Enter ‘the entrepreneur’

entrepreneur

ˌɒntrəprəˈnəː/

noun

  1. a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.
  2. a promoter in the entertainment industry.

 

Tell me again “Zan”, which one are you, I ask as I network at the social media “course” I have been sent to by a previous employer. An employer who was unaware that most of these so-called courses are redundant due to the fact that they are led by self-proclaimed experts who ‘know how to reach millennials’. After an hour or so of listening to the course leader emphasize the importance of making something ‘go viral’ and achieving a verified status, we are finally released from the constraints of our chairs to mingle.

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“Oh you know, I create content” Zan responds with a disinterested look on their face as they simultaneously and rather stealthily hands me their business card.

I am assuming the disinterest is down to the fact that unlike Zan, I do not possess 18,000 followers and in the brief moments since meeting, they have gathered this intel and determined I am no longer worth their time. I also assume their 18,000 followers were most likely purchased from somewhere in South-East Asia.

Zan, like many other individuals in the 12-30 age bracket, has set their sights on becoming an influencer. Don’t get me wrong, I see the appeal – being paid to advertise a particular product or service on social media and getting free stuff in return. Why wouldn’t you do it? My issue lies within the self-assignment of various titles and status. Though perhaps I simply have an issue with titles within the digital entrepreneurial field in general. Thought-leader, Brand Ambassador, Innovator – they feel hollow and lacking in substance. They feel disingenuous.

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What do you actually do? The irony is not lost on me as someone who not only works in social media, but as someone for whom the response from older generations to my job title is, “so you get paid to tweet?”

Alas, just as I have had to make peace with the fact that in creating social media content for people or brands, I am indeed a “marketer” (an industry of which I’m not the biggest fan), I must accept that the employment landscape has changed and everyone now has the potential to be self-promoter aka an entrepreneur. As McLuhan declared all those years ago in 1964, it’s the medium itself (in this case, social media) that affects the society in which it plays a role, not only by the content delivered over the medium, but also by the characteristics of the medium itself. That’s not to say I’m blaming social media for the rise of the self-titled entrepreneur, the medium has merely facilitated the ability to do so in a far more public manner.

Whilst I will never find the “who are you”, “what is your brand” or “what is your USP” questions any less cringe-worthy, I do believe there are those out there who are genuinely creating great content without introducing or promoting themselves as entrepreneurs.

 

N.B. If you didn’t already think Zan was a twat, it should also be noted that they use the ‘who followed/unfollowed me today’ apps. Also, it should be noted that Zan is a completely fictional character I have created for the purposes of this blog post, but who does bear similarities to some people I have met in the industry.

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Digital Do’s and Dont’s

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I’ve worked in the media/marketing industry for almost 8 years now and over those eight years I’m sure many of you will have noticed the shift to digital. It is almost impossible to have a business these days without having some sort of digital presence. And yet so many do! It is somewhat mind boggling. Perhaps what is is even more perplexing is the lack of knowledge of the digital landscape amongst senior professionals and those in management. I was once asked by a marketing director what PPC was, or what the relevance of a trending hashtag was? Oh and don’t get me started on those that like to fling around buzzwords such as ‘viral’ or ‘millennials’.

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Though the real (and I’m finding to be, most common) issue seems to that of having a good website. A website that is up-to-date, easy to navigate, and most importantly representative of your brand. In the past couple of years I have seen websites that actually aren’t really websites at all. Some are simply landing pages that lack even the most basic and vital information such as an ‘About’ section. Who are you? What are you? What do you do? If your website can’t even answer these simple questions, what on earth is the use in having one? Apologies for the venting of frustration but as someone who works in digital marketing, and specifically social media management, I cannot stress the importance of a functional website. Your website is your digital business card, more so than your social media content. It needs to accurately represent your company and brand values, it needs to tell a story. Your story.

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Your website should also reassure your users that you have an understanding of good digital content. From choosing the right font (for the love of god please stop using Times New Roman) to being visually engaging. Opt for embedded videos, animated graphics and a consistent colour scheme/style. Forgive me as this may all seem rather obvious, and yet I keep seeing websites that look like they were created in the early 90s.

