Interview @ CommunicAsia 2010 – Social media & its place

16 Jun
June 16, 2010

I was touring CommunicAsia together with @skribe and managed to meet up with a few new found friends from Twitter, some who are exhibiting at this grand annual information technology event. We were caught by @stsanto from Getit Comms, who invited us for an interview with @B2Bento, to share some of our take on social media and marketing on virtual worlds. Here are the full recording of our interviews.

The Problem With “Social Media”.

17 Mar
March 17, 2010

Over client trainings and some chats with friends who are less social media savvy, I realised a common misconception on the term “Social Media”. So that brings us back to the fundamental question of what exactly IS “Social Media”? And what’s the problem with this term?

As quoted from Wikipedia,

Social media can be said to have three components;

  1. Concept (art, information, or meme).
  2. Media (physical, electronic, or verbal).
  3. Social interface (intimate direct, community engagement, social viral, electronic broadcast or syndication, or other physical media such as print).

In a definition given by Brian Solis as a result of ongoing discussions between some of the industry’s best practitioners, including Doc Searls, Stowe Boyd, Robert Scoble, Jay Rosen, Chris Heuer, Jeremiah Owyang, Shel Israel, Chris Shipley, Deb Schultz, JD Lasica, et al. They conclude that…

Social Media is the democratization of information, transforming people from content readers into publishers. It is the shift from a broadcast mechanism, one-to-many, to a many-to-many model, rooted in conversations between authors, people, and peers.

In simple concepts, if… (as taken from Wikipedia)

  • Print media is communications delivered via paper or canvas
  • Published media is any media made available to the public
  • Digital Media is electronic media used to store, transmit, and receive digitized information

Then simply to say… social media can be defined as

Communications delivered through Social Channels

But of course, that is streamlining it to a very basic idea. The nature of social media works distinctively different from many other types of media. However, I would like to bring your attention to the two main keywords I see in the statement above. That is Communications and Social. The two words suggest 1) Listening & Talking and also 2) Engaging. Which more or less sums up the most important but most commonly overlooked aspects in Social Media.

So What is the Problem with “Social Media”?

As social media is largely dependent on the use of technology, hence many folks commonly interpret it by the technological platforms in which these communications sit on.

I have probably heard this a thousand times.

Q : What is Social Media?
A : Oh! Facebook and Twitter?

While this answer is not technically wrong, many people miss out the importance of “engagement”. So when I try to explain how conversations are being carried out, I may be returned with either one of the following reaction.

A: Oh! You mean spamming?
B : But what do you talk about?

Brands aside, when further explained to individuals on the great potential social media can do for their personal profiles, the responses are usually

A : But I have nothing to say about myself.
B : But I don’t want anyone to know about me.

Don’t be mistaken, I don’t mean privacy is wrong. In fact, the more active you are on social media, the more caution you should take on your privacy status. What I am saying is there is a common misunderstanding of what exactly social media is all about. It isn’t about platforms or technology alone, it is also not about being egoistic and exposing your privacy to the world.  Last but not least, it is not about a group of people gossiping on the internet space. Sure, there are bound to be times of casual conversations, but those conversations do not reign over the actual sharing of great ideas and resources.

The other common misunderstanding is that “media” indicates a connection with “journalism”. Well, I will blame it on the commonly coined term, “citizen journalism”.  This term has been used to describe the trend of breaking news on Twitter, the convenience of allowing the public to send photo stories to online tabloids like “Stomp” in Singapore. The ability for anyone to write articles, shoot photos  and host their own shows online. This has created a lot of skepticism for many people, especially traditional folks; irking at the fact that news from the internet is now a job of any tom, dick or harry. That concept alone puts people off.

The problem with social media is… people have all kinds of weird perception of this term. It is an overly-used and overly-hyped (and of course, overly-rated) term that actually serves no purpose except in describing the nature of this medium. Think about this… 20 years ago, you could live without email at work and things still click. But 2 decades later today, if your email server went down for an hour at work, you are likely to be screaming your head off at the technician. Social media will become a way of life that is indispensable in the same way. It is simply a natural evolution of technology that provides us with another communication platform. It makes our world smaller by connecting people from different corners of the globe. It facilitates all the social activities you would previously have to meet up in person to execute. There is no rocket science in the idea of social media. Don’t be intimidated by big words like these.

