SheWrites

Masterminding A Writer, Artist & Cultural Curator Platform

Along with Tara Agacayak, I run a private mastermind group on LinkedIn (it’s a subgroup of my Creative Entrepreneurs & Social Media group). Once a week someone steps into the center with a case study and asks for feedback and suggestions on their next steps. Here are my thoughts on building out a writing and artist platform:

I use Wordpress and Tumblr (simply as a feed of my blog, microblog and Delicious activities). It seems moving to Tumblr or Posterous might make things much simpler for you as a blogger-- they seem easy/breezy as blogging platforms -- whereas Wordpress's wider capabilities will encourage building a bigger site with more going on. So, since you're talking growth and not just 'make it easier' then I'd say Wordpress.

As for platform building, where are you meeting and engaging with potential readers of your novel (besides Twitter, SheWrites, Facebook, LI, your blog)? Any communities out there specific to the topics in your novel? Taking part in reader-based litchats on Twitter would be another way to start being known as the woman behind the voice that people will be able to read when your book comes out. (Consider posting small excerpts of the book so we know what it's about and grow connected to it?)

Maybe someone here can share leads to artists, writers, cultural curators that you are aware of online -- if you know of them, they're doing something right to get your attention.

As for making the hybrid nature of your work clearer through your platform, I'm reminded of the blog convention of another multifaceted woman: Ruth Harnisch.  She breaks down the different channels of her being and lets that be the structure of her site. "The Maker of Mistakes". "The Philanthropist". "The Catalyst". "The Recovering Journalist". Perhaps something like this might allow you to indulge your interests and help a visitor to your site/blog comprehend your better?

The expatharem site has sold books through its Amazon link -- in the first couple of years of the site. The #s since I relaunched the blog are too tiny to count for anything and that may be a result of the maturity of the book or the fact that I don't push it much on the site, and/or people aren't coming to the blog to buy the book or learn more about it. However, yes, making things available to our interested parties is part of making what we do a business. We have to make the offer. It's relevant. However, I also know being on twitter has sold books. People I met there, people who found out about the book on twitter (like during #litchat on expat lit).

Also: here's a great interview with a 'unmarketing' book author about how he built both a support system and a target audience on Twitter and presold 3,000 copies of his book. Good lessons there about how to engage and when to sell. 

In response to your question about using your own name as a brand, an SEO specialist I know from ThirdTribe (@CraigFifield) just offered an impromptu SEO consult on Twitter before the end of his workday/workweek. I took the liberty to ask him for an opinion on this, in general terms. Here’re the tweets (which overlap, as Twitter does)....

CF: i have 15min before I quit for the day -- how can I help you with SEO or your Blog?

AA: wd someone's name be a better blog name for SEO than tagline about art and the creative life?

CF: in terms of SEO I would use a keyword that people are searching for. Or, I would go for branding and ignore SEO

AA: that is, are proper names SEO at all? and generally used words and phrases amount to very little in SEO world?

AA: so in researching keywords "creative life" what result would prompt good use of that phrase in blog title?

CF: depends how your audience uses those words. I would do some keyword research to decide. do you have an example?

AA: ok think i got it! (branding with a proper name means SEO considerations unnecessary)

CF: well, unless your brand will eventually be big enough to be searched on :) make your brand name unique to win there

False Cosmopolitanism

We’re suffering from a false sense of cosmopolitanism. Access to the worldwide Interwebs leads us to imagine ourselves global thinkers. But we’re not -- unless we’re true xenophiles, bridging cultures, immersed and knowledgeable about multiple worlds. Most people hang out in “like-minded microcosms” and when we cross a boundary online the new light shed on everyone’s prejudices and assumptions can take us by surprise.

“Xeno-confusion” is happening more often in the virtual world, like this stumble into unfamiliar territory. Viewed through the lens of American civil politics, an American company's skin whitening product campaign on Facebook targeting Indians raised an anticolonialist uproar -- but not from the Indians. (No similar protests reported for popular self tanners that darken the skin.)

