Abu Dhabi-based digital strategist and social media consultant Farrukh Naeem has blogged about advertising, tech and entrepreneurship in the region for the past decade. MediaSource spoke with Farrukh about his inspirations, how he uses social media to connect with his audience, and what marketers can do better to engage with bloggers.
Tell us about the different blogs you have written over the years.
I have many interests and passions and my different blogs reflect that diversity:
FarrukhNaeem.com mostly focuses on tech and social media, and also houses my reviews.
CopywriterJournalist.com is an industry blog from my days in advertising.
CopywriterinUAE.com is dedicated purely to copywriting.
IndianCopywriter.com is one of my earliest blogs on Blogger and showcases my writing.
What makes your blogs different?
The main feature that differentiates my blogs from others is that I do not write about myself on my own blogs. My blogs are more about great things and products, people I find interesting, and stories I find worth sharing. My ad blog shared everyone’s work, but my own!
What inspired you to start blogging?
What has driven my blogging most is the desire to showcase the UAE as a hub of creativity by posting award-winning work and showcasing agencies from here, to help people make better buying decisions through reviews, to connect companies looking for talent with great talent looking for work - all through words and an internet connection.
How important is social media for engaging with your audience?
For me, having a conversation on your blog is like inviting someone to your home – it takes a lot of time and effort and can only be done so much. Having the same conversation on a social media platform is like going to a party where everyone you wish to talk to is already there and ready to have a great time.
Connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Periscope and Instagram.
Do you make money from your blogs?
I don’t like to run any kind of advertising on my blogs, but they have brought me work and business. All of the monetisation has been through readers who liked my insights and blogging style and connected with me to work together – this includes some of the top brands and leading agencies in the world. One of my best clients first met me in a coffee shop and fed me a plate full of chocolates before discussing business, because my blog says I hate 90-day payment policies but love chocolate and coffee. And, of course, paid me on time.
How do you rate the regional tech blogging scene?
Tech blogging is coming of age in the MENA region. There were some very early bloggers who wrote on tech, like Magnus Nystedt who was running EmiratesMac.com covering all things Apple in 2005. But tech blogging has only become lucrative in recent years with smartphones and gadgets occupying a major part of our conversations, and brands starting to support tech bloggers and factor their influence in the overall marketing strategy.
Which regional tech bloggers do you follow?
I try and follow as many English tech blogs from the region as I can – the ones coming to mind right now are tbreak.com, The Global Gazette, Techview, TechPlugged.com and AbsoluteGeeks. Boy Dubai is great too, though not purely a tech blog.
How do you decide which product launches and PR events to attend?
I ask the following questions (in order of priority) to decide if I would attend a launch or event:
1. Does it excite me? Is it ethical? (I would never endorse tobacco, alcohol, junk food, etc.)
2. Will my readers/followers find it interesting and does it add value to their life?
3. Will I get to experience the product/service firsthand (if yes, this is the most important factor)? Will the products be chained to the tables (I find this very insulting and marketers keep doing it over and over again).
4. Will it just be self-aggrandising speeches, presentations and food (I don’t attend these ones).
5. Is the brand/company bringing something new to the market or is it just same old, same old.
6. Will I get to bring back the product for myself and test it over a period of time (I don’t write and review based on a press release or a launch event).
7. Is it in the evening? (I don’t attend launches organised during work hours – most bloggers in the region have day jobs and most intelligent brands know this and organise blogger events in the evenings or at weekends.
8. I like to work with companies and brands that understand and appreciate the effort influencers and content creators put in and are willing to invest in the relationship. Most leading brands not only have units given to bloggers and influencers for keeping, but are increasingly setting aside respectable budgets for influencer engagement. A brand or company just expecting to tap into a blogger’s or influencer’s sphere of influence without any significant exchange of value from their side is not someone I would like to work with.
What can marketers do better?
1. Look beyond vanity metrics like number of followers and likes to actual engagement and creative collaborations – not all that glitters is gold.
2. Work with content creators whose passion and expertise matches your product and brand.
3. Value the time and effort of content creators and influencers and set apart a respectable budget to pay them just like you would pay film makers, copywriters and voice-over artists. But remember that your money should not be used to buy positive reviews but to compensate a content creator for their effort – reviews should be left to their judgement.
4. Don’t club blogger events with journalist events. Journalists report, bloggers experience. Journalists in the region prefer to work during work hours, bloggers have day jobs and can only attend after work. Journalists appreciate press releases; bloggers appreciate exclusive content not mass emailed to other bloggers.
5. Build long-term relationships with bloggers and influencers who ‘get’ your brand and personality. Just because someone is a celebrity or has a million followers does not mean they are a good fit for your brand or business. Your marketing budget is better invested, in my humble opinion, in building better relationships with content creators who are passionate about your product category, and have a smaller but passionate follower profile matching your ideal buyer.
6. Bloggers with an independent voice and creative approach are more valuable than those just looking for freebies who are ready to parrot any script you provide them. Take time finding authentic and engaging voices and, once you have found the right match, don’t let them go.