The Two Cs to SOCIAL

My simple explanation to social media can essentially be broken into two keywords. Communication and Conversations.


  • Verbal (written) communication: Conversations through messages, status updates, voice chats etc.
  • Non-verbal communication: Sharing photos, videos, games, virtual goods etc.
  • Real-time: One of the uniqueness of social media is the ability for real-time interactions to take place.


  • Dialogue : Two-persons conversation.
  • Multi-way: Conversations from multiple sources/directions involving many participants at the same time.
  • Communication Platforms : Photo/Video sharing sites (eg. Youtube), blogs (like this), social networking sites (eg. Facebook). These sites may house communication tools like sending messages, status updates, poking, send a gift, social games, photo gallery etc.

I hope that clears the air for many people who are overwhelmed by what social media is all about. Whatever platforms that spring up, be it Facebook or Twitter or Foursquare. They are but tools that help facilitate human’s desire for communication. Our lifestyles has evolved, but not so much has changed in our need to share our lives with one another. The only difference? It just became easier.

How to use DM on Twitter.

26 Jan
January 26, 2010

This is going to be a really short post (I hope). A topic that came to mind as I was working out a proposal for a client. I realise some people are still unaware on how to effectively use the Direct Message feature on Twitter. Or rather, I should say many still think of Twitter as a “broadcast” tool. And uses the DM like a “personalised broadcast tool”. *shakes head* Let’s get back to basics.

How word-of-mouth is disseminated on Twitter

When a tweet is being sent out, you will first reach your immediate followers (1st degree), which their retweets will reach their immediate followers (2nd degree) and so forth. Any replies, retweets or following will expose your message and profile to new people. So think of a multi-level communication structure when you send that tweet out.

So never think no one is reading. Someone always is.

Think : Why Twitter?

  • If you have chosen Twitter as a channel, I would expect you are looking to converse and engage folks in conversations.
  • You want to share as well as get the latest news, be in the know-how and obtain real-time responses.
  • You want to be seen, be heard and be noticed.
  • You want your word to be spreaded.
  • You want to grow a sustainable community (following).
  • You want to syndicate your content from other platforms.

Think: Why Public?

You want your conversations and content postings to be public because of all the reasons above. It’s a great place to know people and lead your conversations into a private discussion. However if it is your intention to be seen, be heard and be noticed, feeding your content on DMs (especially when you have yet to build a personal relationship with the other party) will make you seem spammy. And by doing so, you lose an opportunity to encourage retweets.

The great thing about Twitter is you never know who is reading what. Something that might not seem interesting to you could be intriguing to someone else. Hence if you want the word to be spread around, it’s always a general principle to have that word in public. Unless of course, it is meant to be private in the first place.

Think: Why Direct Messages?

  • Chats : You may be engaging with a very sensitive or hot topic with someone and your conversations are flooding your stream. Now, people hate “flooding”. So take this conversation in private.
  • CRM : You found a disgruntled customer. You want to address the problem. Reach out in public, show that you are listening and you want to take the problem forward. Bring the conversation into private mode and resolve any pressing issues, including obtaining customer information to rectify the matter.
  • Private & Personal Notes : You want to get some attention and you don’t think it’s necessary to announce it to the world. It could be a note to a personal friend that doesn’t fits your professional image. A date with someone with meeting details that you would prefer to keep it private. All contact information should be exchanged privately.

Think: When NOT to use Direct Messages?

  • When you are intending to mass send the same message to everyone and make it look like you are actually trying to be personalised. Actually, this applies not only to Direct Messages. You shouldn’t even attempt doing that on Twitter (or anywhere). Most people would generally classify that act as spamming.
  • Automated messages. Similar to the above, except this is even worse. Never send an automated message especially when your intention is to tell someone to “visit my website”, “check out this cool video”. Trust me, you would be reported soon.
  • When you don’t exactly know the person well and have nothing personal to say. Especially for brands. You would want to be deem listening publicly. So even if you are trying to garner some direct feedback from fans, make it a point to greet the person publicly first and ask if you can speak in private. (Just like you wouldn’t ask for someone’s number without getting his/her name first.)

