buy a steeply reduced package now and use it later (must be used before the end of 2020) Check out the info here.

This week, I’m talking about a dreaded topic: networking. I say “dreaded” because even I used to hate networking! Forcing myself to go out into the world with the sole purpose of meeting people in my business in order to garner connections (and possibly work) has always seemed inauthentic to me. If people like my work, why can’t they just reach out to me and hire me? Why do I have to mix and mingle with people? It’s exhausting!

That was the old me, but I’ve since read up on this topic to find out how to take the bad taste out of my mouth. I’ve learned that networking isn’t a one-way street; it should be beneficial for both parties. It’s not just “What can this person do for me?” but “How can I help and enrich this person with my expertise?” If you give value without strings, it will come back to you in spades. I’m not suggesting you work for free, but reframing the way you think about networking will change your energy around it and will attract like-minded people.

A popular way to network these days is through social media. I’ve written a lot on the topic in my column on Backstage. The first and most important rule is to use proper etiquette. In the world of social media, you should behave as you would at a dinner or cocktail party with guests you’re just meeting.

I hope you wouldn’t barge into a room of strangers and tell them to watch your demo reel.

Same thing with social media. In addition to social media, here are my four favorite networking tips to get you going:

1. Google Alerts. Set Google Alerts for the people you’d like to meet. Go and see them when they’re speaking on a panel. Ask questions and engage with them. No stalking!

2. Tweetups. Tweetups are essentially in-person social gatherings and networking events organized through Twitter—a great opportunity for turning social media interactions into in-person meetings.

3. Social gatherings. This is the time to shine and be yourself and not just talk about work. Natural, everyday social gatherings with friends are a great way to make real connections with people with whom you can circle back down the line to make work connections.

4. Turn to your friends and family. I’ll bet your friends, family, and work colleagues know several people that you’d like to meet. The best way to meet someone is through a personal referral! Ask around. Do your homework.

To further shed light on how actors should go about networking, I turned to actor and entrepreneur Ben Whitehair, who has taught me much about how actors can and should interact with casting directors and film professionals.

There are so many ways to network with casting directors. What has worked for you?
I’m now actual friends with dozens of casting directors, and in each case, I followed three guidelines: Always add value; remember that casting directors are people, too; [and] practice patience.

In my online business academy and coaching community for actors,, we are constantly talking about how important it is to remember the mantra “Offer instead of ask.” Casting directors are bombarded by actors, and most actors are asking for something—follow me, watch my demo reel, give me an audition. A wildly more effective approach is to add value for the casting director. Maybe that’s simply expressing your gratitude, offering tips or resources related to what the casting director is posting about, or promoting a film they cast to your followers.

It’s also so helpful to remember that casting directors are fellow human beings in this crazy industry. They want to get a break from their busy lives on social media, be treated with kindness, and interact with genuine people. Find ways to interact on a human level instead of only talking shop.

I also find that when I focus on building relationships over time rather than trying to get something in the short term, it always works for me.

What are the no-nos?
The biggest one is what we discussed before—asking for something instead of adding value. If someone feels like you’re just trying to get something from them, they won’t be inclined to help you. Beyond that, I’m shocked how many actors have not taken the steps to make sure their own social media profiles are optimized and professional, [which requires a] quality profile photo, well-written bio, link to your IMDb page or website, quality content, what city you live in, etc.

How should an actor approach a CD or other industry professional on social media?
The first step is to listen. Before even reaching out, pay attention to what that specific person is interested in. What do they post about on social media? What sorts of things are they interested in? What do you have in common? It can feel intimidating, so start with simple interactions and look for any opportunity to add value.

What are some other ways an actor can network?
Outside of social media, there are so many ways to network and build relationships with industry professionals. Film festivals, for example, are a wonderful place to meet directors, producers, and writers. I’m also a huge fan of attending industry events such as Q&As, panels, screenings, and educational workshops.

Charity events and organizations are also a wonderful avenue to meet people. There are plenty that are related to the entertainment industry, but that’s not a necessity. Again, do the listening—there’s a very good chance the person you want to connect with has a favorite charity they are involved with.

OK, I’ve met some amazing people. Now what?
To maximize these opportunities, remember to follow up! “What’s the best way to connect with you?” is a great way to ask permission to follow up and learn how that person wants to be reached. Giving your contact information to others is fine, but you’re then relying on the other person to do the work. Rather than focus on handing out your business cards, put your energy toward being the person who reaches out after meeting. Almost no one does that, so sending an email or note about how great it was to meet them will set you apart. Bonus points if you can find a way to add value in your follow-up by sharing an article or resource related to the conversation you had when you met them.

Make sure to check out my online course “How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp”. You can view it on your laptop or your mobile device and your subscription gives you lifetime viewing privileges for this course. I’ll be adding lectures throughout the year.

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By Marci Liroff

Twitter, you ask? Do I HAVE to?! Yes, you do and I’m gonna tell you why.

I came to Social Media kicking and screaming in 2009. Being an extremely private person, I was deathly afraid of opening up too much of my life to the public. My friend Angela Shelton just about chained me to a chair and taught me what to do. Dragging my feet and protesting, she made me sign up for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, a YouTube channel, and a Vimeo channel. I knew I had to make the leap of faith because if I didn’t jump on this Social Media train soon, I was going to be dragged down the tracks by the upcoming newbies in the business.

