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Viral/grassroots marketing: spreading like wildfire April 28, 2009

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Since there’s all this talk about the swine flu and worries if it possibly spreading to epidemic proportions, I thought it was appropriate to address this idea of viral spread.  After all, the concept of viral marketing is based in how things spread like diseases.  You can have widespread influence without having to be a hot shot nowadays, much like one little mutant germ multiplying can cause havoc.  The tools on the internet allow you to share with complete strangers, so now it’s all about how you work the system to get your ideas out.  Play your numbers right and you can go far.

I don’t know if it’s just my interest or if grassroots marketing really is as hot a topic as I think it is.  I personally believe it is a powerful way to get your message across, but it certainly does come with its downside.  So let’s explore the pros and cons of this type of marketing strategy.  Traditionally, marketing has been all about reach through huge audiences via mass media – newspapers, magazines, television ads.  With the advent of "social media" or what have you, individuals are empowered to connect with each other on a scale never possible before.  Along with this comes a lot of unforeseen opportunities.

First of all, social media has a much lower upfront cost as compared to established media.  However, the trade-off is a lot more time spent to maintain it – after all, it’s all about creating and sustaining conversations and relationships.  You can spend a lot of money on a marketing campaign or you can spend a lot of time building your brand and reputation via social media.

Secondly, social media has a far reach.  It basically operates on the word of mouth spread that can function much like compound interest, multiplying in power over time (or in this case, people).  Everyone’s got their own personal and professional networks that they can tap into.  Then each of those people in turn have others who they know outside of the original person’s network, people they can tell the news to and continue with this branching out.  Much like a tree, one original trunk can yield so many more branches!

Similarly, being able to get to so many people and gain this level of visibility is one of the main benefits.  And this can all be done with little planning in terms of marketing strategy.  In fact, it can’t really be controlled.  Instead, this acts as a sort of quality control, ensuring that the product, service, or information must be good and valid for it to get the kind of spread it wants.  Of course, there will always be those bad apples that get through, the spam of the social media world, but the value of viral spread far outweighs the drawbacks of those and smart consumers can easily spot and filter out the useless stuff.

Yet, because it is nearly impossible to control what people choose to say or do, especially with a certain level of anonymity in nearly all sites, it can be dangerous tool too.  When people hide behind a facade, they get bolder with their actions and do some harmful things.  It’s hard enough to track who did it, much less prosecute them for misbehavior.  The difficulty in regulation can breach upon a lot of rights yet also be defended by the freedom of speech.  This is definitely something that the lawmakers of each country should be looking at, to protect people from abuse of the system.

Finally, everything that goes up at any point, even if only for a few seconds, may leave a permanent mark.  Between tracking and the immediate spread of sensational news, even if you slip just once, it’s hard to ensure that that won’t be following you for a long time to come.  Even things sent in private or confidentially can be leaked, so tread carefully in everything you do.  Things in digital form can be permanent in ways that you never want.

Social media can be a robust medium for grassroots marketing, if used carefully and well.  There’s a lot to explore still and I’m sure people’s mindsets will change along with this new way of reaching out to them.  Now it’s a matter of keeping up with the new forms of media, but also not forgetting about some of the old methods.  A good mixture can be achieved and it will vary depending on the aim, industry, and target audience.  Nonetheless, social media is sure to be a key new part to a revamped recipe.  It offers the personalized attention that people have been lacking!


Obama, from a non-political perspective April 22, 2009

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I’m not one to really delve into politics, but what I’ve been hearing/reading about President Obama over the past few months has been all about his forward-thinking and modernness in terms of his campaign.  He’s definitely breaking boundaries with his approach and I’d like to delve into how social media is impacting his presidency.  To start off with, he is the first Generation X president, bringing an entirely new philosophy as compared to the Baby Boomers.  As such, he has embraced a lot of social media outlets and is really quite on top of things – no longer do we have the outdated leader of the past.  It’s really refreshing to finally see the leader of our country making himself available to the masses in the way that he does, from having a Twitter account to keep people abreast of things (although that has definitely dwindled) to posting videos so the masses can listen to his speeches.  Now that’s what transparency is all about.