What’s GREAT about Direct Messages?

  • It gives you an opportunity to get to know someone beyond face value on Twitter. An avenue to exchange private information without fear for being stalked by strangers.
  • You do not have to worry about your messages being flooded in the streams of replies and that someone you are talking to may just happen to miss it.
  • The need for DM encourages 2-way following. That is because you can only DM someone who is following you.

Ahhem… okay, the post didn’t end up being very short at all. But there are definitely more to share. The “Direct Message” feature is a great tool but use it wisely. The downside of it is that many people has ceased to check their DM due to an influx of spams. Ask around, you would realise many of your friends probably don’t check their Facebook Inbox messages too for the same reasons. So DM does not guarantee you will definitely reach who you are trying to get. Again, the great thing about Twitter is the ability to reach hundreds and thousands of people in real-time. So you really want to be OUT THERE.

Use DMs, but use DMs wisely.

My Social Media Lessons in 2009

23 Dec
December 23, 2009

Social media has made a significant difference to my life and career path in 2009. It opened doors and windows to unknown possibilities and a brand new horizon, to people and places where I’ve not imagined myself to meet and be.

If you are still new to social media, perhaps upon reading this post, you may find that it’s not so hard to comprehend after all. It is basically a relatively newer platform that humans use to communicate with one another. And many rules of life remains the same.

Social Media is like Life

  1. Start with the end in mind : Before you embark on a journey, you always decide a destination. Even if you don’t already, you are always in search of one. Social media is a lot like life, you need to know where you want to go and find the route to reach that destination along the way.
  2. Stop and look (listen) : Don’t be too hasty in trying to reach your destination or make achievements. Take small steps and make it a point to stop and look (listen) at your surroundings. You could find yourself discovering beautiful sceneries and observations you would otherwise have missed if you traveled on the highways. Listen to what people are talking about and make conversations to the most unlikely suspects. You would be rewarded with gifts of pleasant surprises along the way.
  3. Sincerity wins the day : Wherever you go in life, whichever agenda you may have, whatever you want to do, the basics of communication lies in the word “sincerity”. Lacking this in your heart and you risk closing many opportunities. Whether for your personal brand or for your clients, make it a point not to try too hard in selling. Be sincere in knowing the community and learn to be a part of that culture. Sincerity will lead you to some of the most amazing ends of the rainbows.

And life is grateful, for it will give you back what you have given

A lot like life, you will reap the returns from social media in relative to the contributions in which you have made. You may not be expecting it in the same form as you have given, but those rewards will be translated and distributed to you in various ways and you will see many of these turning into long-term benefits or life-changing events.

A new job in Social Media

Some of the unexpected rewards that was bestowed upon me includes a new job – as a digital PR strategist. In case you do not know, I am currently working for an international PR agency, leading digital efforts in the Singapore office whilst supporting my regional director in many of his projects. I have always wanted to explore public relations as an extension to my marketing knowledge but had procrastinated those plans when I found myself in a comfortable position with my last company.

However, the law of attraction was probably working for me when my an opportunity with my current employer knocked on the door. I was flattered to be recommended by a fellow tweep (one who tweets) who had not met me prior to putting my name in for the job.  It is a wonder how social media has change the way we network in the business world forever. “Knowing someone” today does not require you to put a physical face to a name. However, the level of trust you can build in an online acquaintance will be a tricky issue that we each have to tackle with ourselves. Then again, knowing someone in person don’t mean you know the person either.

Since taking on this new position, I’ve had a chance to put my skills and knowledge into good test with various international clients and with some desirable results that has proved to be very valuable case studies for my company and myself. I’ll share more with everyone at another appropriate time.

Life-transforming friends

Many friendships sprout by coincidences and when you least expect it. When the internet began to find popularity in the 90s, it created a new platform for people to make friends and expand their social circle. The evolution of social media has made this more evident than ever, allowing active interactions across platforms beyond simply chat. Each of these are designed for different purposes, from corporate social networking to challenging your friends on mini games. Everyone is bound to find something that fits their interest. This has made communications online a lot more conducive and effective than before.

