The Power of Social Media, in the UAE
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I’m excited to introduce this week’s guest, Shelina Jokhiya, the first professional organizer in the United Arab Emirates. I’ve asked her to describe the challenges of promoting a service which is quite new in her region, and how she employs the power of social media and other tools to generate awareness of her business.
The United Arab Emirates is a country that is booming again, since the 2008 crash, and with the World Expo arriving in 2020, the Government is encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit to light up here.
The professional organization service is a new concept here and educating people is a long, slow process.
When I started Decluttr Me, I created a website and a blog to update potential clients and curious watchers of my services. To try and speed the process, I have used the power of web applications and programs to spread the word to more people within the country and the Middle East.
Nearly everyone has a smartphone in their hand in this country, from the Royal Family to the building laborers. The usage varies between people and nationalities, but there is a huge following of social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube.
I started marketing Decluttr Me by using my Twitter and Facebook page, pinning on supermarket notice boards, advertising in newspapers (one newspaper is promoting SMEs with a reduced rate card for advertising) and being included in articles for The National newspaper, Good Housekeeping Middle East, Good Magazine and Askmen.com. The advertising in the newspaper garnered some interest, whereas the articles in magazines resulted in zero calls. While it may look good to say you have been in top magazines or the national newspaper, it didn’t do much for growing my business.
Although time-consuming, my website and social media accounts cannot be ignored. Over the years I have had an interest in new technology and products, so I’m always keen to try them when they come out and see if they can be used in my business and personal life. It also helps that there is a big tech community here, who are happy to guide me when needed.
Here is how I make the most of the various social media platforms and other applications to obtain more brand exposure and clients:
This is the most important part of my online presence. It includes all the information on my business and my blog, which I update 2-3 times a week. The site was created via WordPress, which I have found the most user-friendly blog site to use.
I try and create several blog posts in one day and then schedule them at various times during the week to be published.
All the applications listed below refer to my website to increase traffic to the site.
I have been on Twitter for many years, so have become “savvy” to the ways of the Twitterverse. The Twitter community in the UAE has grown exponentially since 2009, but there are still a core 300 “original users” on there. We support each other in our businesses and personal life, which is great when you want your business to be spread by Twitter.
Building a brand on Twitter is a continuous process. It is more than just posting links to your website. You do want to direct people back to your site, but you also want to engage with them to build confidence and trust in you and your services. I ask questions and ask followers for their views on posts and decluttering in general, sometimes with funny responses.
My Facebook page is linked to my Twitter account, so anything published on Twitter will go directly to Facebook. It saves time linking the accounts, although there can be more updates than is the norm on Facebook, which could irritate Facebook followers (but I have had no complaints so far!).
I also post on the “Dubai bloggers” page when there are new blog posts to alert a big community of our business.
I have advertised Decluttr Me and “boosted posts” within the UAE, to see the follower and client uptake. In a month I gained many more followers, but not the type that I had aimed for or paid for. The same view of boosting post has been made by many people in the Facebooksphere. Unless you are incredibly savvy, I would not recommend paying for boosting posts on Facebook.
I have created a business page on LinkedIn, but have had a low follower uptake. Only a few people are following me on there and they are mostly friends.
A good find on LinkedIn has been the professional organizers groups (one helped me get in touch with Janet 🙂 ). The pages provide a wealth of knowledge from like-minded individuals who are or have been in the same situation as me, starting a new business in this field.
6. Google +
I was not a fan at first, but I have realized that the more you post on Google, the higher your website goes on their search engine. You need to do everything to optimize people seeing your site and business, so Google cannot be ignored.
HootSuite is a desktop program to post status updates and view updates from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Plus and other applications. While I use other applications such as Tweetbot for my daily Twitter updates, I use HootSuite to schedule posts on my Twitter, Google + and LinkedIn pages.
As I have linked my Twitter and Facebook accounts together, I only need to post on Twitter and it will push the update to Facebook. There is a limit to how many accounts you have can have on HootSuite for free, so linking the accounts saves me having to pay the premium charge on HootSuite.
This is a great program to post pictures and blog pieces on decluttering for my followers. I have created boards for different areas of decluttering such as the office, kitchen and a general one called Decluttr Me. I created the account for my business, but it also includes a few personal boards such as Travelling. It is possible to post your Pinterest posts onto Twitter and Facebook directly.
I have gained a lot of followers on this account, but mostly from the USA and Europe. While it is great to get international exposure, I need to gain more UAE/GCC/Middle East followers.
Pinterest is growing in usage in the region and hopefully will attract more followers within this year.
I have created a business account and posted one video, but as my director friend has noted, my filming skills are not great (even after using the iMovie program). If you have the skills to make great videos, this is a great platform to showcase your business and gain more clients.
Time to gain the skills or getting someone to do it for me (preferably for free), are my stumbling blocks for now.
This site is like Pinterest, but focusing on interior design. There are some great ideas for how to decorate the house and office and they also show specific items such as storage boxes. Although we can buy a lot of items now in the UAE, it is great to know what we could “Shop n’Ship” from the USA, UK and Australia.
I also use it to discover new trends in interior design, as it is something that I discuss with my clients.
Instagram is the app du jour currently in the UAE. Unfortunately, you cannot have two accounts set on your iPhone, which is a shame, as I would then create a specific account for Decluttr Me. For now I post decluttering pictures occasionally on my personal account and use the hashtag #decluttrme to promote the business.
Not a social media site, but a great program I use to store all my documents related to the business. I have still not reached the threshold to start paying for extra storage, which is great, especially as I am still starting and need to save the pennies.
You can access your server of documents online and also on all devices. The online server is connected to my Mac and I can save into the folders as you would in your My Documents folder.
Having the Dropbox app on my phone and iPad enables me to show clients and business partners presentations and photos of previous clients easily without printing or sending them by email.
Another great application, which is useful for all. The app is accessible online and on your devices. You can create different notebooks – I have one for Decluttr Me, Personal matters and Recipes. There is also a new feature, which allows you to create tick box lists, which you can then tick off as you go thru the list. Great for organizing at home and on the go.
An application you can download to your smartphone, it’s very useful to find shops, restaurants and landmarks, especially in this country where the street names can be confusing. You can click on the map in Foursquare and open it in Google Maps to get driving directions. I have found Foursquare and Google Maps invaluable, especially travelling outside of Dubai.
Of course, you can have all the social media postings, but nothing beats word-of-mouth. However, as this business is a new concept here, I am using the social media platforms as a way of educating the country on the decluttering and organization services now available and raising my brand. I am the only service provider currently, but that can change at any moment, so I need to make as many people aware of my business to obtain their business now and in the future, above any other service provider.
I hope the above information is helpful. If you use any other online platforms to promote your business, let me know.
Photo by tashatuvango / Crestock