I was not prepared for how much I love it! OK, truth be told I’m addicted to it! Not only do I use it for work (I interact with my community of actors and find new talent), I learn about all the breaking news on Twitter. Being a news junkie, that’s music to my ears! A couple of years ago I was asked to speak at the #140Conference in NYC on the topic of Social Media and the Casting Director. Here’s my short speech:



Truth be told, initially my main reason for getting on Twitter was to sell my DVD. Much to my chagrin, I quickly learned that Twitter is not a place to sell yourself. I got my head handed to me on more than one occasion by angry Twitter followers who didn’t like that I was trying to sell them my DVD. I thought, “But, you’re following me! Obviously you want to hear what I have to say!” Turns out that couldn’t be further from the truth and that’s not at all what Twitter is about. I decided to sit back and LISTEN and learn. My friend, actor Ben Whitehair, says that in the beginning you should “use Twitter as a listening device, not a megaphone.” Sound advice indeed!

 Once I stopped squawking about myself and started listening to the folks I was following – a world opened up.

I learned that Twitter was a place to CONNECT to my community – a place to learn from those that I’m following, hear their needs, and contribute great content. Since I’ve been in the biz for over thirty years I realized that I have a lot of great info to give. I’ve become quite the “content curator” over the last few years. I’m finding some really interesting stuff for actors—from other people’s blogs or other casting directors, producers and directors I know, or open calls that I hear about across the country—and mostly posting useful information that has nothing to do with me but will be helpful to actors. It’s about sharing great content. Twitter is limited to 140 characters, so you have to be concise and to the point. You basically want to give a headline and a link to something.

Casting Directors used to be an elusive and exclusive bunch. That business model is outmoded these days and I think you’ve noticed the abundance of Casting Directors who have made themselves available to teach/coach/and advise you on the acting business. You may hear on Twitter that they’re casting a project – but follow their lead and go about the usual channels to procure your audition. Here’s a list I put together of CDs who tweet. You’re welcome! Here’s another list from Wayne Chang (@wonderfulcow on Twitter) of CDs who have websites.

Last year when I was casting my movie The Sublime and Beautiful  I was contacted by an actress in Los Angeles who had been following me on Twitter and Facebook. She said she could be considered a local hire and were there any roles for her? (We were shooting on location in Lawrence, Kansas and had no money in the budget to bring actors from L.A. except for the lead characters). She sent her demo reel,which was very good, and I sent her the sides for the role I thought she’d be right for along with our script. Within the week we had auditioned her and hired her for a pivotal role in the movie. I had not even known her work before she introduced herself on Twitter. Here’s what she did right: she used good Twitter Etiquette. She was polite and had already established somewhat of a “relationship” with me already on Twitter and Facebook before tweeting her request to me about the role in my movie.

A couple of years ago I got a tweet from a woman in Akron, Ohio who was in charge of hair and makeup on a theatre production of A Christmas Carol for a charity which sends kids fighting cancer to summer camp. She was put in a bind by the producer when she was told (two weeks before their preview) that he had NO budget for hair and makeup and that she would have to get it herself…somehow!  She tweeted  asking for donations of hair and makeup for her play.  I contacted her to make sure it was legitimate, then reached out to my makeup connections from my movies and TV shows and in a few days I received a GIANT box from one of my makeup artist friends full of make up, wigs, and facial hair.  Another makeup artist friend hooked up the Ohio woman with a deal from MAC makeup.  Everybody came together in a matter of days…all through the power of Twitter.

OK, so I was now officially hooked!!  Hey, this thing really works! I love how a very large community of strangers became a small community of friends, helping each other. Twitter just made my world a little smaller and I loved it!

Many people mistake Twitter as their own personal P.R. firm and they talk about “me, me, me” all the time. Isn’t it boring to hear someone talking about themselves non-stop? Don’t repeat the same EXACT tweet. It’s against twitter rules and you could be reported & kicked off for spam. For example I always get these kinds of tweets: “@marciliroff are you casting anything?” Then I check the tweeter’s feed and see that they have asked this same question to 50 people. That is considered spam and I block and report them. OR – if you get a tweet like this from someone you don’t know – “@marciliroff check out this link”- BEFORE YOU CLICK THE LINK – check out their twitter feed and you will probably see that they’ve sent this same link to hundreds of people. This is spam and you should block and report them.

Think about Twitter (and all Social Media for that matter) as a cocktail or dinner party. Would you barge into a stranger’s house and scream, “Watch my short movie! Here’s the link!” So when you’re approaching a casting director or ANYONE on Twitter and in Social Media, get into the conversation and establish a relationship first before asking any favors. It’s just good manners.

Another gem I want to share that many twitter users don’t seem to know is this. I blogged about this a few months ago and it is hands down the most viewed blog I’ve written. What Everybody Should Know About Twitters Dirty Little Secret. I won’t go into detail here, but as I mention in the blog, you may need to read this a couple of times to fully understand the concept.

Another widely read blog is “10 Things Guaranteed To Get You Unfollowed on Twitter”.

In the beginning you’ll notice that you don’t have many followers. Don’t worry, your twitter follower count will grow when you start following people and get in the conversation. You should also retweet (RT) content that speaks to you and that you think others might benefit from. Thank people for RTing your tweets – it’ll encourage them to RT for you in the future. But it’s really not about your “follow” count. It’s about interaction between you and your followers. It doesn’t matter if you have thousands of followers if you’re not responding to their questions or RTing their content. It’s about joining the Twitter conversation and content is king. I’m not interested in following someone who just blasts out tweets and doesn’t interact with their community.

If you want to learn from some of the best on Twitter, here are some good people to follow to learn more about Social Media.

I’d love to hear (in the comments) how you’re using Twitter (and other Social Media platforms) in your work. Let me know what’s working and what’s not working!

Do you have any questions for me? Feel free to ask them here!

Make sure to check out my new online course “How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp”. You can view it on your laptop or your mobile device and your subscription gives you lifetime viewing privileges for this course. I’ll be adding lectures throughout the year.

Glad you’re here!