And as life would have it, some of the most important people you are destined to meet are not conveniently sitting next to you. But by heaps of coincidences, you find them among the millions on the world wide web. Whether is it making new friends or getting in touch with old ones, social media has facilitated this so we no longer have the excuse of “saying we are too busy”.

Looking back, this year has indeed been a fascinating one for me personally. I’ve met some of the most amazing people in my life and some whom I’ve made steadfast friends with. Of these, I know a few will last a long way into the future.

A wealth of knowledge

The largest library I know today is not the one sitting in the city central. It is the one that sits within my browser. The internet is the world’s largest and greatest library of resources. I am sure no one can debate that with me. However, social media has changed the way we obtain those information and knowledge. Information used to be passive (web 1.0) and requires the user to actively find it. However, with the introduction of social media, information today is now fed to us in many different ways through RSS, Twitter, friends’ links, video clips etc. It floods our screens from every direction, cluttering our tiny brains. Sometimes, this overwhelming influx of knowledge can even be intimidating. But we take less effort today to locate and store resources, as well as making interesting finds that are out of our knowledge range. This helps expand our worldview and perspectives.

I feel almost deprived of knowledge when I am away from my social media platforms for too long and often when I hop back on again, I found myself trying very hard to grasp the crazy amount of new information that has been released in the past 24 hours. That is just how fast information travels today. REAL-TIME. Everything in your print is now “yester-news”.

However, from another point of view, I do agree that the dependence on technology just makes us more geeky than ever. So do balance that with some good ole travels. Nothing beats the real experience, for a journey of a thousand mile starts with a single step.

My personal sentiments

Many people around me are unable to understand how am I able to make a living out of Facebook and Twitter. What they are seeing are only the platforms, but they have failed to understand the nature of human’s desire to communicate and interact. It baffles my family on how I was able to find strange encounters online. Obviously they didn’t believe I had jobs looking for me just because I talk a lot on Twitter. Which, they obviously have no idea what is Twitter despite reading so much about it in the papers.

Social media is an overly used and overly hyped term in my opinion. It is simply but communications and dissemination of information. Something really simple, but branded with a unique terminology that differentiates it from the rest of the “traditional” channels.

Social media is not something I do to look hip or cool.  It is simply a way of life I have chosen that happens to work perfectly well for me. I can travel miles everyday while seated at my desk. I venture into unknown waters and meet interesting people, as if I am transported into “Alice in the Wonderland” or “Wizard of Oz” each single day. Sometimes I meet with the Queen of Hearts, while others, I may bump into the Tin Man or Scarecrow. But each revealing a little about myself.

Social media beyond my job, is a journey of discovering others and unraveling myself.

Beyond personal experiences

In the next chapter of Social Media Lessons in 2009, I will share some of the prominent cases of social media locally and in the region that has created waves and changes. There are many lessons to be learned from social media this year, lessons which businesses should take serious learnings from especially those to do with digital crisis management. Governments around the world has also taken social media a lot more seriously than before as they see the dire situations it can potentially put them in. Consider the move in which China has imposed an embargo on all major foreign social media platforms within the country.

2010 will see major shifts in the landscape with many big players vying hard to be the commanding power. Lots to touch on, but till then, it’s time to return to the Yellow Brick Road.

The Invasion of Digital Media

15 Dec
December 15, 2009

Hello my friends, the following article was written for the Chinese papers in Singapore but was never published due to sensitivity in comparison between traditional and digital media. Hence I am posting it herein for your reference. Will try to translate an English copy soon for the greater audience.


数字媒体的侵略 (September 19, 2009)



无论是网络广告、数字公关、线上活动等,在费用与持续性上相对之下都比传统管道来得经济一些。亚洲拥有全球41%的网络用户,而本地的宽带网渗透率更超越了102%。在所有本地用户当中,就有74%积极参与社交网络(social network)的交流。是属于全球百分点最高之一的城市。在这种种趋势的推动下,不难理解品牌和商家们为何提高了网上的活动范围而渐渐将视野分散至数字媒体(digital media)。

happy it's here!

