Blog Spotlight: DoinDubai

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Monica Kapila launched her DoinDubai blog in 2011 as a means of sharing her insider knowledge of life in the city. Since then she’s shared her encyclopaedic knowledge of all things food and travel as a regular guest on The Ticket on Dubai Eye 103.8 and written for Travel Arabia, Gulf News and Al Arabiya. MediaSource spoke with Monica about her blogging career, how she defines blogging success, and working with PR and brands.

What inspired you to launch DoinDubai?
I wanted to write for a magazine but had no formal training or experience, so getting opportunities to even write for free and be published were minimal. So why not start my own magazine? I was always keen on learning about websites and thought all those emails explaining how to make a good chicken curry, where to get gold dipped in Dubai, advice about going to a tailor, or even how to get a Vietnam visa would have an audience here in Dubai. So DoinDubai was born.

What subjects do you cover on the blog?
Eating, Travelling and Living are the three main categories of the blog. Travelling covers experiences within the UAE and further afield. I categorise destinations by hours of flight time from Dubai, as that’s how people think when they want to make a trip! The Living aspect focuses on anything that relates to the Dubai community, so there are posts on where to buy plants and how much they should cost, to how to offer your place of residence up for a photo shoot if you’d like to. And Eating? This one covers restaurant reviews, recipes and everything in between.

How do you measure the success of your blog?
There are so many criteria that could be benchmarks for success. It’s successful first and foremost because it’s become the passion in my life. I love how it’s a platform for me to express my creativity and opinions on things that would benefit others. It’s a success because it’s something I own and can control. It’s a success because it’s taught me masses about IT, WordPress, graphics, writing, SEO, social media and all those modern things that many people my age really feel left out of, but really are the new careers of today!  

But of course success is also measured in metrics and numbers, so if I get a post that gets close to or over 1,000 page views in a day, that’s a successful post. A competition that has loads of entries is the same. An email from a winner saying ‘Thanks so much for picking me, I never win anything,’ is also a measure of success. Picking up the phone and asking a major hotel or restaurant to review a product or service on the reputation of the blog and knowing they’ll say yes is a huge confidence boost, so success is available on so many platforms. But of course it would be fabulous to have thousands more Insta followers!

What have been some career highlights so far?
The blog enables me and my family to experience some incredible places and people. We loved staying at the Montage in Beverly Hills and Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica. Recently, having tea at the Mandarin Oriental in London was also a magical experience. Equally being invited to some of Dubai’s top restaurants is a real treat. And of course my radio slot on The Ticket is something that I am really grateful for.

How important are social media channels for your blog?
Very important. They’re a fast, immediate way to update followers on what’s happening, and it’s relatively easy to upload pics to Instagram and Facebook, especially when I’m travelling, but of course writing a good blog post takes a lot longer.

Social media is a great way to share your posts to a much wider audience, and very versatile for re-sharing when appropriate. Today in the world of the hashtag I think people expect all organisations to have a presence on social media and I notice while my daughter is applying for summer intern jobs, she is asked on some applications to list her social media accounts!  My policy has been to grow my followers organically and honestly so I haven’t bought any followers.

What’s been your experience of the blogging scene in the UAE?
It’s been great! The UAE has a lively blogging scene, especially in the food blogging area. It’s available to everyone and bloggers are an integral part of the marketing mix here.

What’s your take on the rise of the ‘social influencer’ concept?
The more people you can expose a product or service to via your platform, the more desirable you are as a social media influencer. But is it better to have thousands of possibly bought followers, or a few hundred followers made up of real potential customers?

Any advice to PRs and brands wanting to pitch to you?
Fast food really isn’t my thing at all, so if you’re selling donuts or burgers it’s highly unlikely I’d be able to help! I prefer to establish long term relationships with PR companies so you get to know them and they get to know your style and what you stand for. But I really think as bloggers are asked for rate cards, then PR companies really ought to loosen the purse strings and remember that good bloggers can’t survive on free meals alone! They are not journalists working for newspapers or magazines, so they need to get paid somehow and advertising isn’t the best route. So if you have a committed relationship with an established PR company, then you should be paid for your work.