Social media and digital marketing are all the rage lately, opening so many new possibilities and career opportunities that were once unimaginable. Many companies are now employing bloggers and social media influencers to reach their audiences.
We spoke with Bahraini blogger and artist, Zahra Kazerooni , to understand what it’s like to be a blogger in Bahrain and how she decided to take up this interesting journey.
For the Love of Art
I always saw myself more of an artist than anything else. As cliché as it may sound, I really find myself in art. I feel at peace when I’m creating things. I love to paint and draw; I mostly do charcoal or pencil drawings. Currently, I'm a freelance graphic designer and I also get commissioned to draw portraits.
I’m also currently working on my business Aline Papertrie, which focuses on paper products like notebooks, planners, greeting cards, etc. We launched around November of last year, starting out with our year planner, which I designed myself. The first batch, fortunately, sold out before the end of the year. We are now looking into expanding our market across the other countries in the GCC.
Even though I had a stable job and my career was going really well, it wasn’t what I really wanted to do with my life. I just felt like I couldn’t do this anymore. I had planned how I wanted my life to go and what I wanted to do, and that's when I took the decision to leave my job and pursue art full-time. It was a very big decision to make but it felt right, and I just went with my gut.
Being a Blogger
Besides art and design work, I also run my blog and do freelance social media marketing.
I started my blog in 2016 but had the idea for the blog a couple of years ago. Back in 2014, I had a website called ArtShack; it was basically my platform to showcase my design work. Now, I try to keep my blog separate from everything else that I do. I don’t even mention that I’m a graphic designer or an artist on my blog. My blog combines a lot of the things that I love and enjoy in life; from food, art, to makeup. It is basically about sharing my lifestyle with my readers.
When it comes to blogging, there aren't any set guidelines or benchmarks in Bahrain. The content has to be valuable and relatable to readers. Planning and writing content takes a lot of time, especially when you want to do it right. It requires observing current trends to determine what works and what doesn’t. You have to be consistent with your content, not only in frequency but also in the quality.
Besides my blog, I also use my social media accounts for professional purposes. A lot of companies are now heavily depending on bloggers to market their brands. That’s the new direction marketing is heading into, and brands have to change their strategies to suit the changing market since brand loyalty is not as stable anymore. That is why influencers can have a huge impact across different industries.
Social media marketing may sometimes seem very easy and simple to people on the outside. People for example ask me if I eat at restaurants for free. Yes, I do eat for free but the food is usually cold because I have to take multiple pictures. It’s a whole process. It’s not just simply putting up a post, a lot thought and planning needs to go into it.
For example, if you are an artist, you’d have a very specific niche of followers. When you post your artwork, the people who would follow you would be fellow artists, art instructors, or people who invest in art and are genuinely interested in art. If you want people from different segments to see your content, you’d have to add more elements to the picture. For instance, you would include a cup of coffee next to the drawing. Instead of taking a picture of the drawing itself, you’d take a picture of the table and tag Starbucks and your watch, ring, and pen manufacturers. And if you want greater engagement you write the caption in Arabic or write a funny caption that people would relate to. This in itself takes a lot of thought and planning.
When it comes to positioning myself among companies and brands, I’ve made myself a media kit listing all of my social media account details, my Instagram and blog analytics, and the list of services I can provide. I then send that to companies, asking them to also share their brand values and guidelines because not everyone may be fit to represent their brand, and I can’t represent any brand either. So, I select them just as they would select me, so it’s mutually beneficial and fitting.
I get approached my home businesses or small businesses directly, but larger companies usually have agencies representing them, so we work with the agencies. There are a couple of agencies that I work with regularly.
Initially, my family didn’t quite understand what I do, but now that they see all the different things I’m doing and see how happy I am, and they are very encouraging. Blogging or micro-blogging can be seen as a feasible career option but only if you really enjoy it and don’t go into it for the money. When certain bloggers or influencers are mainly focused on making money, it shows in their choice of projects and in the brands they represent. That’s why a lot of influencers in Bahrain have a second job as well. You could also aim to expand your reach beyond Bahrain, as our market here is somewhat limited by its small size.
When I started posting pictures on my Instagram account, a few of my pictures went, as you would say, ‘viral' getting over 1000 likes. But with all those likes, came a lot of negative comments, which I wasn't used to nor ready for. That made me consider quitting it, and I did stop for a while. But deep down I knew I still wanted to do this, and with the encouragement of some of my friends, I started doing it again. It was just another obstacle I had to overcome. It was all very new to me.
Your self-esteem and self-confidence are not linear. You start at the bottom, then go up and then come down again. Putting yourself out there is really intimidating but I try to stay level-headed and not take things too seriously.
I still get negative comments every now and then, but I’ve learned to brush them off and not take them personally. The positive comments are a lot more than the negative ones and it does encourage me to keep going. It’s nice to have people approaching me and simply saying hi or asking about me if I haven’t posted in a while. Sometimes I feel I can share and connect with all these people, despite them being strangers. They’re my virtual family.