《宝洁 – 护舒宝》(P&G Whisper) 近来就利用了Facebook社区在本地首次展开数字运动(digital movement),鼓励妇女以正面态度看待生理变化和月经这个羞涩的课题。连同为此运动特别设计的迷你网站(,以可爱的插画和轻松的语调,《护舒宝》成功地在一个月之内团结了超过3,000名妇女参与这个社群。此频道大受妇女欢迎,许多人都乐意大方地,毫无忌讳地公开讨论生理状态和经历。这有效地建立了一个妇女们能够寻找共鸣和强系的群体。从短期的分析来看,在全无产品促销与个人利益的推使下,这在本地可以算是相当成功的例子。但是单凭持续对话的这样一个方式是否能够长期引起消费者的兴趣就不晓而知了。或许在强调真实性和诚意的当儿,品牌依然不得以而必须考虑到消费者利益和关注的事项。在整个运动的伸展计划上需要持续的努力和不断植入更多的新元素。

My Fairprice


另外一间颇有远见的机构便是《星和电信》(Starhub Mobile)。在3间电信公司当中,只有《星和》勇于冒险跳上Twitter(@StarhubCares)这项微博(micro-blogging)服务。他们利用这平台与消费族群建立深远的关系,并同时为公司增添了多一条顾客关系管理频道(customer relationship management channel)。这允许他们在第一时间对于顾客的负面反馈做出直接的回应。也很有可能在长期内减少了危机处理所需的时间和柜台职员的负担。在某种程度上甚至能够为公司减少资源上的开支。但是根据经济报章,The Business Times近期关于Twitter的报道,《第一通信》(MobileOne)似乎对此平台仍心有余悸,目前正在观望状态。除了电信公司以外,有一些其它的企业非常适合运用类似Twitter这种微博平台与顾客直接对话。这包括了零售银行业,旅游业,科技产品等。只是目前还未发现有哪间本地银行愿意做出这样的尝试。

HP Space

除了以上例子,还有一间值得一提的机构就是《HP惠普公司》。数字媒体在HP并不是一项短期营销手段而是完整地融入在他们的环球商业战略中,成为重要的公关策略之一。HP的每一条产品零售线都拥有自己专署的网络社交平台。各个产品线独自建立有用的线上人脉,透过这些直接管道收集民调,与消费者进行紧密的交流,在产品或营销运动推行时便能够事半功倍,有效地吸引影响者(influencer)的关注并且间接利用口碑行销(word-of-mouth marketing)手段将信息传播开来。其中,《HP改变世界》的企业社会责任(Corporate Social Responsibility)推广活动 是最突出的例子之一。HP展示了整个团体上下对于数字媒体拥有共同认识的重要性。介入社交网络,在数字空间占有一席之地并不是营销部门或公关部门单独承担的责任,而是全体同仁应有的共同努力和意识。






1 Billion People Die From Hunger.

17 Nov
November 17, 2009

Flipping through the pages of headlines on the daily papers and walking through hundreds of food stores and boutique restaurants just makes me wonder. How much food are we taking in that could probably save a life or two somewhere else in this world? It’s not news that as a part of the world is fighting the problem of obesity, another part is dying of hunger. But does it takes a crisis as such to make us realise we are actually taking in more than we need?

Everyone needs a certain intake of food to survive, and for luxury purposes, we could take a little more than the minimum. However looking at Singapore, we are a nation of food-lovers and we proudly indulge ourselves in breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner, supper (excluding all in-between snacks) with tables filled with rich foods and wasted foods end of the day. Definitely we are not alone. In most of the developed countries, a similiar scenario is taking place. Even in countries like China, where you see tons of wastage in big cities like Shanghai and Beijing, there are children starving in rural GuangXi or ShanDong. Surely we understand that better standard of living calls for more expectations in food. And the fact that we worked hard for it, we deserve to have the better and more. I absolutely agree with this statement. However, I was just wondering, if we call upon a national effort or even an international effort to battle against the rising food prices and shortages by cutting down on food wastage, that everyone be responsible for each other’s living, then perhaps there may be a glimpse of hope for the less fortunate.