The launch of TEDWomen, a conference examining the effect of women and girls on the world’s future, created its own online culture shockwave. Are we all on the same page, North American feminists blogged here and here and here, wondering if a gathering separate from the main TED event to discuss the impact of womankind is brilliant or belittling. A blog sought a more nuanced perspective and tried the group replacement test, substituting one marginalized group for another. Imagine TEDGay. TEDMinority. TEDPoor.

Recently in a 10,000-person international network for women writers I found myself in an alternate online reality. An author asked the general community of “White people” (sic) to promote her new work, sight unseen besides a short synopsis, because booksellers relegate titles by black authors like her to a separate section and that negatively affects sales.

Her book substance-free promotion was at odds with how and why people share information and recommendations about books, even marginalized, discriminated against writers. Instead she let everyone know she “loves White people” and her “Spanish husband looks white on the street”.

A majority of the responses were “Sure, I’ll do that for you.” I expressed my confusion. Why was she talking to us like we were part of the problem? Why not normalize the work by taking it off the margins and offer to show it to those of us fellow writers who want to review it in our respective media and communities?

What a baffling corner of the Internet: a place where I'm addressed like a person who normally chooses reading material based on the author’s skin color  -- that would be dumbly racist, no? -- someone who today can be convinced to promote a title (to my Great White People Book Club) based on the original poster’s shelving problems at the bookstore and the-more-palatable-to-me skin tone of her husband glimpsed from afar.

Does it matter that there is definitively no such thing as a White people, or a Great White People Book Club, or that the motivation for word of mouth marketing requires a product to be “extremely helpful, interesting, unique, or valuable to a specific niche market”? Not in that particular microcosm, a place running on logic inherently foreign to me.

In this SheWrites universe I don’t even need to do a group replacement test (“Rich people”, “Powerful people”, “Beautiful people”) to know someone imagines it’s that easy to butter me up for their own purpose.

We may believe we’re global thinkers, and not be. But we’ve got other challenges. To be a global thinker demands we navigate and find a way to bridge worlds that might make only a sinister kind of sense.

As a xenophile, where online do you stumble?

What Expat Bloggers Are Made Of

I was honored to be included in a group of Cross-cultural and International Bloggers to Watch in 2010. As the guest curator in a review series at SheWrites, I'm pleased to note a few fellow expat bloggers. I'm drawn to the subject matter of these writers (and many others who I hope to highlight in the future). Posts seem compelled by the daily negotiation of expat/immigrant/exile identity. Shaped by unfamiliar environments. Inspired by moments when belief systems are challenged or uprooted.

You'll recognize fiction-writer Catherine Yigit as a contributor to the Expat Harem anthology and the group blog expat+HAREM. In Skaian Gates, the Dublin native writes with a wry sensibility about “living between the lines” of culture and language on the Straits of the Dardanelles. She takes us through the gauntlet of getting a Turkish driving license. Although prepared for the exam, she discovers she'll have no control over the vehicle since her examiner has a lead-foot on the dual-control pedals! Even if we learn the rules and practice the gears in our lives abroad, we often sense we're not in the driver's seat and we have to be okay with that.

Professionally-trained artist Rose Deniz lives in an industrial town near the Sea of Marmara, a body of water named for its marble-like surface. Her spare blog reflects deep ideas and personal geographies, like the trouble with being the kind of person who visualizes color, numbers and forms in the midst of a chaotic Turkish family setting; and finding the art in life outside the studio. Her real-time, online 2010 discussion series in which "art is dialogue and the studio is you” will be hosted at expat+HAREM.

Petya Kirilova-Grady, a Bulgarian who lives in Tennessee with her American husband, writes about bi-cultural misunderstandings and shares her embarrassment over a recent gender role snafu. The only way to explain why  the progressive young woman “couldn’t be bothered to do a ‘typically male’ task” in the domestic sphere is because Bulgarians are traditionalists at home. Petya writes of the realization “I can’t remember the last time I felt as Bulgarian.”

