Getting Together on Fryday: Online Social Network Transforms Virtual Communication Into Real Experiences

ASTANA – Today, almost every second resident of Kazakhstan uses the Internet, and one in three has a presence on a social network. Communication through social networks is sneakily replacing some real life interactions. Still, the Internet is not a substitute for personal contact. Instead, the organizers of Fryday real life parties thought perhaps the Internet could be used as a platform for launching more personal contact.

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Fryday Astana has quickly become a good opportunity for local and expat community to mix and mingle.

The organizers of Fryday have proposed a new form of communication through social networks. They’ve used virtual communication to lead to real meetings. In this spontaneous communication platform, myriad interests combine: meeting new people, catching up with old friends, establishing new business contacts, expanding one’s circle of acquaintances, or spending an evening relaxing from the everyday hustle and building up a good mood for the upcoming weekend.

Fryday meetings are especially useful for expats, since it can be difficult to make new friends in a new place without some assistance. Fryday’s success is illustrated by the rapid growth in the number of participants at its events. The Astana Times was interested in this new project and has interviewed Merey Mustafina, a representative of Fryday Astana.

What can you tell us about the Fryday community?
Fryday is a free format social networking event. The events take place at the end of the working week and guests are free to come and go as they please and to bring colleagues or friends. Fryday does not really have any fixed programme except for the facilitation of a forum where guests are free to meet and talk to interesting people of many different professions and backgrounds.

What aims does the Fryday community have?
The mission of the events is to bring people together so that they can meet new people, as well as get a chance to socialize with old friends. What does the modern consumer require to be successful in their networking and relationship-building activities? The first crucial stage is that you have to want to succeed. If you feel obliged to attend networking events, it will show on your face and in your behaviour. A positive attitude is, therefore, very important. Secondly, you have to have an open mind. If you dismiss people as uninteresting without giving them a chance, you will not last long. Nobody really likes to spend time with somebody who is not willing to share ideas and thoughts or who is not open to new connections.

When and where was the first group established?
Fryday was founded in Kyiv, Ukraine in April 2010 and during its first year; it grew from being a small group of mostly expats to becoming a gathering that attracted several hundred guests each time. Although Fryday is seen as an internet community, it is essentially an offline event supported by online social media groups. We believe that no matter how sophisticated technology becomes, the true character of most people gets lost online. For people who want to have real relationships, it is important to meet in real life to get a better feel for each other. Only then can trust be established.

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Merey Mustafina (right) has helped organise Fryday Astana events, making it a feature of the capital’s social life.

Who is the originator of the project?
Fryday Kyiv was created by three Swedish nationals living in Kyiv: Gustav Hultgren, Ulrika Kerje and Anders Östlund. The idea of Fryday comes from Stockholm-style after work mingles. As an executive education management professional and one of the coordinators of Astana Ladies Club, I am the representative of The Fryday Astana.

Who are the participants? How many expats are involved?
Fryday Astana generally gathers more than 200 guests for the event. At present, the breakdown of guests at Fryday events is 20 percent international, 80 percent local. We generally have guests from over 10 countries, while all our members share an upwardly mobile and cosmopolitan outlook. Everyone can take part in the Fryday events; all you have to do is click “Like” on the Fryday Facebook page. There’s also a lot of information on Twitter, LinkedIn and on community web sites.

Is there any relationship between Fryday communities in different cities? What are their common projects?
The Fryday Business Trip project connects Fryday communities. The very first Fryday Business trip was successfully implemented in early October 2012, when a group of businessmen from Kyiv, Fryday members, went to Tbilisi for a weekend. They participated in Fryday Tbilisi, had several meetings with both business and administrative representatives, and had a nice excursion around Tbilisi. Fryday Business Trips aim at providing Fryday members with an exclusive opportunity to establish business contacts within the community. Fryday Astana is planning to host a group of businessmen from Ukraine in mid-spring. The programme is still to be confirmed.

When did Fryday first come to Kazakhstan?
In September 2011, Fryday expanded to Almaty, Kazakhstan, and in early 2012 the expansion continued to Tbilisi, Georgia, and then to Kharkov and Dnepropetrovsk in Ukraine. Now it is present in 13 cities in six countries: Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Poland and Turkey. Further expansion is likely to take place in the very near future. The first Fryday Astana event was held on April 13, 2012, and gathered about 50 guests. Since then it has grown rapidly, now hosting about 200 to 250 guests at each event.

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Diversity of Fryday Astana participants speaks to the growing interest of the feature for young professionals.

What activities doesFryday Astana organize? Who attends these events?
Fryday Astana is a social and business networking event. We provide a social platform for professionals with different backgrounds to freely mingle and socialize with each other. The Fryday community gathers every other week. There are no strict themes for Fryday events. However, there is one additional specific Fryday format: Fryday W, which is held during the week, but not on Friday.Fryday W events have special programmes and speakers. Fryday W is a great networking experience that also provides attendees with up-to-date knowledge from a relevant professional field. The first Fryday W was dedicated to the topic “Government Relations: Add Value GR vs. Value Added GR.” Мr. Ayan Yerenov, vice president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Kazakhstan; Mr. Murat Abenov, former Mazhilis deputy (and current Vice Minister of Education and Science); and Galym Baituk, head of the public fund Republic, Region, Development, shared their views.

What can guests learn at these meetings?
Fryday events provide a space for guests to create their own opportunities. They are great opportunities to tell other people what you are up to and great opportunities to promote your business just by chatting to a person in a very relaxed setting. Moreover, they are a chance to alter your everyday rhythm: home, work and back home again.

What has been achieved during the life of the community in Kazakhstan at large?
During the eight months of Fryday’s presence in Astana, we have grown to become the biggest professional networking community in Astana. I am not afraid to say that the Fryday brand has become very recognizable as an event that gathers very professional, cosmopolitan people.

When will the next meeting take place in Astana?
The next event will take place on January 11, 2013, and the Flair Production television company for France Télévision will be filming Fryday as part of the documentary film “Among the People.”

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