Can we eat only what we need and buy only what we eat. Have responsible food providers to produce only what can be sold and buy ingredients in relative. This may not make any significant changes over night, but nevertheless it is a good solution to fighting both food shortages, obesity and even battling diseases and problems of medical bills in the long term. Can we call on national support to collect whatever good but wasted food like breads that can’t be sold, which is already done now, and perhaps packets of rice that can’t be sold etc to homes and free food outlets. If we take a little more concern to the world we live and try to be a responsible global citizen, we can help by taking little steps. Definitely it is not likely for us to stop this crisis, but if we can even slow it down by a few percentage, please bear in mind that we are saving lifes. My family for one has started taking in less but right foods for the sake of health. However, through this process, I realised that I don’t really need to take in as much to survive. My food intake has been halved but my health has improved tremendously. We may be buying less off the shelves, but that means we leave more for others to buy.

If we sincerely believe each of us can play a part in the bigger environment, and truly wants to play a part, do consider buy less, eat less and give more. Wealth is the accumulation of giving, not having.

World Food Programme

Of course, and if you can… support in dollars and cents please. As I post this, I have made a personal donation to the World Food Programme. I may not be a millionare, I may not be able to offer a mountain of gold. But every cent counts. Every single cent saves a life. Imagine how many people the little piggy bank in your room can save?

Support A Billion for A Billion movement by the World Food Programme. Even if you do not have the monetary means to, help spread the awareness. While we have the choice and freedom to decide what to have for lunch and dinner, we also have the choice to make the difference. Don’t be unmoved. Don’t be aloof. Don’t look away. You may be one individual, but you may be the one individual who would change the lives of many others. Don’t wait.

BE that difference today.

I thank you from the deepest of my heart.

Should Influencer relationships be governed?

15 Oct
October 15, 2009


The recent release of the new FTC guidelines for social media has caused much stir in the online community.

Although I don’t totally agree, but somehow, I think that is a natural evolution in digital marketing & PR. It is simply a natural extension from offline to online to uphold the most basic principles of honesty in business. Most of us industry professionals do live up to the promotion of transparency and authenticity. However there are cases where makes it hard for these principles to be in place. Well explained by John Bell from Ogilvy, I highly recommend you should read it.

Unlike journalists, bloggers are free individuals who are not bound by job responsibilities or professional ethics. They are not obliged to promote or say good things about the brand. There are many grey lines to the concept of a effective set of governing rules. While monetary transactions are clear, there is a difference between giving away samples and endorsements. While I agree that any form of endorsements should be disclosed, but are samples considered “sponsorship” as suggested by FTC? Surely it’s not an issue to tell anyone the sample was given. But it is also the influencer’s free will to decide if he/she thinks it is an issue worth mentioning at all. After all, you get samples when you shop at malls. It’s not such a big deal to everyone.

According to page 59 of the FTC guidelines, this example was cited,

A consumer who regularly purchases a particular brand of dog food decides one day to purchase a new, more expensive brand made by the same manufacturer. She writes in her personal blog that the change in diet has made her dog’s fur noticeably softer and shinier, and that in her opinion, the new food definitely is worth the extra money. This posting would not be deemed an endorsement under the Guides.

Assume that rather than purchase the dog food with her own money, the consumer gets it for free because the store routinely tracks her purchases and its computer has generated a coupon for a free trial bag of this new brand. Again, her posting would not be deemed an endorsement under the Guides.

Assume now that the consumer joins a network marketing program under which she periodically receives various products about which she can write reviews if she wants to do so. If she receives a free bag of the new dog food through this program, her positive review would be considered an endorsement under the Guides.

Assume now that the consumer joins a network marketing program under
which she periodically receives various products about which she can
write reviews if she wants to do so. If she receives a free bag of the new
dog food through this program, her positive review would be considered
an endorsement under the Guides.