I like that the image and expectations of what a president is can be changed with him.  After all, he is all about change!  And it certainly is past due for the states to revamp our national leader’s role in interacting with his contituents.  We should no longer expect frumpy old white men hiding behind their desk in the Oval Office, but men (hopefully women, soon) of all backgrounds with doors thrown open and information shared.  Granted, there will be plenty we will not know due to the sensitivity of the information, but at least this allows us as a nation to have a better idea of what is going on.  People never really have a very good idea of what the presidency entails, so if President Obama and his staff can update his blog, Twitter, facebook, and other such accounts, we can feel like this man is actually doing something for this nation.  There is great potential here to reach out to the United States as a person and not a figure or a title.

I would like to see him reminding people of why we celebrate certain holidays as they come along, to encourage the community to understand what all those days off are for.  I would like to see updates on his social media accounts, telling us when he’s traveling to another country to meet their leader for talks, or an ambassador is visiting him to talk.  I would like to see him bringing attention to the importance of also voting in your local elections.  I would like to see him talking about all the issues he’s looking at, from the ongoing war to environmental issues to educational problems, and the like.  Most of all, I want to see him involving the people, engaging the people, and continuing to reach out to each of us, as individuals.  That’s what I think a great leader would do.

I’ve got high hopes for this man and what he can do not only for the country, but also the presidency.

Reaching out April 20, 2009

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I’ve never been one to ask for help.  Even though the people around me have been more than willing to do so, I grew up so used to doing things on my own that it doesn’t even occur to me to ask much of the time.  I have learned to be an extremely resourceful person and therefore, I love to share all the things I discover.  Yet rarely do I turn to my family and friends to ask them for their opinion or input on something.  Instead, I take the "I can do it" attitude a bit too far and miss out on the opportunity to bond with them and make them feel useful to me.

This is something I’m working on changing so I can allow myself to rely on others every now and then.  But it’s a hard thing to do, placing trust in someone else when you’d much rather just do it yourself.  It’s hard to resist the urge to hop online and find the answers I need on my own.  I realize I’ve missed out on a lot because of this, from time spent getting help on my homework so I wouldn’t waste so much time not getting it to relationships that didn’t deepen because I didn’t open up very much.  It’s a slow process to break this instinct to plow through piles of information to get my desired answer, rather than to interrupt a conversation or approach someone to ask them for their wealth of knowledge.

One great thing about my fraternity’s mailing list is that we can share with each other all sorts of information and ask for help if needed.  That is one of the few places I’ve ever reached out to ask for others’ opinions, thoughts, or knowledge.  Even then, I much prefer to help out whenever I can and share my experiences and expertise.  I think it’s wonderful to have a network like that that I can tap into whenever I want, it’s like having friends who never leave you, even if you hardly keep in touch.  I’m more used to maintaining relationships that are far less maintenance than traditional ones, where the closest people to me only talk to me periodically, typically monthly or less.

So, now with a boyfriend who I can’t go a day without talking to in one way or another, I’m starting to learn more about maintaining relationships.  Though it’s difficult to remain close to people when everyone is moving about all around the world, there are still plenty of ways to stay in touch and remain updated on each others’ lives.  I’m also trying to keep track of who is doing what, who is good at what, who likes what, etc. so I can tap into that in future, whether by asking for help or offering an opportunity.  I don’t know how quickly I can change an age-old habit of self-sufficiency, but to feel more in touch with people, I’ll try to make the effort.  Perhaps getting around to replying to all my facebook wall posts will be the start!

Creating a signature you: a lesson in personal branding April 8, 2009

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Nowadays with the market being so competitive, personal branding extremely important to stay on top of things.  It’s no longer just an issue of how your company is imaged, what your logo looks like, how your stores are presented, and what type of packaging you use.  As social media is on the rise, so is the need for personal branding.  It has become more and more about the individual and as such, it is paramount to present yourself with the image you desire.

Basically, you need to have a consistency in how you look, act, speak, write, dress, and live, among other things.  A top executive must looked well-groomed, act professionally, speak eloquently, write lucidly, dress in business attire, and live in a respectable community.  It would not make sense if they looked shabby, acted improperly, slurred their words, used poor grammar, wore sweats, and lived in the slums.  Granted, this does depend on the organization you are meant to represent.  Perhaps part of the image is someone who is from your local impoverished neighborhood or is promoting casual, comfortable clothing.  But you should get the idea.

Generally it’s just a matter of making sure you maintain a congruency about yourself.  Anything you do that doesn’t match who you say you are can be hugely detrimental to the message you are trying to convey.  Especially in this day and age, there are eyes everywhere, so in all parts of your life you should live and breath your mantra, whatever that may be.  As soon as you make one error, it makes it infinitely harder for you to garner a good enough reputation to project yourself in the way you meant to.  So, it’s also about knowing who you are, what you value, what you want, and where you want to go with it.  Understanding yourself is a key journey in formulating an effective and accurate public image.