Now on to social media – let’s start with the basics. In fact, I previously wrote a ‘Social Media Tips’ post for a previous employer so I’ll just summarise those points…

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  1. Let’s start with setting up a Twitter and a Facebook. Create a Twitter account and set up a Facebook page to let your fans know you’ve joined the world of social media and are ready to speak to them.
  2.  Be as natural as possible – you don’t want to sound corporate. Even though you are effectively marketing your brand, the worst thing you can do is sound like a marketer by constantly trying to ‘sell’ your product, both figuratively and literally. Also, never ever spam! Nothing will get you unfollowed faster than constantly posting the same content day in day out because people will either assume you’re a bot or even worse, super lame. The aim is always to sound human. Take your time to hone your tone and message so that you can build a genuine rapport with your audience. You want your communications to have personality and relate to your target audience.
  3. Consistent content! Once you get the ball rolling, keep it rolling. It may seem easy at first, you’ll think I’ve got the hang of this and will post every day. Then you’ll post every couple of days, and before you know it you won’t have posted for two months! I get it. You forget because ultimately you may feel like you have more important things to be doing, so social media may simply be an afterthought. And whilst you may think the odd post at 3am or a Tweet every once in a while may be better than nothing, sporadic posts will most likely get lost in the scrolling stream of consciousness that is social media, and as such may not be seen by your intended audience. This is where scheduling comes in. There are plenty of relatively cheap or even free social network management tools out there that can help you schedule a month’s worth of activity in a day. Platforms such as HootSuiteBuffer, and Tweetdeck are great examples of this and most freebie packages that charge a modest price to unlock all their features. Just don’t forget to schedule your posts at the most optimal times – typically between 9am and 3pm in your target time zone – and you should take different time zones into consideration as well. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should rely exclusively on pre-scheduled posts. Direct interaction with your audience is key to successful social media marketing (find out more on this in point 6), so the reality is you’ll need to invest a little time every day to make this work.
  4. Short and sweet links. Back in the days of yesteryear, and by that we mean last year, Twitter had the audacity of stifling people’s right to free speech with a 140 character limit! Thankfully the world has progressed and times have changed. Now users have the ability to ramble on for a whole 280 characters. Nonetheless, no one wants to see a post which is almost entirely made up of a ridiculously long link so shorten those babies using either Bitly or via the Ow.ly shortener on Hootsuite.
  5. Hashtags are your saviour. There are plenty of hashtags out there for you to take advantage of, but what I see the most is people failing to leverage the community based, time-sensitive hashtags that can help create the types of two-way conversations you’re looking for. Whilst it’s great to get in on trending conversations and capitalise on the culturally popular and failsafe hashtags such as #MondayMotivation or #WedenesdayWisdom, you’ll need to make sure you use those that are specifically relevant to your industry and audience to ensure you are engaging with those who will be most likely to ‘buy’ your brand and whom you will benefit from speaking to.
  6. Engage! If a user reaches out to you, get back to them. Whilst building a community is important, you also need to make sure you engage with your followers because ultimately they’re your target audience and they’ll want to know what you’re up to.  Don’t be afraid to chime in and get involved in the conversation; this is your product after all and you want people to see your passion and enthusiasm surrounding your brand. Put yourself out there and talk about you developments in your company, or events you may be attending. Update your community, keep them in the loop so they feel valued, and most importantly engaged.
  7. Visuals. I’ve saved the best (and most important point) for last. This may seem obvious but I’m gonna say it anyway. SHOW OFF YOUR PRODUCT! If your product is you, this is the one time where I will indulge that selfie obsession you’ve clearly been trying to suppress lol. If your product is your new startup, give your followers behind the scenes, sneak peeks into your journey! Photos, video clips, gifs, boomerangs of your office space, your team, your day-to-day life, share it all!  You can never share too many visuals. This isn’t just a theory either: research has proven that posts that contain visual content receive up to 94% more page visits and engagement than those without. So make sure you post the best-looking photos and that all of your visuals are of a high quality so they accurately represent your brand and highlight just how attractive it (or you) may be.