Okay, I understand the examples above. But what if… the consumer did not join a network marketing program, but rather because she’s an existing customer, the brand was listening to her rants online and approached her to try a new product to garner feedback. Would that be considered as endorsement under the Guides? Apparently it should. But as free individuals, not representing professional bodies, this rule to make it compulsory (forced) for the influencer to mention, and the brand/company to monitor his posting for “compliance” may make the influencer feel pressured, as though prisoned or under the eyes of an eagle. Such action seems to be sailing away from the primitive objective of blogging and conversations. Please don’t mistaken me, I am not against the ideals of this guideline as a marketer. I am just doubting it from my capacity as a social media activist. Question is… would I prefer to freely do it, or be compelled to do it – by law. But again, this is a very tough question to answer, as laws are usually there to protect against deceit and fraud. But this case in particular, it seems to infringe the private space of individuals. Much to be debated about.

Social Media Guidelines beyond FTC

I definitely foresee the Guidelines to be assessed and reviewed over time. But nevertheless, it will become a norm in many countries in the years to come. And one such place I believe which will catch it on quickly, will be my homeland, Singapore.


Singapore has always been known for all kinds of rules and regulations. Being a country run by campaigns and systems, I am confident MDA (Media Development Authority of Singapore) will definitely use FTC Guidelines as a benchmark to draft a similar set of domestic guidelines for Singapore. However, the issue of disclosing collaboration between brands and bloggers was kind of resolved a pretty long time ago here, when Nuffnang was set up in 2007. Nuffnang is a blogger advertising community which bridges advertisers and bloggers. Note, I mentioned advertisers. Which means it does not exactly promote or build long-term relationships. It basically plays as the media company (like a matchmaker) between the two. Which, to be really really honest, despite the success of the concept, I don’t agree with it at all. It is making all our top blogs look like advertising billboards, and instilling the concept of blogging to earn money. I can’t decide which comes first. Passion or Money.

Anyway, back to the topic… despite having bodies like these in place setting some rules straight so consumers can recognise an ad when they see it, it is still an opt-in program. An official guideline will act as a good balance to set the note right for the many social media developments in the near future. Social media as we know it, has expanded beyond simply blogs. And it is fast becoming unclear what would deem to be an advertisement, what is really credible and what is actually a chapter of stealth marketing. It is likely beyond a community effort to keep it authentic any longer. Even with official guidelines, it will be challenging to execute it efficiently.

What Singapore Can Do?

Instead of implementing hard and fast rules, what I suggest MDA could do, is to work with 4As and other professional bodies governing the marketing and PR profession to make it mandatory for agencies to commit and declare themselves to a set of disclosure guidelines (Take a leaf out of CASE – Consumer Association of Singapore), which binds the industry to perform ethically instead of confusing the public with vague descriptions on concepts of “endorsements” and “sponsorships”, which could lead to 101 different cases of possibilities and arguments.

No one would want to risk a personal reputation for nothing. Unless it is a clause or request from the paymaster, I doubt any influencer would intentionally keep payments or endorsements discreet. So by instating such guidelines on the professional bodies, most of such doubts should be cleared. And in cases where samples are sent to bloggers, I think it should be their free will to disclose the source. There are always sites to sign up for free samples and I do not think this is a pressing issue since they are not obliged to write anything positive about the product. Hence, their credibility should not be doubted.

Asia Beyond Singapore

With Asia’s social media developments growing at a robust 29% annually, it is currently the largest region in the world with lowest internet penetration.

And would such guidelines be effective in other parts of Asia outside Singapore? I’m not sure if there are existing guidelines in Japan or Korea (please let me know if there are) but I think this would probably work in Taiwan and Hong Kong. The consumer market there is largely similar to Singapore although having different purchasing behaviours. Social media activities such as blogging is a mainstream activity in Taiwan, where it is reported that 70.9% of the internet users have created a blog themselves. Which many of these celebrity bloggers have now been converted into TV commercial models.

However, you would probably be more interested with the case of India and China. I would think China is desperate for such a set of guidelines but they are not ready for it. I would use the word “messy” to describe the social media landscape in China at this point. I believe they are still in a process of figuring out the best model that will work for the majority. Having such a vast land and population also means it is hard to administrate the rules if mass education is not in place. (Just look at all the domestic problems they have in ensuring quality control over health, food, manufacturing products etc).

