It’s almost April already?!

March has really flown by quickly, friends. It’s been an incredibly busy and wonderful month, though!

Things have been buzzing at brass Media. We’ve worked hard this month to put out important information about content marketing for financial services. I co-wrote a white paper on the basics, and put out blogs about valuable content and consistent brand presence.

This month also saw my debut as a voice-over artist! Not a serious career path consideration, but I did a voice-over for brass Media’s newest video about brand monitoring online. Check it out!

Another exciting opportunity came to represent brass Media in judging the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council’s 2014 Diamond Awards, given out to credit unions for outstanding marketing. And CUNA was lovely enough to give out awards to those of us who judged, which was a really nice treat.

Finally, March brings Norooz, the new year! It’s 1393 according to the Persian calendar, and this year I decided to try my hand at Persian cooking! I made zereshk polow, a delicious chicken and rice dish with barberries. I also tried a canned ghormeh sabzi, which turned out better than I expected it to. And, of course, the best part: tahdig!

I hope this new year (or new season) brings you all a wonderful, happy new beginning!

A new year and a new look

There’s something about getting back to work after time off in November and December that makes January a really long slog. It doesn’t help that the month is usually five weeks long, either.

But I’ve been keeping plenty busy. We’re preparing for a busy year ahead at brass Media, and I’ve been writing up a storm. I helped my coworker Kayla with a piece for CU Insight about how to vet a new social media platform and wrote a piece for Credit Union Times on which social media platforms younger demographics are migrating to and how to market to them there:

You’re going to need to rethink your social strategy when it comes to teens or young adults. The truth is, they’re not going to be as engaged on Facebook as their parents or older peers. If you want to reach them, you’ll need to go where they are.

We’re also gearing up for more webinars at brass. Kayla and I will be hosting one in February on how to monitor your brand online, with helpful tips on RSS feeds, Twitter searches, and Google Alerts.

I’ve been as busy on Instagram as ever, writing a piece about what not to do on Instagram. I also kicked off the month with a theme week, highlighting religious buildings I’ve had the privilege to visit during my travels. I’m planning to continue my theme weeks in 2014, so be sure to follow me on IG if you haven’t already!

You’ll also notice that I’ve revamped my website. I decided to greet the new year with a new (digital) look, and so I’ve chosen a different theme that still captures my love of minimalism. You’ll also notice my colorful new social media icons! They’re from the very talented Mohammed al Yousfi, and I downloaded them here. With a little help from WordPress, I set them up myself.

What do you think?

Stop doing these 5 things on Instagram

Instagram tips

I’ve been on Instagram an entire year now, and it’s been a really fun ride. But I’ve built up a few pet peeves that I’d like to caution you against, both for my sanity and for the sake of your account’s level of awesome. Since Instagram is the fastest growing social media network, I’m trying to do my part to make sure the newbies are as dedicated as those of us already loving the platform.

1. Don’t reply properly (or at all)

Instagram is a social network, so why wouldn’t you be social? If someone leaves a comment, answer them. And do so using their handle, so they get a notification that you replied. You can just swipe left to see the reply button: press that and it appears instantly in the comment box.

Don’t get me wrong: if the comment is abusive, you should report it and delete it (also available when you swipe left on a comment).There’s no need to reply to that awful stuff.

2. Don’t flood my feed

Posting the same image taken five different ways is annoying. Plus, I’m not going to like all of them. If you really want to share similar images, space them out over a week or a month. This will ensure that each post gets its own share of likes, and it won’t clog up your friends’ feeds.

Another good piece of advice: make sure they’re good pictures. Nix anything out-of-focus, really grainy, or too dark to see properly.

3. Stop hashtag abuse 

You can only add up to 30 hashtags in one comment. Whether that seems excessive or not, only use hashtags that are relevant to the picture. If your picture was taken in Oregon, for example, don’t include the other 49 states in your hashtags. If you’re participating in one of Instagram’s Weekend Hashtag Projects, don’t use the hashtag on a picture that has nothing to do with the weekend’s theme. 

For the record, I average about 15 – 20, which is a lot. I usually include hashtags for  location, editing apps, and maybe a few descriptors.

Also, I make sure to upload the picture description with one or two hashtags at most, and then leave a comment with the rest of the hashtags after publishing. This makes it easy to share my post on Facebook, Tumblr, or Twitter with being an annoying hashtag mess. It also looks nicer (which should count for something on a social network dedicated to visuals, right?)

4. Don’t share screenshots

Instagram is about photos. If you want to share an inspiring message, you can literally create one using apps like Studio (my personal fave–I used it to create the graphic for this blog), Over, or A Beautiful Mess. If you want to just share an image you like, you can do that on Pinterest, Tumblr, or We Heart It. No need to do it on Instagram.

5. Don’t beg for likes or follows.

Because it’s just sad. If #like4like has gotten you somewhere, think about exactly where that is.

What  do you hate seeing on Instagram? Leave a comment below! 

Instagram’s new Direct feature challenges SnapChat

Welp, I’ve already downloaded the Instagram update with the Direct feature. Have you?

Instagram Direct

Instagram Direct is a photo messaging component that allows you to photos and videos to up to 15 friends. These photos and videos don’t appear on in your feed, and you can delete them whenever you’d like (unlike SnapChat, which gives the viewer only 10 seconds max to view a photo, and then it’s gone forever).

