Liz Azyan started her career as an academic, with a string of degrees behind her, and was currently doing her PhD in social media in government. But then she started wondering… is this it? Is there more I can do with my life? So she decided to pack it all in, take everything that she had learned, and focus on her passion – digital media. A little bit crazy? Or incredibly brave? We think a bit of both, and we love it, so we wanted to find out more about her business, Digital Matchbox

 

Can you tell us a bit more about what your business offers?

Yes, that’s easy! In a nutshell, we make people famous!

The long version is we help businesses and individuals really get seen and stand out online in their market using our powerful social media system and our own platform. We not only manage your social media, we create professional and visually attractive branded content, run split tests, analyse and monitor both your and your competition’s online presence, drive targeted traffic to your website and offers and basically rock your online brand and blow your competition out of the water!

And how long have you been working on this project?

I’ve been doing this for ages, probably more so in the last 5 or 6 years. I started with advising governments on how to use social media to engage with citizens. More recently, like in the last couple of years, I’ve decided to dive into helping passionate entrepreneurs really leverage the web because it helped me to work more closely with people. Having that one-on-one experience helping somebody and seeing their business succeed is important to me. Because this isn’t just a business for me. It is indeed a way of life. So, I need to feel and know how my work is impacting people. This was difficult to do in government, as anything you do you’re still at arms length with citizens and it takes a lot longer to make an impact due to bureaucracy. Which is why I decided to make that switch.

Sounds like you are very passionate about your business. What drives this passion and how did you get the idea for the business?

Funny story, I didn’t actually go out to set up a business. I was actually in the UK to do my Masters and PhD through a scholarship. It was while I was doing my PhD in social media in government that the opportunity kind of presented itself to me. I was doing a lot of blogging around my PhD topic and that started to attract a lot of attention. From there I was paid to blog for others, tweet at events, conduct expert video and audio interviews for companies and so much more. I was like a kid in a candy shop!

I was flown all around the world to attend the coolest events, meeting the most interesting people and best of all, getting paid good money to do it all! I was also invited to write whitepapers, be the keynote speaker at events, write social media reports for well-known publications and best of all, was selected to receive a Google Fellowship in 2009. It was a whirlwind of events that really changed the course of my life. I didn’t find my career. It found me. Long story short, my passion for adventure and social media led me to the decision to quit my PhD and start my own social media agency. So, here I am!

Liz Azyan You are what you tweet

Quite an experience! So tell us a little bit more about your background and how did you make the leap from university to running your own business?

I grew up both in Malaysia and Canada. My dad was a Malaysian diplomat in Canada and that’s how we ended up there for a bit. As I said, I had climbed the education ladder from Diploma in Computer Science, BSc (Honours) in Business Computing (for which I received a first Class), MSc in Business Information Systems (with distinction!) to a PhD in social media for government – cut short by an even bigger and more meaningful dream.

I think the transition of wanting to work for ‘the man’ to wanting to ‘be the man’ happened when I turned 30. I think at this point in my life, I had gone through hardship and really gotten to know myself and assessed what I wanted out of life. In other words, what I wanted to feel at the end of the day when I come back from work. Did I want to feel I did a good job? Or did I want to put my stamp on the world and really make an impact my own way? And that’s when it all clicked. I wanted the freedom to be myself – to be inspired and to also have the freedom to quit when I wanted (no more horrible bosses to put up with). And even to take the blame on certain failures. Because I knew deep down, that failing is not the end. Failing is the beginning and learning. And I don’t want to be punished for it. I want to celebrate my failings, learn from them and move forward. Being an entrepreneur truly gives you the ability to look yourself in the eye and say at the end of the day, “You’ve done a good job!” or “You did terribly today, but you will not repeat this mistake and do better tomorrow!”

And your family background? Were their any influences there, any entrepreneurs in your family who helped you make the change?

To be honest, if you asked me eight years ago if I ever dreamt of being an entrepreneur, I would say point blank no.  I grew up being told you should aspire to work for big corps like Microsoft, Accenture and Apple. Practically nobody in my family has dabbled in business or has ever even given it a thought. I think my parents are proud of me for starting a business, but I’m pretty sure that this entrepreneurial journey is not what they would have chosen for me. I was not born into it, but I do believe I was born with it. Which in some ways, I very much prefer, because this means that I’m doing what comes naturally to me. In many ways, I’m a rebel. I hate being normal or doing the same thing as everyone else.  I’m always trying to find ways of doing this faster, smarter and I want to know that things are always moving up and not down.

Do you have a business partner? Any interesting stories there?

I have several partners, but the one that I work with most these days is Konrad Sanders from Creative Copywriter. I actually met him while we were both meeting someone else (an influencer who was visiting London). Konrad is a very driven entrepreneur who is ridiculously talented and has an amazing work ethic. We always joke that we both tend to end up on the same expert lists together, which helps us both to realize what a great influence we can have on each other’s business. Working with other experts that influences your market can really be beneficial for business because you’re bringing the absolute best experience for your customers. And at the end of the day, that is what really matters. If my clients are happy, I’m happy.

And what do you think gives you the competitive edge to other businesses similar to yours?

I think the fact that my agency has its own platform really does make us the preferred choice for customers. We know exactly what we are doing, we know how to deliver social media ROI, we are focused on results and other agencies even look at us for expert advice and knowledge. We’re also rolling out our platform to help other agencies run their social media business. So this keeps us on our toes and committed to the art of professional social media management itself.

You mentioned earlier embracing your failures. Can you tell us about any difficulties in starting up your business and how you overcame them?

Yes, there were definitely difficulties. I think for me it was branding. I changed my site a few times before settling for the current format. It was pretty much a journey of self-discovery. It’s hard to find your feet when you’re first starting, and that includes finding your identity. I had to let my target market and clients define or tell me how they viewed me. And after careful observation and feedback and testimonials, I discovered that the words ‘professional’ and ‘creative’ tended to come up again and again. And I almost instantly knew – that was my brand. I was a creative professional. And my website had to reflect that. As up to this point, I’ve done everything myself – create my own website, my own designs, my own branding. It was tough, incredibly challenging and draining. But I had to persevere because if I didn’t do it, no one was going to do it for me!

Finally what is your goal or vision for the company in the next few years?

My vision for my social media management platform for my clients is for better service and ROI. As for my platform subscribers, my vision is to make their lives easier, more manageable and profitable. Because social media management, done right, is no easy feat! It takes up a lot of time and energy. More than people think. So I hope it will help other social media managers to achieve more in less time and money.

In terms of long term goals, I hope my business will not only help other social media managers manage better, but also to inspire them to innovate and really change the way we do social media marketing as a whole. Really putting the emphasis of relationships back into businesses and as a result, creating thriving businesses that not only help each other, but also create customers… that create more customers.

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