Aafster Life Banner

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Blogger's Handbook on How to Bring Out a Facebook Jalsa

A lot of effort has gone into building a credible voting campaign for The Aafster Life at the Pakistan Blog Awards, and only some of it is mine.

It started with posting a link to the nomination page on Facebook and tentatively asking people to vote. In return, I offered each voter a "Hooah!" No matter which way you looked at it, this was a terrible strategy to garner support. As someone pointed out later, a vote ought to get a chicken, a shawl and some Quaid-e-Azams in return. The first response to the FB post was: Who you calling a Hooah???

Okay, so one person had voted. I was not expecting much from this or anything in life at that point. My husband was in China, my child had become a demon overnight and we were on a spooky unexplained-household-item-breakdown spree exactly when my poor in-laws were visiting. My new iPhone had died while charging, the microwave had started sparking, Zain had literally broken off a piece of our new stereo, the cook hadn't turned up, the meat shop hadn't opened and the toilet seat in the guestroom had come off its hinges for no good reason. The karma balance in my life seemed out. If I listened hard, the Universe did not seem to be saying, "Goooddd tiiime tooo siiignnn uppp foorrr a cooonteeest." To make things worse, another early-bird contender in the Best Diarist category of the blog awards already had 250 votes up before I'd even gotten started. And he was really sweet and encouraging, so the Universe was probably saying nice things to him, and all of this was fundamentally unfair because the Universe was supposed to be a neutral third-party.

My first tweet about the nomination was: Pl. ignore edited blog introduction. Terrified now that my name is actually up there. Vote karo, naak na katnay do! No one RTed that one - God knows why.

But the comments had started coming in on Facebook. Half the people couldn't figure out how to vote while the other half had randomly clicked on the yellow stars and then realised that they'd just brought the rating down. There was a deluge of "How do I"s and "Aargh"s. And yet it was a start - an unexpected one. A few hours later, two of my friends shared on the link to the nomination page, using words like 'fabulously funny' and 'slice of urban truths from Karachi' to describe this blog. Some people responded to their posts, using words like 'hilarious' and 'relatable'. "She has our kind of humour," one person said, "or am I overestimating us?" (Yes? Haw haw!)

And so the FB shares for the nomination page began to go up, and the votes started lazily rolling in. A friend of mine emailed her students, urging them to read the blog and vote. Then she got excited and started a blog too. Another friend posted a tweet threatening her followers with DMs if they didn't vote, and messaged a popular Indian blogger to check out The Aafster Life. Shortly after this, I received a wry tweet from one of my super-funny Twitter contacts: Someone in Bombay emailed me a link to your blog & asked me to vote. I have witnessed Washington intervening in our elections but this was a first! Kiya baat hai. 

Yet another friend, a photographer who makes the meanest chicken w/cashew nuts you've ever tasted, posted a link to one of my posts with this comment: 

alright afia I have a confession to make! I cried and i cried out loud reading this piece. It is beautifully written and I felt as if you went inside my heart and was able to let out all that I wanted to say for the past 5 and half years....thank you for writing this and making all the moms feel better :)

I watched all this with amazement, then gratitude, then amazed gratitude (and occasionally grateful amazement). I had become emotionally committed to the idea of giving this campaign my best. People believed in me, man. The least I could do in return was put up a good fight, right? Did I have to put on my boxing gloves now? Wait, how did one run a campaign anyway? Uh-oh.

And that's when some special magic kicked in. I don't know what happened, or how it happened, but the link to the nomination page went sort-of viral on Facebook. As of right now, it's gotten 374 shares. Only fifteen of those shares were made by my friends. I am itching to find out who the rest of the 359 people are. I want to throw them a party and hug all of them (unless someone's creepy - then they get a handshake; you have to be prepared for these things in Pakistan). There are people who've done so much that I want to look them in the eye and ask, "What do you want, really?" like my friend Mahwash. One minute we were discussing whether Ethan Hawke had greasy teeth and the next minute she was somehow promoting my blog nomination. Here is a select progression of her tweets:

1. Hey followers, wallowers, creepy nobodies and favorite somebodies. Vote for @AfiaAslam to win the Best Diarist (Pakistan Blog Awards)! (she forgot to attach a link to the nomination or the blog in that one).

We then graduated to a discussion on Madagascar's King Julian and the possibility that his version of 'I Like To Move It' was the best dance song ever.

2. Vote for @AfiaAslam. Better her than Imran Khan :-p (this time, a link was included).

3. Alright, pretty followers. Vote for @AfiaAslam as the Best Diarist at the Pakistan Blog Awards. She is awesome.

A few minutes later:

4. Be awesome. Support awesomeness. Vote 4 @AfiaAslam as The. Best. Diarist. Ever. Pak Blog Awards won't know what hit em!

5. If you want to be awesome, if you want to support awesomeness, vote for @AfiaAslam as Best Diarist. Shabash. Vote now.

She then posted on her blog, asking people to vote. Somewhere in the middle she also put up another campaign tweet but linked it to a story about an army doctor who murdered a doorman. It was an honest mistake.

6. Alright. By a show of tweets tell me who voted for @AfiaAslam today. Come on. Don't be shy. Or stingy.

By this time, my cousin Sara, who'd been watching from a bemused distance, commented on FB: You should probably run for elections and hire Mahwash as your campaign manager ;-)  That inspired my friend to come up with multi-lingual campaign slogans, e.g. "Afia saadi shair ai!", "Ullu mat baniyey, Afia ko vote dijiey!" and "Aavay hi aavay! Afia aavay!" We then dedicated songs to each other. Some faarigh and over-optimistic guy on Twitter asked us if we were sisters. The blog awards had given rise to some serious cameraderie - and don't look now but we were in the middle of a full-fledged campaign.

