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
- 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).
- 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.
- 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
find allies in your field. Your networks
support and promote you. They
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.