Giuliana Caruso: Plenty of rooms for new influencers in Kazakhstan
Giuliana Caruso is a well-known social media influencer in Kazakhstan with 35,000 followers on Instagram. Hailing from Italy, she made Almaty her home since 2011.
She shares her experience of being an online personality, her thoughts on social media in Kazakhstan and her future plans with Interview of the Day Host, Bilqis Bahari. Read the full interview here.
BILQIS: Giuliana, first of all, thank you so much for making the time for this interview.
GIULIANA: Thank you for having me today in Astana.
BILQIS: Okay, let’s dive straight to the questions. You’ve lived in Kazakhstan, Almaty for about 7 years now.
GIULIANA: 00: 2011 I came.
BILQIS: And what changes have you seen in the city then and now?
GIULIANA: As you probably know I live in Almaty. And in Almaty, I’ve seen incredible changes because in the past five years they have built a luxury mall, they have built new pedestrian roads, they have re-qualified the city center. So in terms of infrastructure, Almaty doesn’t look like the one that I moved seven years ago. There is Uber now in Almaty, so there is no gypsy taxi anymore. The city, it became nothing different than another European city. So when you come to Almaty, you are pretty much feeling yourself like anywhere else in Europe. You have a countless number of café and bars and international restaurants. You have famous hotels and you have a quality that you would find anywhere else. I mean the quality, the standard, the service and the brand selection is really good. And a lot of people speak English and a lot of people are international. A lot of people studied abroad. You have a lot of activities, a lot of festivals, a lot of events that are very similar to living in Europe actually.
BILQIS: What about the people?
GIULIANA: As I said Almaty for me it’s a very unique example of outstanding city in Kazakhstan. I haven’t lived in Astana and I haven’t lived in Shymkent or Atyrau. So I don’t really know but I believe Almaty has cultural soul and the people that live there are really creative and they are into arts. So you really have a chance to meet incredible humans in Almaty that really inspires you. As I said the number of people that speaks English has increased a lot and the people are really much global-minded.
BILQIS: You’re very active on social media, Instagram. I think nearly everyone in Kazakhstan knows who you are. How did you get involved on Instagram?
GIULIANA: My husband is also very active on Instagram. He started to be opinion maker and influencer back in 2013. He’s always been a writer. He always likes to blog. And then he started Facebook and increases his popularity on Facebook. And then at certain point, he said that Facebook was extremely negative, so he started Instagram. We always influence each other. So we both were starting to be active on Instagram. I find Instagram is much lighter than Facebook. At the beginning I just post picture, you know – picture of me in Almaty, picture of me having a meal, picture of me with my husband and it was pretty okay and not very popular. At a certain point, Instagram adds this tool that is called ‘stories’. And I thought that it was an interesting tool because you basically sharing 15 seconds of your life and you can communicate what you’re doing, your mood, where you’re exactly located, what are you eating and so on. So I started to be quite active with my stories and as I would do in life, whenever I see a group of people, I say hello to everybody. So I always start with this way of greeting people and I didn’t really strategically thought that it could become something that people would be very engaged with so much. So every time that I start my ‘stories’, just before anything else, I would just politely say to everybody ‘hello.’ It started like this and then people start to troll me in a funny way and they would start repeating it. Then I find out couple of months ago that it is such an impactful jingo and people thought that it is my signature jingo. But coming back to your question, the way I use Instagram nowadays, where I have quite an important audience, is to tell people how I look at things. I am still a guest in this country. So I don’t criticize. I tend not to be negative on things. I always share my opinion but I try to do it in a very tactful way
BILQIS: When you first started Instagram, do you think that that would be your career in the future?
GIULIANA: No, absolutely no. I think like anything else that you do with passion; you never think that it could become something serious. So as I said to you at the beginning it was just a joke. It was just sharing and let people know what I was doing and this is my husband and this is what we are doing and this is where we are eating. So I never planned it and it was very casual. And I still think when people stop me on the street and they say ‘oh my God, you’re so popular. Can we take a picture with you?’ I still don’t realize how it’s possible because I really don’t do it with the idea that I want to reach something.
BILQIS: What do you think of the social media landscape in Kazakhstan?
