Write to express

I’m not a fan of worldly, philosophical gyan on social media and I do not offer those ever. And I’m aware that the following may sound like one, but I hope to clarify by the end of this post that it is not gyan, but my own lived-in experience.

The line is simply this: Always write to express, not for an audience.
(Caveat: unless writing is your full-time profession/occupation)

I took this seriously in 1999 when I started my pursuit of going after plagiarism in Indian film music, with my website ItwoFS. The aim was simply to express my point of view of how music is being plagiarized in Indian films, across languages. I have never cared for how many people read the blog back then, or now after it is defunct.

I took this seriously in 2005 when I started reviewing Indian film music in my blog, Milliblog. I wrote to merely share my views on the latest music in Indian films, across languages. I started a Twitter handle for it much later (3 years after the start of the blog, also considering that Twitter launched only in 2006) and it has barely 6,000+ followers. That’s none of my concern since the aim is not to amass followers, but to share my views on music.

I took this seriously in December 2008 when I started blogging about social media, PR, branding, marketing and advertising (all communication-centric topics) on this blog. I wrote not to build an audience, or for an audience, but to express my views on a topic that I was passionate about, and to some extent knowledgable about. But I wasn’t aiming for ‘thought-leader’ status (that phrase makes me cringe). I was writing to simply air my point of view and hopefully have productive discussions from like-minded people and expand my knowledge, and most importantly, look at other viewpoints to learn from.

I do the same every single day on LinkedIn, these days, which is an extension of my blogging. The aim of all these are to express, not to pander to an audience. Being regular and consistent with the idea of expression helps build an audience, but that audience building is a bonus, not the goal.

My recommendation to anyone who wants to get active on social media or blogging is this: write to express. Do not worry or focus on audience building. Not worrying about audience building is very different from promoting your writing. The promotion (in the form of sharing it in assorted, relevant platforms, repeating your tweets about the post at various points in time during a day etc.) is intended for ensuring that at least some people potentially read your point of view. It may or may not happen, depending on the quality of your thought process and your style of expression. That’s the bare minimum you need to do, as a follow-up of writing to express.

On that note, here’s a relevant excerpt from the prologue of my book:

Back in 2008, I was an account director at the PR firm Text100. LinkedIn was 5 years old, Facebook was 4 years old and Twitter was barely 2 years old. I had started trying Twitter-based engagements for a client of mine and it was going very well.

During one of my meetings with a client’s CEO, I had made a pitch to get him to start blogging. He was an interesting guy, going by our meetings, and I had assumed he would have interesting things to say and interesting ways of putting things in perspective, given his experience. But, his response is something I still recall as a standard template for many C-level executives in India (with very few exceptions): “But Karthik, who would read my blog?”

Coming from a CEO, with captive employee audiences (hopefully; they may delete his emails promoting his blog posts too, like most emails from HR except the payslip email) and connections with media, journalists, and other CXOs, that is a rather surprising reaction. And, most importantly, when he blogs on a topic, given his CEO designation, it is more likely to be seen as a view of that organization – so, all the more reason for generating interest with his opinions. The interesting point was he was focusing more on the readership (or the outcome of blogging) as against what he had to say/communicate, or his perspectives.

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