Expat bloggers flourish when we face a fresh appreciation for not only where we are but where we come from -- and what we're made of.

Who are your favorite expat bloggers and why?

Creative Entrepreneurship Through Social Media: The Case Studies of Anastasia Ashman and Tara Lutman Agacayak

From Andrea Martins' ExpatWomen.com Creative Entrepreneurship Through Social Media: The Case Studies of Anastasia Ashman and Tara Lutman Agacayak

Anastasia and Tara are expat women entrepreneurs who have used social media to successfully grow their businesses and online profiles. We asked these two progressive business women to write an article for us, sharing their experiences and tips. 

Interestingly, whilst they both herald from the same part of Northern California and both currently live in Turkey, their paths did not cross until they met on Twitter.  

Creative entrepreneurship means thinking innovatively to both create a business and to promote it.  Expatriate women make ideal creative entrepreneurs because they usually require flexible and fluid work to fit their lifestyle (which typically means that they need to be creative in their business concept) and they are increasingly internet and social media savvy (which means that they are typically more willing to use social media creatively, to promote them themselves and their business).

Social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, together with easy-to-use blogging systems remove many of the personal disempowerments far-flung expat women have traditionally experienced.  They can also be powerful professional tools, especially for expat entrepreneurs.  The niche nature and 24/7 cycle of the web can diminish cultural, linguistic, geographic and time zone disadvantages to both career development and entrepreneurial endeavours abroad.

Social media makes it easier to create these one-of-a-kind businesses by helping define and embody your brand, whether you are a writer, a coach, a consultant, a photographer or so on.  Applications and tools such as blogs, Twitter and YouTube enable you to extend your brand across the web and convey your multi-media message in text, video or graphics. You can monitor your brand, see how others connect with it, and evolve it as your expat journey transforms you. Well-curated Tweetdeck and Hootsuite columns and specialized LinkedIn groups provide access to state-of-the-industry practices, trending thought, and leading players in your field of business, as well as the opportunity to become known as the experts that you probably are.

 

How Do We Use Social Media?

The best way to explain how social media might be able to help you and/or your business, is to share with you our own real-life case studies…

Case Study One: Tara Lutman Agacayak

Anastasia: Tara, going online solved your information technology (IT) career disruption after accompanying your husband to a small town in Turkey. How?

Tara: I first started experimenting with online sales by offering trinkets on eBay. Shortly afterward I started Citara's, an online boutique selling handmade Turkish products with my husband. Setting up an independent retail site was entirely different than selling through a hosted site like eBay. Getting our products in front of the right people required a unique set of tactics on the web. In this new attention economy, social networking and content marketing became vital to our online business. Citara’s started as a static website, but the brand has extended to a Twitter handle and Facebook page. We have also partnered with a non-profit called Nest where we donate a portion of sales to their microloan program generating funds for women's craft-based businesses. The work we do is editorialized through our blog and disseminated through channels we have set up on Twitter, Facebook and Kirtsy.

After building an offline network of artisans in Turkey I partnered with my expat friend Figen Cakir to start Behind the Bazaar, a site promoting independent artists and designers in Istanbul. It relies solely on social networking for digital word of mouth marketing. Using our blog as a content hub we offer a unique perspective on the local creative community. Content is then re-broadcast and re-packaged through Twitter, LinkedIn groups, and our Facebook page. We also act as experts on Localyte providing – an alternative view of Istanbul through the eyes of its artists.

Last year, Figen and I also started Intarsia Concept (IC) as a place for people to congregate and share resources for building creative businesses. Many creative entrepreneurs are their own entities. They manage their own PR, define their brand, and handle their own marketing and customer service. We envisioned IC as a supportive and informative environment for those starting their own creative businesses. Using our blog to centralize content we extend conversations out to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and bookmarking sites like Kirtsy and Delicious. I monitor HARO (Help A Reporter Out) requests for press opportunities and respond to questions on LinkedIn and Twitter. I engage in forums and groups on Ladies Who Launch to look for opportunities to collaborate or barter services.

