“Starting a Digital Hustle and Growing an Online Audience” was the topic for the first 2018 OPEN Atlanta event- a conference held at Phipps Tower, attended by a large crowd of young and seasoned entrepreneurs and professionals. Hosted by the OPEN Atlanta president Sherezad Rehmann, the event presented four social media influencers and successful entrepreneurs who enlightened the audience with their success stories and advice.
Maryam Ishtiaq: Fashion & Lifestyle Blogger, Co-Founder of Badmaash Beauty and Digital Media Strategist at Raised Real - @maryamishah
Jose Luis Marin: eCommerce Entrepreneur, Dropshipping Expert and Digital Marketing guru - jlmarin.com
Umama Kibria: Founder, and CEO of SASS Brands - @smallandstrong.fit
Olivia Arnold: Director, eCommerce - @Foodistagirl
The Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs Global (OPEN) is the leading entrepreneur network globally. The nonprofit organization, founded in Boston in 1998, focuses primarily on professional development, entrepreneurship, and leadership among members of the organization in addition to the surrounding community. OPEN hosts several informational events in which attendees learn to network monthly, and focuses on three key pillars:
Develop: Developing new skill sets, figuring out how to reach the next level in your career. Inspire: Finding the boost of motivation to give you the energy to take action. Connect: Connecting people for business partnerships, ideas for investment, as well as mentorship, and working to surround yourself with those who can help you achieve your professional goals.
Overall the speakers motivated the audience to be aware of the power of social media and how these techniques can be used to advance one’s career.
1) Turn passion into quality content Olivia Arnold described the importance of creating your own content and explained that the easiest way she could do so was by focusing on an activity she was already doing on a regular basis- eating. Arnold was able to gain a following by discovering new restaurants and cafes around New York and Atlanta and by posting photos of the dishes she’d tried there. In doing so, she was able to take advantage of the ever-growing food scene of Atlanta, and turn her own hobby into quality content. “The easiest thing to create content about is something you're already doing and are passionate about.”
2) Establish a trust-based relationship with your audience Jose Luis Marine stressed the importance of establishing credibility to draw in and maintain customers by reaching out to those with a similar audience but a larger following. This connection will assist in the promotion of your brand and will also allow the gaining of credibility through the support of an already trusted source. Additionally, delivering information-filled content conveys your deeper knowledge of your topic, earning yourself more credibility.
3) Allow yourself time to find your voice Maryam Ishtiaq communicated that when starting out your business, enable yourself to begin from where you feel comfortable, and the rest will follow. She stressed that understanding the content you wish to convey and the type of audience you are marketing to will come as you allow yourself time to grow. “When you first start out, you will have to test out different platforms...to see what is true to you.”
5) Choose how you want to relay your voice, then make it your own Umama Kibria found she best engaged her audience through videos, but conveyed that choosing what works best for you is essential, whether it be captions, photos, or blogs. “Whatever medium you choose, you also have to find what’s unique in that market.” She found that her unique take on workout videos- filming them with informational voice overs- enabled her to deliver value-driven content and connect with her audience.
6) Vulnerability is key “We are naturally craving authenticity, and that’s exactly what stands out”- Kibria emphasized that whether it be through posting a makeup-free photo or simply a silly video, it is important to establish a human connection with your audience through social media. This allows you to gain the trust of your audience, as they may find your content to be more relatable, allowing them to feel as though they are a part of your lifestyle.
7) Understand your audience When asked how to reach a larger audience, Olivia Arnold broke down the topic into three key points- knowing the interests of your audience, clarifying your intent (the content you wish to convey), and lastly, leveraging all available aspects of social media- meaning experimenting and finding out what works best, whether it be photos, live videos, or Instagram stories. “Making sure you prioritize the right content for the right type of social media vehicle you are using is really important as well."
8) Connect with influencers of the same interest Olivia Arnold stressed the importance of following and messaging those who reach a similar audience (on social media) in order to gain support and increase your relevance in your desired realm. She conveyed that sharing ideas and comments creates a sense of engagement and an online community.
9) Interact and connect with your audience Often times, influencers are perceived to simply be those with large followings on social media. However, once you connect with influencers with similar interests, it becomes easier to reach a larger audience, especially through in-person events. Collaborations often draw larger and more enthusiastic crowds, allowing you to get to know more about those you impact.
10) When creating a team… Umama Kibria explained that when forming a team, it is essential that all members feel understood, which maximizes team cooperation, communication, and efficiency. This can be done by having each person take the Five Love Languages quiz, which enables the team to better understand how each member feels appreciated (words of affirmation, gifts, quality time etc.) Once this is accomplished, they will be more invested in “big goal with incentives that empower them”. Communication software such as HubSpot, Slack, and Trello are a few of the many methods available to create a company culture virtually.
11) Maintain consistency and measure your growth If you post regularly, your audience will remain engaged and will look forward to your content. In addition, there are several tools available such as Google Analytics that allow you to find out the number of people you are reaching on a daily basis, in addition to the number of clicks and impressions you have made. This helps you improve your posts, understand what your audience wishes to see, and focus on what has been successful.
As the community sees another batch of high schoolers and college students, many may find that they can benefit from this wonderful organization, OPEN Atlanta. Whether your focus is getting ideas to select your major, crystallizing your career choices, or growing as an entrepreneur, attending seminars hosted by OPEN will enable you to become more informed, inspired and confident.