Essentially, this is a longer-lasting and more connected version of SnapChat. While you can only send content to up to 15 people, the Direct feature offers a very social component in that everyone you sent your photo or video to can comment on it, even if they don’t follow each other.

For brands, Instagram Direct could be a great way to message their influencers about special deals and events. For personal use, it’s really nice in that I probably won’t have to bother with SnapChat any more: I can send pictures and videos to friends and they all can comment on it. I absolutely love this feature.

There is potential for abuse: because you can sent photos and videos to people you don’t follow and people who don’t follow you, spam is probably in Direct’s future. The good news is that you can ignore messages from someone you follow, block people from sending you messages, and report offensive messages. I like that Instagram is thinking ahead on this.

Instagram’s help guide for Direct is very comprehensive. Check it out if you still have questions about the new feature.

Have you downloaded the update yet? What do you think about Instagram Direct?

We don’t need no “liberation”

Fakhraie Abu-Lughod

I’m really excited to finally receive a copy of Do Muslim Women Need Saving? by Lila Abu-Lughod. I’m looking forward to read the book because Abu-Lughod is an excellent writer on issues relating to Muslim women.

But I’m also really jazzed because, as you can see above, a piece I wrote for Muslimah Media Watch (MMW) appears in the notes (page 287, to be exact). The idea that Abu-Lughod used something I wrote on a blog I created to critically analyze Muslim women’s media representation is incredibly humbling.

And also incredibly affirming. After leaving the site in 2011, I’ve done a fair amount of stepping back from the world of Muslim feminism. Not ideologically, of course, but professionally. Five years of learning, writing, working, collaborating, arguing, and speaking on Muslim women’s issues was fantastic, mind-expanding, empowering, and fulfilling.

But it was also exhausting. Primarily because my writing alone was not a money-making venture. But also because repeating and explaining the same truths over and over for five years was draining, and every time I had to patiently explain that Islam is not oppressive or that Islam and feminism are not mutually exclusive, I got a little more tired. 

And eventually, I realized my exhaustion impeded my ability to effectively run MMW. Which really didn’t matter; I left MMW in the most capable hands, and every so often I marvel at what the site has become and thank God that I made the decision to pass it on instead of just shut it down.

So at times like these, when I see that MMW has been used as a resource for an academic publication, that I reflect on how much work we all did (and do) at MMW. It’s so gratifying to learn that our blog is used in my old women’s studies classes at Oregon State University or in a guide for evaluating media resources to use in the classroom to teach about current events and Middle Eastern culture at my alma mater, the University of Utah.

The wonderful thing is that MMW’s influence doesn’t just stop with me. The site has so much talent that goes on to do such wonderful things. MMW isn’t responsible for the outstanding work Ethar El-Katatney does at Al Jazeera, the thought-provoking work Kirstin Dane writes for The Huffington Post, or the fantastic pieces Sara Yasin writes for Policy Mic, but I’m so proud to know that MMW was a stone on their path. That’s exactly what I wanted for MMW, and I look forward to seeing our talented writers climb to even higher heights.

Do we need saving? Spoiler alert: hells, naw. We’re already doing it for ourselves.

Are you into comic books?

I haven’t given much attention to comic books. I’ve read a graphic novel here and there, and own a single Catwoman comic book (she’s just so badass). But I think I’m about to get into comic books in a major way because Marvel’s new Ms. Marvel is a teenage American Muslim girl.

ms marvel

I talked to Al Jazeera America about my excitement over Kamala Khan:

“She is going to be a window into the American Muslim experience,” said Fatemeh Fakhraie, the founder of Muslimah Media Watch, a forum on Muslim women’s representation in popular culture.

Fakhraie said the new superhero “normalizes this idea of the American experience as Muslim,” adding that “A lot of us are bumping up against that the idea that a lot of America is white, while that isn’t what America is, we’re not all white and Christian.”

Check out the piece and keep an eye open for the new comics. G. Willow Wilson, whose work I really enjoy, is writing for Kamala, so I’m really excited to see what’s coming up.

What I’ve been doing all month

October has been a busy month so far. It seems like the calendar just melts away once we get to September, doesn’t it?

I’ve been up to plenty this month. I spent the first weekend of the month in San Jose, having a great time with friends and family. Since then, I’ve been writing up a storm.

I published my first piece for CUInsight.com, a website that looks at everything important to credit unions. This includes marketing, obviously, and my piece touched about how important blogging is for financial organizations (and every business, really):

Think about it: if all you’re doing is tweeting your Instagram photos and Facebooking your Pinterest boards, you’re not really getting anywhere. Think of a blog like a central hub; social media serves as the planes, trains, and automobiles that get readers to your building. If you only send members to content in other places, no one has a reason to visit you.

brass Magazine’s Winter 2013 issue is out, and I wrote about how important social media is to the job hunt, including strategies on how to use certain channels to help you when you’re looking for a new place to work :

We’ve all seen the social media fails resulting in fired employees. Obviously, cussing out the boss or posting pictures that would make grandma blush is a bad idea. But if you use it correctly, social media can be your stepping stone to a new (or better) job.

And while I’m on the topic of social media and financial organizations, brass Media’s third webinar is next week! Kayla Byers and I will be talking about how important Twitter can be for financial institutions, and different ways to use it.

I’ve also been taking a free online course from Google on how to use Analytics. Sign up and take it at your own leisure if you’re looking for some in-depth information on using Google Analytics. Also, if you’d really like a special certificate when you pass! I got mine today!

photo