160. Elif Tanverdi of Cizenbayan on Being Yourself & Why Interaction Beats Analytics

Elif Tanverdi of CizenbayanOwner and blogger of cizenbayan, Elif Tanverdi has over 5 years experience dreaming, listening, creating, experiencing and sharing the moments that define her life.

What is the story behind cizenbayan? cizenbayan translates to “the lady who draws.” My inspiration came from Madame Tricote (“the lady who knits” translated from French; Orenbayan in Turkish) because at the beginning of cizenbayan in 2012 I was drawing all of my projects. I never could have imagined that it would become my life, my job. Thinking more long-term for this project I might have chosen a different name, but cizenbayan is catchy and at this point it’s impossible to change.

In 2010 I was staying up late drawing and tweeting funny links and thoughts under the twitter handle @cizenbayan as a fun break for me during my studies and interships. Later to my suprise the number of people following my work began growing very quickly!

I was loving this "thinking & sharing” thing, so a few months later I officially launched the cizenbayan blog about my travels, the music I loved, relationships, and my life in general. I also began uploading photos to Instagram and I was amazed that little by little I began getting invitations to galas, openings, parties and later on brands started approaching me about promoting their stuff.

I quit my job to focus on my final project for graduation, and when I graduated I had the summer ahead of me and I was faced with an important decision: Use my degree to find a job in architecture or focus full-time on cizenbayan and see what it could become.

After a few interviews and some live television shows, more and more brands began approaching me, I decided to dive in and turn my full attention to CizenBayan. Even today after nearly 4 years I am still not sure if it’s a sustainable business model but I still love the experience, all the possibilities that this project has brought me, all the places I have gone, all the people I have gotten to meet and most preciously not having to work “9 to 5.”

Elif Tanverdi of CizenBayan on Instagram

Do you manage CizenBayan by yourself? Yes. I manage it full-time and by myself and it’s a lot of work! I’m always busy going to clubs with my suitcase, catching a flight the next morning to some destination and catching up on my sleep during the flight. I can say that I work 24/7.

But I’m not like Essena O’Neall, the Australian girl who quit social media because she was miserable. I’m genuinely happy. I don’t live with photographers around me. I do not try to create scenes from a life that I’m not actually living. I never spend more than 2 mins on a photoshoot if I’m eating at a restaurant with a friend etc.

Yes I love taking pictures of my food if it’s served really nice and I really mock myself when I do that but I’m sure I’m not disturbing anyone because I’m not climbing up on my chair or letting my food get cold or anything. I try not to be antisocial, and I would feel really awkward and I’m really shy and honestly I don’t even like my photos being taken.

I’m living an amazing life! And whether I’m having lunch at a restaurant, watching a band perform, or travelling, I live by the same principle: When the moment hits me I stop to thank the universe for it by taking a moment to capture it in a photo, and later I find an adequate caption for it and post it. At the beginning of a live gig I snap a few photos with my mirrorless camera and then put it away and just enjoy the show and the moment.

I do not post or share something inspirational if I’m not enjoying it. What I have to do is to live. I live, try to capture the best memories of my life, and share them.

I see cizenbayan as a brand, So when I’m not travelling I:

  • Answer e-mails (I answer every email I receive)
  • Manage my agenda
  • Go to meetings
  • Send budget proposals
  • Go to my yoga classes
  • Write my blog
  • Write for magazines and platforms I work for, such as for Canim Istanbul and Yoga Journal Turkey
  • Take photographs and post some stuff on instagram / twitter / facebook / my blog etc.
  • Attend events, exhibitions, gallery openings, all kinds of launches, parties, festivals, gigs, dinner parties…
  • Dj and host events
  • Give speeches at universities

Who is your target demographic?Even though running CizenBayan is my full-time job I don’t really approach it like a traditional business; CizenBayan isn’t a mainstream portal aimed at giving EVERYONE what they want, it’s a niche boutique where image & quality content for a few.

I don’t track analytics so I cannot tell you precisely about my target demographic, traffic volume, click-through rates etc., Instead, I understand my audience through our interactions on social media. That is enough for me.