At this point I, myself, have broken a cardinal rule in making this blog post far too lengthy. There’s a reason the optimum video length is 15 seconds. None of us have the attention span to read anything anymore without a warning of how long it’ll take, and so for that reason I shall end things here. Start communicating your message and vision of your product early on as there are people out there who actually care about seeing it succeed. Now go forth and prosper my social saplings!

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American Honey: A middle of the road road-trip movie

There’s something to be said for the beauty of nothingness. In fact just this morning I heard part of an interview with Charlie Brooker in which he fondly remembered times of meh in politics as opposed to the lunacy of the current climate. In a cinematic context though; perhaps you could argue that audiences don’t necessarily always need to be blown away by special effects, character development or twists and turns in storylines. However, that’s not to say a story in which nothing really happens will be able to hold a viewer’s attention. Certainly not for three hours in my opinion. American Honey has all of the right ingredients of what you’d expect from a coming of age, naturalistic, existential road-trip film. It’s avant-garde. It’s raw. It’s got the beautifully edited scenic camera shots that break away from the narrative. And yet for an art film, it felt like it was trying too hard to be just that. The panned camera shots were too frequent to have the desired effect of breaking away from the plot. Instead they felt almost like a storyline in themselves. As though perhaps this was actually a nature documentary with dialogue and some quirky characters thrown in for good measure. Its artistry felt predictable and at times, forced. One thing I will commend though is it’s ability to portray a very middle of the road experience. There were no truly shocking dark moments as such; even though certain instances set the scene in which you expected them to occur. There were no clear lessons or messages put forward by the film. It was simply a road trip film challenging the ideologies of the American dream, attempting to give an accurate portrayal of the desperation felt by some to make money and survive. And you as the viewer were just along for the ride. 

Somewhere in between a foodie and a food critic

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* Food makes me happy

I have absolutely no grounds to call myself a food critic other than that of my tastebuds. However, I was raised on a diet of restaurant cuisine from a young age. One may argue that it was my family’s penchant for dining out (my father having belonged to a London restaurants society), coupled with the desire to emulate popular female TV characters, such as Carrie Bradshaw, whose fast-paced glamorous lifestyles left little time for cooking, that deterred my desire for cooking skills. One could also argue my dismissal stemmed from the headstrong notions of a preteen girl intent on rejecting female stereotypes. I was a rather precocious child; often outspoken and convinced everything was a conspiracy. Nevertheless I grew up with little to no interest in the kitchen, instead I decided to focus my efforts on developing my palate. A palate that originally, was somewhat averse to change. Hence there was the Coco Pops summer of ’94, the Greek yoghurt and rice Autumn of ’95 and the beef stroganoff winter of ’97 (though my father was to blame for the last preoccupation as it was a dish he believed to have perfected and continued to prepare it weekly for a solid three months.

Despite my North African ethnic origins, the flavours and indeed spice levels of most of my mother’s traditional Arabic cuisine was far from my liking. Indeed my mentality seemed to be that of the blander, the better. Meanwhile my mother was busy chugging tabasco and no doubt narrowly escaping the development of an ulcer. Suffice to say I have left the days of chicken dinosaurs and happy meals behind me and have refined my palate throughout the years. I have even upped my spice game and am no longer part of the feeble ‘lemon and herb’ misfits at Nandos. At this point though you may be wondering what ‘foodie’ in their right mind would dine at Nandos but when it comes to grilled chicken, not only do they do it for a reasonable price (I’m a strong believer in getting what you pay for), but they do it well.

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*Everyone deserves a ‘cheeky Nandos’ at some point

The same may even be said for Pizza Express, though I hold pizza somewhat closer to my heart (she says whilst injecting mozzarella directly into her veins), and as such have narrowed down my favourite London pizza establishments to a top three; Homeslice, Pizza Union and Pizza Pilgrims.

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*Please excuse my friend in the photo above, he was eager to devour our impressively-sized pizza, courtesy of the aforementioned Homeslice.

