Ramya Pandyan is an MBA with a background in business consulting. In the past, she has worked with Deloitte Touche-Tohmatsu’s Strategy & Operations team and then with BASES, The Nielsen Company in launch consulting for new products. She has also been a blogger since 2004 and has played an active part in nurturing and developing the social digital space via discussion forums, events and collaborative projects. Ramya has set-up and headed the Content team for Social Wavelength, now Mirum India. Currently, she offers consulting, training and process implementation/digital content delivery services. She also curates company narratives and content as learning tools, for Asian Paints internal teams.
How did you get into Blogging? What interested you in learning Blogging?
Ramya: I was an early user of the internet and its tools, right from the time India got connected in the mid-90s. I came across an article that talked about the phenomenon of weblogs and began experimenting with them myself. There were only a handful of people in 2004 blogging. It was easy to connect with most of them. Because it was so new and there were so few of us, we connected quickly and moved forward very fast.
The medium shaped up the more we used it. Extra features got added on as users began needing more. New platforms sprung up. Those of us who got into it early began exchanging notes and then collaborating, raising questions that no one had thought about, which are common knowledge now. Many of us were very young but had a chance to shape opinions on ownership, ethics, privacy, individual power, relevance to organisations, ramifications on the publishing industry, reportage etc. Some of these went on to become the policies and best practices of the social/digital space today.
More than a decade later, the space continues to evolve and surprise us. We haven’t even touched the tip of the iceberg yet. Just staying here is to learn something new everyday.
How does it feel like being one of the Earliest Bloggers in India?
Ramya: I was always interested in writing and in building communities. But at that time I didn’t connect the two and my regular job did not require me to do either. I feel very fortunate to have been the age I was, when I discovered blogging. I had grown up with single channel Doordarshan, landline telephones, big newspapers and expensive books. I was young enough to have the time to explore the space and old enough to see the opportunities it presented. I had a chance to be part of happenings that would become milestones for the blogosphere and social media itself. I also formed many relationships along the way. The personal and the professional merged and unlike some of my peers I didn’t have to compartmentalize my interests and my income generation. I couldn’t have asked for a better career, or for that matter, a better life.
According to you, what are the top 3 mistakes committed by organizations today inleveraging Blogging?
- Treating blogs as personal advertising channels:
The word ‘media’ may be misleading to some since traditional media is closely linked to attention-disruptive commercial messages. Blogs on the other hand, are conversation starters and sustainers. Nobody wants to listen to someone who is only interested in their wallet. The focus of the blog needs to be conversation, not transaction.
- Looking for short, quick wins:
Blogging is a long range activity. It takes time to identify the right content-audience match, effort to produce that content in a sustainable manner and money to promote it. Turning stray visitors into a cohesive community is not child’s play. The benefits are long-lasting for comparatively lower investment but they need to time to show. It’s unrealistic to expect a big turnaround in a couple of weeks.
- Inadequate or low quality content:
Blog content is different from ad copy, print articles and other business content. Audiences need to be shown tangible value in visiting a platform (especially one run by a commercial organisation) in addition to all the messaging already hitting them and the media they choose to navigate daily. A good blog stands out from the website it is affiliated to, while maintaining the overall persona of the company. It is also responsive, fresh and feels human rather than impersonal.
Why do you think it’s important for entrepreneurs, marketing professionals and students to learn Blogging today?
- For Entrepreneurs: A blog is a great way to have a presence in your communities of relevance – your industry, the startup ecosystem, investors, potential customers and partners etc. Blogs help you explain who you are, what you’re trying to do, what you’re looking for and what you need in easy ways.
- For Professionals: Blogging develops your skills as a narrator and a responsive manager. In certain industries, a popular blog could also serve as a portfolio to get you work.
- For Students: Digital media is becoming a larger part of the workplace and how we conduct business and even life. What stands out is clarity of thought and purpose. Blogging regularly helps you figure out what you want to say, what you are good at and how you can take that further into good opportunities.
What is your advice for newbies, who are looking at building a career in Blogging industry?
Ramya: First of all, be regular. Figuring out your unique style and honing the craft of storytelling takes practice. Secondly, read a lot. Follow popular blogs and look at what they’re doing right. Go cross industry and even read blogs on topics which may not be your usual areas of interest. A truly professional blogger should be able to manage a blog on any theme. Keep updated on current affairs and events. Have or if you don’t have, learn to form solid opinions of your own. Blogging is personal and subjective. The more focused your style is, the better your blogs will be.
How do you stay updated on the latest trends in Blogging? Which are the Blogging resources you visit regularly?
Ramya: Most large organisations have their own blogs. It’s a good idea to follow the blogs of key people and companies in your industry of interest. I follow the blogs of several writers, comic book creators, poets and writing communities online.
The blogs of most big social platforms are quite interesting too. I particularly like Pinterest’s blog. It’s not hard to see where things are going when you know what the big guys in the field are doing.
Medium is a great platform to discover hidden gems in blogging.
Do you think that it’s possible for a newbie to make profession out of blogging? What should s/he do for the same?
Ramya: I think so, yes. It’s hard to tell exactly what kind of roles they’ll play because the space is still being invented (let alone reinvented). Our appetite for good, original content is only going to grow. Its applications are still being discovered.
All content, regardless of format or topic is finally, a story. If you’re looking at blogging seriously, learn the nuances of storytelling. It’ll be relatively easy to pick up knowledge of the platforms or tools later.
Identify your areas of interest, start blogging and following the key blogs in those areas. You’ll learn the parlance, get more comfortable moving around in those communities and possibly come across professional opportunities as well.
Share the names of 3 people you respect when it comes to Blogging.
- Brain Pickings posts articles that draw life lessons from great books, popular authors and their lives. Their stories are well researched and make readers feel like their lives have been enriched by reading them.
- ArtParasites combines beautiful images and poignant poetry/stories into daily blogposts. Every single one makes me want to read, like and share and that is a huge achievement for a blog.
- Cracked shares witty stories about (mostly American) popular culture. Even their listicles make for sumptuous reading.
Do you think Blogging is a good way to generate income?
Ramya: If you have the skills to keep generating good original content, then blogging can be a great career. Its remunerative potential is still evolving but I think there will always be a (well-paid) job for a good storyteller.
How do you see Digital Media evolving in future? What are the top 3 trends do you foresee for 2016?
Ramya: Apps are definitely the way forward as they’re interactive and also reach far deeper, especially in India, via mobilephones.
Interactivity is going to build as it is the best way to hook audiences. In addition to comments and livechat, we’ll probably see the pioneers do even more to increase what the visitor to a digital platform can do.
I think longform content is seeing a resurgence. Shortform content like updates and tweets are good to create a fleeting disruption in attention. But real engagement is going to come through longform content like blogposts, videos etc.
Would you like to share few words about the work we are doing at Digital Vidya?
I’ve had a chance to lead several Digital Vidya webinars now, the regular series as well as special sessions. I think it’s a wonderful platform that allows sharing of knowledge between professionals in an easy manner. The courses are well-structured and best of all, evolving constantly to keep up with the fluctuating world of digital marketing.
I also had a chance to interact with several other trainers and they are all people with considerable experience in their fields. Everyone is willing to share their expertise, which is great since we are able to learn from each other as well. Both Kapil Nakra and Pradeep Chopra are accessible and supportive of our independent initiatives. The culture within the organisation is very respectful and helpful so I’m finding it personally very fulfilling to be a part of the team.