(Conversation on Facebook)

Sara: maybe a televised speech will help? you need to make a video of yourself thanking your FB public and post it- now THAT would be a campaign move :D

Ibaad: Totally agree with Sara, a video needs to be put up! It should start with our flag fluttering in the cool wintery breeze and with the quami tarana playing in the background and your opening line could be "Meray azeez humwatanoon / bloggeroon aap ko Afia ka salam", the rest i leave in your capable hands..

Madiha R: I think Ibaad and Sara are on to something. Except you should forgo the quami tarana and start off with a resounding cry from Solom for garam dudo.

Shazaf: lol! video idea zindabad! chalo chalo blogosphere chalo!  

Mahwash: VEE DEE OH! *everyone chant with me* VEE DEE OH! HO HO HO! VEE DEE OH!

Shazaf: OH .. OH OH (i'm going to echo Mahwash)


Mahwash: ooooh aaaa rriaaa rio! VEEEEE DEEEE OOH!!! ohpaa ohpaaa! 

Shazaf: forget afia. i'm voting for mahwash!


Shazaf: but i don't want the wall that is afia to giro! ee oh ee oh ee oh!

Mahwash: (the wall is the competitors btw) AA FEE YAA! VEE DEE YO! VOTE APNA DO! HEE HEE HO! GO GO GO!

Shazaf: i'm sorry. i think the wall is ambiguous and we sound like we're pushing afia in a well.

Mahwash: OH *pauses for thought* How about "AFIA KA BOL BALA HAI! KIS KIS NE VOTE DALA HAI?!" 

Me: Dude I went for lunch and in the meantime...

Mahwash: Lunch? Aur mera yahan gala sookh gaya.

Me: Hahahahaha! I wish I could put all this DOWN somewhere takeh baad me yaad rahay!!    
Me: OH.
Me: Gotta go, inspiration has struck.


Shazaf: ^ bloggo?

Mahwash: minglish portmanteaux of english word blog- and the urdu verb of karo.

Shazaf: fail.  

And that's what it's been like. Isn't this post a little premature, you might ask? No it isn't, because this isn't a victory lap; it's a tribute. I don't care anymore whether I win or not. In less than a week my insignificant little blog has gone from just over 4,000 page views to 9,000 page views. A nomination page with elusive yellow stars was shared on by hundreds of people I didn't even know and the vote count went up by 100 in 24 hours. New friendships were forged and a hell of a lot of fun was had. People wrote back with all kinds of superlative praise for this blog. That doesn't mean that it is the best thing around - it just means that the words that reside here spoke to them. THIS is success.

There's one word for this feeling: WAH! What A High.

The Aafster Life is competing in the Best Diarist category of the Pakistan Blog Awards! If you find my troubles and stresses as funny as I hope you do, take a moment to vote! Click on the button at the top right of the blog. Thanks!


  1. You know, this is what blogs are meant to do :) Really if world peace is to be had, more people need to blog!

    You're inspirational aaf. And, jokes aside, I am being serious (since apparently you think my ideas are funny digs :P) if nothing the blogaward peeps need to publically recognize this kind of phenomena.

    now maybe ill revive my snoozing blog too.

  2. You tweet?! Who knew? *Clicks follow button*

  3. I have but three words.



    Or maybe six. Three sounded nice.

    We love you babe and we think you totally deserve to win which is why I SHALL KEEP HOUNDING MY FOLLOWERS. Hmpf.

    And my facebook friends. And my neighbors. If they knew what a blog WAS .. Hmm.

    This is the kind of project, on a serious note, that can evolve into something like a Julie and Julia project. There's something TO YOUR WRITING that has turned you viral and it's not JUST because I'm a maniac who hounds people into doing what she wants. :P

    Bottom line, every word of praise, every star you get is deserved. Because yes you are that awesome. And you. shall. win.

    Waddaya know. Got the three words after all! ;)

  4. ee oh ee oh ee oh!
    it's coz you're a wunnerful person and a wunnerful writer
    girti hui dewar ko EK DHAKKA AUR DO!!!

  5. Thanks, people. Right now, it's all about the love. Bask in it :-)

  6. Afia,

    This is hilarious...it is high time you joined or formed a political party. Your friend Mahwash is ready to be a campaign manager, eventual press secretary (envisioned as a mixture of the fabulous CJ Cregg of West Wing fame and the glamorous-ness that is Hina Rabbani Khar). And then you will appear on TV resplendent in your garb of a sack-like outfit (befitting the leader of an Islami jamhooriyat) and a dupatta affixed on the top of your head much like the PTV news anchors of yesteryears (remember that lady who was the 6 pm English news anchor?) and it will be much like Ibaad imagined it: "our flag fluttering in the cool wintery breeze and with the quami tarana playing in the background and your opening line could be "Meray azeez humwatanoon / bloggeroon aap ko Afia ka salam""

    I almost wish I hadn't voted already so I could go vote now :)


  7. Thanks Fatima, Mahwash is one mean PR machine. She would make the most effective Press Secretary of all time, I would think!

    For better laughs, please go to the blogs I've linked above for my two friends Shazaf (www.ahomebodylikeme.blogspot.com) and Aneela (www.golkamra.blogspot.com). Thanks for dropping by and please keep coming back! I love it when people engage with the writing so wonderfully :-)

  8. And then we say Pakistanis aren't suited for democratic processes :)

  9. Great blog babe - like I said, I voted because of Mahwash's great campaigning skills, but I am truly a fan now!

  10. Nabeel, KYA BAAT KAR DI AAP NE! *enthusiastic clapping*

    Sarah, please keep coming back!