If your image is more specific and you want to focus on just one aspect of your life and interests, it’s definitely easier for people to understand what you are about, so you can work in that niche market.  Otherwise, it’s often hard to consolidate any single person’s multitude of hobbies, interests, and experiences, so it’s more of a matter of what your personal beliefs and outlook on life are.  That will in turn affect you view and interpret everything that you experience, which can create a framework for your personal brand.  Sometimes it even means deciding between using your real name or a pseudonym, depending on the nature of your intended image.

This is all stuff I have been considering (and occasionally struggling with) over the past couple of months, as I have delved deeper and deeper into the world of social media.  As I try to create a name for myself, I want to make sure that that process is going in the right direction and I can end up in a position where I will be respected as an authority in my chosen fields.  I think it’s great to have a vision, purpose, goal, or something similar written down somewhere that is visible and accessible so you can always remind yourself of what you’re striving towards (and if you need to revise it).  That is why I have written my philosophy in my description box – so I can always reread it to make sure it is still relevant, but also to make it something others will learn to expect from me.  That is a form of quality control to also keep me along the right tracks.

Of course, there are many more layers of me that can be peeled away to reveal so much more, but my position in life and the way I think about and handle things is largely influenced by my belief in the power of change and the need for it.

Twitter craze April 2, 2009

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For some reason, I suddenly got followed by a good dozen people on Twitter today.  I’m not really sure why or how they found me, but it was quite the mix of people I know, people I don’t know, and organizations I’ve never heard of.  Up until now, I could usually understand why someone would happen upon me, because I’d have a recent post that was related to something they are interested in.  However, today’s follows don’t quite make sense to me and I’ve been trying to find some sort of a pattern to it.  Is it because I posted a bunch of Twitpics yesterday?  Is it because of all the random links and resources I’ve been "tweeting" about?  What is driving traffic to my page?

I’ve been getting more and more into Twitter, happily sharing a slew of websites and articles of interest with my small audience.  Through the various outlets that I get my information from, I have so many things to share with the world at large!  I talk about anything from all the free offers at various stores to the cool new resources that are popping up left and right.  I have about twenty tabs open currently, with the sites that I want to share loaded so I can start putting them up one by one.  I am trying to space out my tweets so as to not overwhelm people with a whole page full of them, then stay quiet for a few days.  However, it does seem that I sometimes manage to accrue more to share by the end of each day than I manage to get out to the world.  I will have to start increasing the frequency of my updates!

With all this new activity, I have been slowly acquiring a larger follower base, with a stray add here and there.  For each user that follows me, I will go check out their profile to see what they are all about and usually pay their website a visit to decide if I’m interested in following them too.  I’m sure a lot of people follow people just so people will go see who they are and hopefully follow them back.  This is a great way for users to spread the word about their existence and try to lure people to their page in the hopes of catching some of their visitors’ interest and gaining another follower.  Every now and then I will get a few people who will stop following me and I know that it is because I was not intrigued by what they had to offer and decided to opt outof adding them to my growing list of people/groups to keep track of.

The powers of viral marketing are alive and well, but it seems that the social media outlets themselves aren’t faring as well.  Hmm.  Now there’s something to think about.  Nevertheless, the powers of grassroot marketing really do amaze me.  Just look what it can do for raising money for the homeless!  I’m still trying to understand how it works, why it works so well, and how I can maximize my desired exposure to the big, big world.  I tried sending out a message asking how people stumble upon me awhile ago when I was still fresh and just started to get random adds, but nobody responded, so I am less than enthusiastic about doing it again.  Perhaps I should give it a go anyway, since the numbers are greater now and there’s a better chance someone will reply to me and explain how they chanced upon little old me.

Kollaboration 9: the aftermath February 22, 2009

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What a day!  I left for Kollab around 4:30 in the afternoon yesterday and just got back 11 hours later.  It was intense.  From the obscene amount of traffic to get there to getting in early enough for awesome seats (and pit access!), it was quite the adventure.  I even ran into three accidents on the drive down from home (somehow always ending up in the lane where the debris was from the collisions).  Not the best start to the day, but it ended on a very high note.