Due to my insatiable appetite for dining out, I came to be known as the ‘foodie’ amongst my group of friends; always ready with either a personally reviewed or well-researched list of top food establishments for various types of cuisine. I rationalised that since I would be paying considerably more to dine out rather than cook my own meals, the food I sampled should taste near orgasmic – if you’re imagining the cafe scene from When Harry met Sally, then you’re on the right track. Time Out and other London guides became my starting point before selecting an eatery, naturally followed with a cross-referencing on Tripadvisor to ensure quality. I was always on the hunt for the newest spots and hidden gems that London had to offer. Unsurprisingly I would often myself in ‘hipster territory’ but having lived in Shoreditch for a couple of years I imagined I could just about blend in. Nonetheless my friends would not hesitate to spare me for shameless ridicule when I would casually mention I had visited a ‘life drawing class-rave-brunch’ event. As I typed that I realised I don’t blame them.

Though my endeavour was not restricted to food. Despite being a renowned tea fanatic (and by renowned I mean my former colleagues held an intervention for me in the office), I have recently discovered the joys of a good cup of coffee. The reason behind my previous distaste for the beverage, I realised, was due to my limited knowledge of the existence of establishments other than Starbucks, Costa and Cafe Nero. However, I have spent the majority of the past year ‘working from home’ whilst I studied for my masters degree. This provided the perfect excuse to become a ‘working on my laptop in a coffeeshop’ type. As we all know, the complexity of the design atop the foam on your coffee is all the evidence you need of the ‘trendiness’ of an establishment.

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*It should be noted that I’m still not a ‘real’ coffee drinker as I’ll often opt for a mocha or flavoured latte

That and the decor, which should include furniture made out of things not intended for use as furniture i.e. giant metal milk churns, wooden tree-stumps and (my personal favourite) space-hoppers.

I have also spent the past year involved in greater independent activity (this is another way of saying I have been single), including solo cinema trips, solo travels and solo dining experiences. As a result I’ve noted the importance of good customer service. Granted it has been said that British staff may not be as famed for customer skills as their American counterparts, nevertheless its significance should not be overlooked. Without the distraction of a dining companion customer service becomes a lot more prominent. As such, I have noticed that some establishments located in or around tourist hotspots tend to have staff with somewhat shorter tolerance levels. Most memorable of these was Cafe Concerto of which I’ve visited three of its London branches and have been incredibly offended across the board. At least they’re consistent eh. With a high-end menu and extravagant furnishings, they have proved once again that a great dining experience need not be determined by price or decoration. This has also been a lesson learned since moving to Tooting and discovering that the best curry houses are the ones resembling modest cafeterias opposed to plush restaurants.

Thus I retain that I am closer to that of a ‘foodie’ than a food snob. Unfortunately since I began writing this piece the term has become obsolete and us hipsters are now referring to ourselves as ‘yum-yums’ (not to be confused with the Greggs pastry).

Make art

I feel like we live in a world where everyone is constantly screaming to be heard… where we vocalise every thought, feeling and opinionand in a world with so much noise I find myself becoming more quiet

I crave silence

and stillness 

I don’t wish to speak just to be heard 

I don’t want to share my innermost thoughts only to have them lost in an abyss

So I lock myself away and shut out the world. I seek distractions. And every so often, in the silence, I find music. My music. My peace. Whether it be through watching or listening or having some sort of ethereal experience in which I can appreciate something that has been created. Something that inspires me to create. I reach a point of complete tranquility in which I feel bliss and elation seeping from every pore. I feel okay. I feel that everything is going to be okay. In that moment I feel as though the world isn’t all that bad. And that maybe people are inherently good. In that moment I realise that art, real art exists. Not the mindless shouting or the noise or the hate. There is beauty in art. There is love in art. And as corny as this sounds, perhaps it is art that will save us.

