When Hiba Masood found out about her son’s Autism two years ago she was distraught. That topped by financial troubles Hiba felt trapped and alone. “I was at one place in my life but I wanted to be somewhere else,” she said while speaking to Dawn.com at the first of four events organised by Google Business Group Women in Karachi on Saturday.
In these troubled times, Hiba found a support base online.
She wanted to reach out to people and share her story, hoping in turn to also learn from others who may be going through similar struggles. Today, her Facebook page ‘Drama Mama’ has over 3,000 likes.
“The number of likes may not be a lot but we have a solid base for online engagement and strong community building,” Hiba said.
The Google event, aimed to digitally empower women, brought together women from different spheres seeking to acquire and/or upgrade their knowledge, skills and abilities for the online medium.
|Salma Jafri, team lead for Google Business Group in Karachi. - Photo by Kurt Menezes
Team lead for Google Business Group in Karachi Salma Jafri explains: “The digital medium is the most feasible and has easiest point of access; you will find many people, who may be otherwise inaccessible, online. And now we have internet access on our mobile phones as well.”
But people in Pakistan are still unaware of how to “efficiently use (the internet) it because they still see it as a one-way medium and bombard websites with a lot of information, without waiting for people to respond. It is a two-way engagement,” Jafri said.
Giving the example of hosting a guest in your living room, Jafri explained, “it’s like speaking to someone about your daily lives and getting to hear about theirs.”
Terming the need for social media for women in Pakistan ‘very important’ Jafri pointed out the medium worked best for women who wanted to stay at home due to family commitments but wanted a career as well. “It gives them a voice they might have otherwise not had.”
Of course, the digital arena is not limited to sharing personal experiences; many have used the medium to turn hobbies into successful businesses. Hiba, for one, started a creative writing summer camp for the age group between six to nine years and is now exploring the possibility of organising creative writing retreats for mothers as well.
Henna Siddiqui, founder of Pehnavey, started her clothing business with a Facebook page but now plans to launch her own website. This way the business attracts its own clientele and is not solely dependent on the user base of the popular social site.
“The point should be to generate traffic for your product on your page and not to direct it all to Facebook,” Jafri said.
The internet is also being used to expand institutions’ reach beyond borders. The Aga Khan University, for example, is now focusing on increasing its online presence with the aim of being more accessible to international students.
|Afifa Batool, Manager for the web and Public Affairs at Aga Khan University. - Photo by Kurt Menezes
Manager for the web and public affairs at AKU Afifa Batool told Dawn.com: “As an institution our target market is different compared to other woman entrepreneurs present here. We need to tap into the international medical student market and for that we joined social in order to promote AKU’s positive values worldwide,” says Afifa.
Social media has undoubtedly boomed in Pakistan’s business industry. It requires a little effort but there is a certain pattern to follow.
As Salma Jafri’s surmised her session on content marketing: “Social media in the entrepreneurial world is to first get people to know you, then they like and after that they trust you.”