Social networking is not just about getting your message out, but about opening two-way channels of communication and listening as much as you speak. It is the opportunity to learn from the greater community and create win-win opportunities.

Case Study Two: Anastasia Ashman

Tara: Anastasia, your writing and cultural entertainment-producing career is built on the publishing world's "author platform".  What does this mean and how is it related to social media?

Anastasia: I have been location-independent for eleven years, arriving in Istanbul from New York City in 2003, after Southeast Asia in the ‘90s where internet access revolutionized my estranged life. I virtually compiled and edited the book Tales from the Expat Harem with Jennifer Gokmen,  through email with more than 40 people in four different time zones. My second book and cross-media projects like intellectual global nomad salons and screen development of Ottoman and Byzantine princess stories require a vast rebuild of web presence and activity.

The publishing concept for launching a career – the author platform –  is a good model for the globally mobile woman entrepreneur. In order to make sales, land assignments, get project funding, attract collaborators and partners, a professional needs to demonstrate her platform of influence and credibility. She needs to pinpoint her market, get substantial attention, deliver the goods, including: a targeted mailing list; an audience; and alliances with others with similar audiences; access to media outlets (generating her own newsletters, blogs, podcasts); making appearances; and other speaking engagements.

To this end, social media offers opportunities to build a more robust and far-reaching platform with fewer resources. I interact with readers, agents, marketers and publishers in live chats on Twitter, meet peers in networks like SheWrites, TravelBlogExchange and the small business community Biznik, while SocialMention and Google alert me to people discussing my subject matter so I can join the conversation. I share thought leadership with fellow writers, travelers, globalists and culturati by posting favorite web finds to Twitter and Facebook feeds, and bookmarking them at Delicious. I upload presentations to SlideShare, and contribute to LinkedIn groups for: filmmaking; my college alumnae; the expat life; Turkish business; blogging; and digital publishing.

On my main sites I develop my own material, community and skills. I revolve ideas about female identity, history and culture at my individual blog, and foster relationships with my global niche of Turkophiles, intentional travelers and hybrid lifestylers as founder of the expat+HAREM group blog. Technology helps me amplify with syndication to Networked Blogs at Facebook, to Kindle, my LinkedIn profile, and Amazon Author Central. My ultimate goal is to create viral events – a worldwide rave for my most shareable ideas and properties – where my network voluntarily distributes my digital content to their connections, deriving their own meaning and use, telling my story their way. As I locate, interact with and help interested parties across the web, I create my ideal word-of-mouth market worldwide.

 

Anastasia & Tara’s Social Media Tips

 

Do:

  • Present yourself thoughtfully, accurately and honestly;
  • Mind-cast, not life-cast: aim for a high signal versus noise ratio;
  • Provide value: offer your expertise and knowledge, solve problems, be generous, connect people, be authentic; and
  • Monitor who is following you (be aware of who you are congregating with).

Don’t:

  • Allow incriminating words and images to be attached to your name;
  • Believe get-rich-quick and get-followers-fast schemes;
  • Use your birth year or publish information people can use to find your physical location; and
  • Use copyrighted material without permission.

Think Long-Term

 

        • Social media is a way to carve out your niche and congregate with like-minded people. Whilst this can happen quickly, it usually does take time – so think long-term.
        • The good news is that if you are patient, dedicated, committed, giving and authentic, you

will 

          find allies in your field. Your networks

will 

          support and promote you. They

will 

        offer solutions and encouragement and challenge you to be better. And the best part is… just like your own ‘career in a suitcase’, your social media contacts are portable and they will go with you wherever you go.  So good luck and happy connecting!

 

 

Anastasia Ashman aims to further the worldwide cultural conversation, raising the feminine voice on issues of culture and history, self improvement and the struggle for identity – from one family to entire hemispheres.

Tara Lutman Agacayak works with creative entrepreneurs around the world in multiple facets to craft viable and lucrative businesses.

 

January 2010

 

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