First, let me explain:  Kollaboration is a sort of concert and talent show all rolled into one, with an after party to boot!  This is their ninth year putting it on in various cities around the country with the mission: Empowerment Through Entertainment.  It’s about bringing the Asian community together and promoting the presence of Asian/Pacific Islanders in the media.  Of course, it’s not exclusive to only APIs, but it is about awareness and support for the issues surrounding them.  Anyone who believes that APIs deserve to play a larger part in the entertainment field (and really all fields) is more than welcome to come celebrate what has been acheived.

Kollaboration 9 was at the Shrine Auditorium and the after party was held adjacent to it at the Shrine Expo Center.  The night was comprised of seven competitors, six guest performances, five celebrity judges, two freestyle competitions, tons of free giveaways, and a slew of sponsors.  All in the course of three hours.  There were even NINE letters from government officials printed in the program, talking about their support for the show.  (Yes, even Arnie.)

So who all was there?  Well… Kenichi Ebina, Jazmin, Paul Dateh, Kina Grannis, Lilybeth Evardome, Jane Lui, and David Choi competed; BoA, Jo Koy, Kaba Modern, Fanny Pak, Norman Ng, and Team Millennia performed; Printz Board, James Kyson Lee, James Ryu, Welly Yang, and Teddy Zee judged; random volunteers from the audience freestyled; and of course, my lovely AKP brothers and I attended, along with the rest of the sold-out crowd (including Philip Wang, Wesley Chan, MySpace Tom…).

Aren’t you jealous?

Well, maybe you aren’t.  Maybe you don’t really know who these people are.  In fact, the only ones I had known were the Wong Fu guys and Kaba Modern.  David Choi, Kina Grannis, Jane Lui, Jazmin, BoA were very new discoveries that I had just learned about.  Everyone else was new to me.  See, that’s the unfortunate situation we are facing (and hopefully eliminating).  How many API performers do you know of?  How many of them are mainstream?  Very, very few.

Jane Lui on the piano, earning her second place.

Kina Grannis at the after party.

Yet, interestingly enough, a lot of popular YouTubers are of some sort of Asian descent.  What happened there?  It seems that having a platform that empowers the individual to make it on their own enables these Asians who are not making it on the big scene to create a following of their own.  Kollaboration is a means of getting those types of artists to the forefront through exposure beyond social media.  Social media is more grassroots whereas Kollaboration is more mainstream.  It can help slowly bridge the gap between online phenomenon and nation-wide star.

As for the rest of the night, there were a lot of entertaining moments throughout, and the performers were great.  David Choi and BoA are really good live and it was wonderful to watch them perform from the pit.  Though it was about six feet deep, I’m really glad I moved there during the intermission so I could see the facial expressions better.  I also had a clear view of the fancy fingerwork that Kaba incorporates into their routine.  My arms did get rather sore and there were times when I started to shake a bit, but it was all worth it in the end.  We were also treated to a sneak preview of another song on BoA’s first American album, set to come out next month.

Aww, David Choi was really enjoying himself.

BoA wants to Eat You Up.

When that part of the evening ended, my fraternity brothers and I took a break to get something to eat before heading over to the after party.  I was fortunate enough to come across Philip Wang, Wesley Chan, David Choi, Kina Grannis, and the guy who won the freestyle vocal competition (gosh, what was his name?).  And I took pictures with them.  Of course.  😉  It was sooo exhilarating!  I never run into people that I know from some sort of media outlet.  It’s cool to see them in person.

I was catching up with an alum of the fraternity when I came across these people and he took the pictures for me, bemused at my giddiness.  I don’t know why I was SO excited (mostly for Phil and David), but it felt awesome.  I have so much respect for them and it’s really great to get to meet them in person, even if we just take a picture and I am forgotten.  Phil did ask for my name though when I told him how much I enjoyed his speech at my graduation this summer.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he forgot it as soon as he repeated it, but it was a very sweet gesture.

AAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!  I heart Wong Fu (too bad Ted’s in NYC).  They’re so sweet.  🙂


Smiles all around.

Maybe this is why I like low-key "stars" – they don’t have some sort of upkeep to make them happy and they really appreciate their fans so much more.  I’m not into the big Hollywood stars and I probably would want pictures, but wouldn’t care to really interact with them beyond that.  Part of that is because they probably wouldn’t give me the light of day anyway, but part of that is because they’ve got so many fans they’re probably used to that whole lifestyle already.  I’d much rather appreciate those who are more real, living like I am, working in less than ideal situations, but nevertheless pursuing their passions.  Not that there aren’t A-list stars who do that, but they just don’t interest me.