I receive emails, comments & likes from guys & girls alike, and I’m am often recognized by guys & girls on the street. But I do find that girls between the ages of 15-22 are writing me the most emails, asking me questions about my education, my travels, my life and expressing their adoration. I think those girls are the ones who are the more passionate/intense followers and so they get in touch with me. I also know that there are a lot of like-minded people who follow me.

I have lived in Berlin & Santiago de Chile, and currently I live in Istanbul, so I guess a lot of people who follow me are from Turkish, English, German & Spanish speaking countries. Most of my followers speak Turkish, which is most of my content is in Turkish, but I do post articles in English, German and Spanish. And when I travel I often get messages from local people who follow me and who offer to meet and hang out.

What are a few important Cizenbayan moments that made you so famous? One of them was being on live television: on a late night show hosted by one of the most influential men on television in Turkey. Other than that there are some projects I’m really proud of with some really important international brands, but I’m not sure that they brought me ‘the’ recognition.

It’s also worth mentioning that cizenbayan is in no way the most famous blog in Turkey. There is for example Buse Terim, a fashion blogger who’s father is a really famous guy in Turkey and this girl (and her team) have over a million followers on Instagram. I don’t compare myself to that. That’s more mainstream, whereas I’m more boutique.

As of this interview you have 132k instagram, 11k facebook, and 69k twitter followers. Do you spend money in advertising or do you grow through word of mouth? I have grown almost exclusively through my content, retweets, likes, suggested pages, television and magazine interviews and features, and through the projects and works I’ve collaborated with. One example of this was during the anti-government protesting in Turkey in 2013 when one of my tweets was picked up by Mashable.

I did once try facebook ads out of curiosity, but I didn’t feel as though it connected me with the right audience. I have an official cizenbayan Facebook page, but I have found that my personal facebook profile gives me more sincere interactions. So other than that one time I’ve never spent a penny on advertising, neither for Instagram nor for Twitter.

Does each social media platforms attract a different ‘type’ of person? Do you create content unique for each social media platform? Absolutely! Each platform attracts different people and therefore I create totally different content for each platform.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Recall in my interview with Data Consultant Thomas Palugan that as soon as you have a facebook fan page, you have to handle important issues like:

  • “What is my community management style?”
  • “What is my conversation calendar?“
  • "What is the real value for the consumer of becoming a new fan?”
  • “How can I distinguish between fans who are merely fans and fans who are also buyers and owners of my product, service, or royalty program?”

Also, it’s really difficult to have a consolidated view of your market. If you’re a brand and you have 20 platforms, it’s not impossible, but it’s difficult to have a consumer-centric view. It’s also very important NOT to have a vertical strategy for each social media platform, but to link them all together. If you’re going to have that many platforms, you’re going to need an approach to help you organize all your data into one easy-to-read location so you can collect and analyse the data from the different social media platforms.]

What is the future for cizenbayan? I’m not really a planner; I’m a believer and a dreamer. Being able to make a living with cizenbayan wasn’t planned, and to be honest I couldn’t have imagined having a job like this. I still can’t believe it, it’s crazy!

So I guess I’ll just keep on doing what I’m doing the best: living, sharing & inspiring.

I’m not sure how instagram, Twitter and blogs will evolve, and what new social media platforms will emerge, and I definitely don’t even know if I’ll stay popular, but I’m confident that I have good know-how, experience, taste, original ideas, creativity and inspiration, so I’m not worried about the future. I would like to write a book, which I’ll force myself to write in 2016, and maybe I’ll run a business or do consulting. Who knows. I’m open to all.

Another plan for 2016 is to spend a couple of months in New York City, perhaps even making NYC a second home. For me, New York is like two poles that I can both benefit from:

  1. Social life in a constantly changing environment, life, and unbound possiblities and inspirations with parties, events galleries, galas, converts and openings,etc.
  2. Seclusion to concentrate on my work because I’m literally nobody there, so I can isolate myself and concentrate on my work.

What advice do you have for inspiring bloggers, writers? The most important thing is to be sincere. People can immediately sense it; people can instinctively feel it.

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