GIULIANA: It’s not developed yet. It’s not regulated. Why I’m saying this? Because for most of us who are working with Instagram nowadays, and this is not my main income because I work for another company. But clearly, I reach to a certain type of people on my Instagram account. They are people that are between 25 and 35, they are people with income; they are people with English skill; they are people that are working in international company or they are traveling very often. So it’s a very targeted audience. So why I say it’s not regulated is that most of the time you have company or brands approaching you and asking you to do things for free, not understanding that this is a new way of having a channel to promote things, right? And it’s a new media. So people are becoming new media to communicate and why it’s more impactful than billboards? Why it’s more impactful than any other media? It’s because the people that follow you. They are loyal to you. And when you are loyal and when you have good friends, then for you that message is more important than seeing a billboard. So it’s an incredible opportunity because it’s very democratic. Anybody can become an influencer. You just need to have good content because people on Instagram they’re not silly, they’re not stupid, they understand, they know exactly if you’re real or not,if you fake it. So it’s really straightforward. If people like you, they like you because they understand that you have something really honest to say. It’s actually a job. When you ask somebody to do a service, you usually have a commission that you have to pay. So when I say that in this country it’s not yet very regulated because people don’t understand. ‘Oh this influencer, what is this people?’ like they still don’t see this as a really a job.
BILQIS: Do you think that the social media scene here, there’s still room for newcomers to become an influencer?
GIULIANA: Of course, of course. There is plenty of room. There is so much room. When I look at the social media landscape here I see that there is not too much offer. I see most of the profiles they’re doing all the same things. They all promote something nonstop. I think we need newcomers that are there to share content. You need people that are actually sharing something useful and something that make people develop.
BILQIS: How do you describe yourself as a social media personality?
GIULIANA: I actually have it in my caption. I feel that I am a contemporary woman that has chosen a very interesting path in her life. I have been living in Kazakhstan, which is not my homeland for quite a lot, and I did this because I love to be surrounded by different culture. I think that my social media it could be defined as a modern woman living in very interesting time of our lives.
BILQIS: How do you build your following on social media?
GIULIANA: It’s purely organic followers. I currently have 35 thousand followers. I never bought one single follower because this would mean for me that I cheat on people and would make me not honest. I never bought likes. I never did anything artificial because I promote woman that is self-confident. A woman who is very in harmony with herself. So my Instagram has to be a mirror of myself. I think it’s genuinely the way I run my page. It became word of mouth. Today I was meeting with two of my followers and I said ‘how did you start following me?’ They said ‘oh, somebody recommended me to watch your stories because you are such a positive person.’ So people are just following me because I’m positive and me with a Kazakh man. So for them it’s very interesting to see how an Italian woman lives in Kazakhstan.
BILQIS: They’re interested in your story.
GIULIANA: Probably. I think my private life is part of the interest and curiosity. How this couple live? How they manage to be together being so different between each other? Which language did they speak? How they earn money? Why they don’t have kids? When did they get married? You know all this very simple questions that make anybody else interest to somebody else.
BILQIS: How do you make sure that your voice or your post on your Instagram consistent?
GIULIANA: I share things that are in line with my DNA as a brand because I look at myself nowadays as a brand because I already have advertiser asking me for the price. I’ve been studying marketing for over 12 years. I used to do marketing for brands and now I do marketing for myself. So whatever I post is in line with my value and with my mission and my stories are always very in line with my DNA of the brand. I tend to keep my post very positive. I tend to share things that could be interesting for people. I’m not only posting on what I’m eating because I would find it extremely boring. And I don’t only post on what dress I have on because I also would find it extremely boring. And for me, monothematic things are also extremely boring. So it’s very dynamic. Whatever I share it’s about my love for my husband, it’s about my family, it’s about passion of traveling. I don’t know, just like anything that is interesting for me – movie, music. I just like to share.
BILQIS: I’m down to my last question. So we have less than 20 days to New Year 2019. So what’s next for Giuliana Caruso?
GIULIANA: The world. Conquering the world. When am I going to be the President of the world? Sometimes I say this because sometimes I want to change so much in this world and I see so many things that are not right and I’m not talking about politics. I’m talking about basic stuff. What is next? I don’t know.
BILQIS: What’s your upcoming project for next year?
GIULIANA: I think projects are just very short term. I don’t know how long this Instagram is going to go for. You know, tomorrow they can turn it off. So I like this idea of being an influencer but am I really an influencer? Because if you ask yourself, an influencer is a person like Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa de Calcutta. There are people without Instagram who have been leaving trait in this world. So maybe not for 2019 but for sure one of my goals in life is to leave a good mark in this planet and to do as much as possible good for people and to be a healthy contributor to this society where I’m living. So to bring value, it’s one of my goals in life.