First rule: There are no rules 

I am not an exception to the rule. I’m not special. I’m not unique. What am I am however is someone who questions the authenticity of the ‘rules’. That is not to say that I am a rebel. Far from it in fact, I was the epitome of a ‘goody-two-shoes’ at school. Often branded a teacher’s pet. And ‘weird’. That phrase was also usually thrown about. I didn’t own being weird either. I desperately craved acceptance and popularity. I wanted to be one of the ‘cool’ kids. Though thinking back, I probably was cool. In my own way. I remember being branded a conspiracy theorist at the age of 9 as I was convinced Princess Di had died under suspicious circumstances. I also remember having an awesome physics teacher who furthered my belief that it was only logical to believe that aliens existed. As I said, I was a bit of an odd ball. I also remember my parents being informed at a school parents evening when I was about 7 or 8 that I asked a lot of questions. This was not relayed enthusiastically. I remember thinking why on earth shouldn’t I ask a lot of questions though. What are they hiding!? As I said, I was a precarious child. I remember thinking that that Pinnochio kid had the right idea, always asking why. Although what he should have probably been asking is why I grey-haired old man spent so much time with puppets and decided the only way to have a son was to wish one alive. Not quite sure I knew where you were going with that one Disney. Nonetheless, I’ve always asked questions and it is these that have led me to wonder about the validity of certain rules. Certain cultural customs that we just blindly accept. And as I have become more startlingly aware of these unspoken rules, I have become more inclined to challenge them. Once again I should point out that I am not a rebel. In any way, shape or form. This is not me advocating the lure of danger, or living on the edge, nor am I asking you to be more adventurous or to break the rules. It is simply an admission, perhaps more so to myself more than anyone, that I’m going to have to be okay with the fact that perhaps not everyone wants to challenge certain systems and may not understand my reasons for doing so. But perhaps we don’t have to constantly vocalise all of our opinions (I realise that this may seem like a particularly foreign concept in current society as we spend the majority of our time on social media platforms doing precisely this, I also note the irony as I share this train of thought on social media). I suppose what I’m getting it is not only are there preconceived notions of acceptable or accepted behaviour, but also of those of ‘rule breakers’. When perhaps in actuality, there are no rules. There is only behaviour. Behaviour deemed to be normal. But in reality, there is no normal. 

I’ll see your ‘The Notebook’ and raise you ‘The Danish Girl’

In the last three weeks I have jetted from London to LA, LA to Mexico, Mexico to Toronto and Toronto to London (albeit the flight to Toronto was only a stop over on my return back to London). Nonetheless, as someone who struggles immensely to sleep on airplanes, these journeys were used to catch up on all the newly released movies I had missed in the cinema. Among my choices, and perhaps the only one worth a mention and indeed a blog post, was The Danish Girl

Those that know me will know that I’m not much of one for romantic movies. They’re usually split into two categories I find; romantic comedies (in which the romance is based on some sort of warped neo-sexist ideology and the comedy is abysmal (if existent at all), and romance films (i.e. the “tearjerkers”), in which the romance is overdramatised and intensified to the point of farce. The majority of the latter usually result in 90 minutes of me rolling my eyes I’m afraid. I realise I may sound incredibly cynical and you may even be thinking good grief does she have no heart! But the fact of the matter is, I’d rather choose a gruesome tarantino, a thrilling scorcese, or a geektastic marvel or sci fi film over a love story. Or so I thought. 

An hour into The Danish Girl and admittedly Lili’s delicate hand gestures/movements and nervous little smiles and chuckles were becoming somewhat tiresome, but it is the second half of the movie in which I felt truly moved by her story. As you witness her struggle and confusion over her identity throughout several doctors appointments and inaccurate diagnoses, as well as the changing dynamics of the relationship between herself and her wife Gerda, you begin to recognise the complexity of emotions felt by the characters. At the root of it all though is love. Authentic, unfaltering, undeniable love for Lili from Gerda. And that, ladies and gentleman, is what makes a love story in my opinion. It’s not flowers, it’s not Valentine’s Day, it’s not wondering whether or not the person is ‘into you’ or justifying or overcoming reasons of why you can or can’t or should or shouldn’t be together. Love is doing whatever it takes to make your loved one happy. Even if it means having to lose them forever. It is the absolute definition of selflessness. Gerda was there for Lili every step of the way no matter what, and that is what makes The Danish Girl such a beautiful, emotional and honest love story.