Social media paving the way to transparency – good or bad? February 11, 2009

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In developing this blog, I have spent a lot of time researching online and reading up on other people’s blogs.  One thing I found was that what I was most interested in was reading their bios and trying to find a picture of them.  For some reason I was fascinated by learning about these people.

Now most people go to blogs to read the posts and discuss the ideas held therein.  I love to do that too, but I am also immensely interested in these writers as a face and a personality.  Personal anecdotes make what they’re writing about so much more real to me.

When I first started blogging, I held nothing back – it was my personal journal for all to see.  Then I decided to privatize my posts so that only friends could read it.  With that veil, I could continue to write about the people in my life without concealing their identities, since they mostly knew each other anyway.

However, as I was getting back into the blogging scene in the early days of 2009, I wanted a public blog that anyone could stumble upon.  I thought long and hard and decided I should create aliases for the people I would be talking about (and even kept myself behind a pen name) for privacy purposes.

With social networking, blogs, photo and video sharing sites becoming evermore popular, transparency has emerged as concern for us all to consider.  It is much easier to find the true identities of people via these sites now, so it makes me wonder how transparent I should be on my blog.  Should I use people’s real first names?  Should I post pictures or videos of them up?

To some extent I am worried about the safety of this – am I endangering those around me by overexposing them on the internet?  Or, should I just go with the flow of it (which, apparently, is towards complete transparency)?  Though I believe in being honest and open, should I be so open?  It doesn’t change the quality of my writing if I refer to someone by their real name or their pet name.

A blog I was reading recently dealt with the decision to be more transparent and it made me think about my own choice to use pseudonyms.  Only recently did I even decide to reveal my own name in the "About" section.  It’s a first step towards my personal transparency.  However, for now, I still don’t feel right about revealing more about the people in my lives.

It’s a hard balance between sharing enough and sharing too much!

Twitter revolution February 6, 2009

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For the past couple of hours, I have been entrenched in the world of blogs and Twitter, which seem to be at the forefront of social media.  I continued the slow trudge through the rest of the entries that Jess Goodman wrote on her blog after writing my previous entry and started to get curious about social media.  Link after link of related material led me to various blogs of famous writers, career coaches, entrepreneurs, and anyone else who has embraced this new trend.  I still have over twenty tabs open in my browser of blogs to visit and ideas to research.  It’s crazy!

What hit me recently (sometime between the last post and this) was the emerging phenomenon of Twitter.  Alarmingly, I haven’t a clue what it is or how to utilize it, but after reading up on it, it seems it is the new direction of the online community. I am sad to realize that as much as I pride myself on adapting quickly and being rather tech-savvy, I have been left behind on this front.  Thankfully, it’s not too late to get in on it, but to some extent I don’t want to.  I never really thought of myself as a traditionalist at heart, but I’m starting to see that part of me emerge.  I don’t want to learn about this "tweeting" and all the new lingo associated with it.  I don’t want to give up my Yahoo account for a Gmail one.  I don’t want internet access on my cell phone.  I don’t want to learn how to use a Mac.  I don’t want the pace of life to pick up even more!  But, it is the age of connectivity and sooner or later, that is how things will be.

Back when Facebook first began in 2004, I was graduating high school and resistant to this new concept.  It wasn’t until a friend whose judgment I respected greatly invited me to join that I decided to set up a profile.  Since then, I’ve never looked back and I absolutely adore what the site has done for me.  As a child, I moved every three to four years, and as a result of that, lost touch with most of my friends from my youth.  What memories I did hold of these lost friends enabled me to find them years later, on Facebook!  It was a great way to reunite with all those people who I had to move away from and now it is an amazing way to share the extensive amount of pictures that I take.  Throughout the evolution of Facebook, I have kept an open mind and though I am generally not a fan of the applications and the newsfeed made me a little concerned, I have always known that after the initial uproar, people would learn to use those new features.  It amazes me that time and time again, people will resist change, but then slowly they will adapt to it and forget how life ever was without it.

Now with the Twitter revolution, I feel like I am back in the summer before college, trying to decide if this trend was just a fad or something to start getting involved in.  And though I may not be entirely comfortable with it starting out, I will give it a try.  After all, it seems like every avid blogger (including my best friend)  is obsessed with Twitter.  There’s got to be a reason for that, right?