As for India, I am not all that familiar with the market but I think it still lacks maturity  and will take a couple of years to grow before the population catches it on as a mainstream activity.

But I do believe South-east Asia would be a potential region to explore such guidelines. It is however up to individual countries to decide the importance that social media will play to its economy.

Never too early to think about it, never too late to execute it.

But the FTC guidelines for social media has grown to become an international concern and benchmark beyond the United States. The world is watching, observing, learning and reflecting.

No matter what kind of approach is adapted in the end, nevertheless, it’s time to stop and rethink authenticity.

We Are All Global Citizens.

04 Oct
October 4, 2009

We are all part of the world

One positive impact of the internet especially with the introduction of Social Media, is that the world has since become smaller. Not literally, but it has brought people together whom otherwise would have never known each other. That is also one of the main reason why I am a Social Media nutcase. Because it has opened my life to many more friends and opportunities. Some who have made it quite different.

As such, we are no longer divided by our nationality. Today, we are all global citizens. We all live in the same world, no longer separated by time zones, language or colour.

I feel extra strongly about this especially in a world filled with disasters today. Regardless of man-made or natural. More often than not, nature is something beyond a man’s control. And perhaps the only way to lessen the damage is for each of us to be more generous with ourselves. To give love to our global fellow-mates. Give and pay it forward.

In a world that is no longer divided by our differences, but brought together by our similarities. We should each feel the obligation and responsibility to lend a hand to our neighbours.  Being conscious of our surroundings will help us understand ourselves better. Friends are ever more important in times of turbulence than peace. Friends are every more evident in times of poverty than rich. As much as we want a friend like that, we first have to be that friend.

A wounded earth

The continuous attack of typhoons, storms and earthquake in the past year has left countless scars and wounds on the planet we call home. Some may call it a retribution of industrialization. Nature returns us what we have bestowed it. However, it is always the poorest communities who are affected, left helpless, hanging on to their dear lives whereas the fortunate folks like us continue to have the luxury indulging in a lifestyle we are free to choose.

We don’t need to feel guilty about the wine and dine we love, we don’t have to forsake the beautiful homes we have, we don’t have to quit our jobs and sacrifice in humanitarian work.  BUT there is always something we CAN do.

The least we can do is to be conscious of all these happenings. Be mindful that happiness is fragile. Be appreciative and pay forward that appreciation. Make a tiny little change to our life and that small difference could potentially save someone from their dire situation.

I have started a #makeApledge movement, to encourage the digital community in making a personal declaration to help someone needy. It could be as simple as “I #makeApledge not to drink Starbucks for the entire month & will donate every single cent of that to victims of disasters in the region.” Something as simple as that.

Spread the word. Your word could amplify the voice and save millions.

Twitter : Spread the word with hashtag #makeApledge to make a personal declaration.

Facebook : Join our #makeApledge Facebook Event and share it with all your friends. Make your personal declaration in the comments box.

Why did HP’s social media outreach work?

01 Sep
September 1, 2009

As a continuation to my last post on “HP Knows Social PR“.

So? How do you know if your social media strategy has worked?

Answer : When I start taking note of all links and information posted  on your Twitter account, Facebook and actually click on them. Load the site, wait, read every page and register for your event. And end up writing this blog post.

HP Twitter

Good job!

A consistent, conscientious and sincere approach is required in all initiatives to see it through success. Especially when your focus is on people.

Because it shows.

HP knows Social PR.

17 Aug
August 17, 2009

I was invited to 2 Hewlett-Packard events in the past few weeks. One for the Touchsmart Personal Computers featuring local visual artists’ work, the other is HP City of Dreams to promote HP Workstations.

HP “Touch the Future”

The invitation was extended by Edelman to attend this event held at VivoCity on 11 July. As part of the campaign to showcase the new HP TouchSmart technology, HP worked with a group of local artists  to create a series of digital artwork interpreting the theme of “Touch the Future“. These artwork are then animated step-by-step to look as if it is “created” by a “hand” touching the “screen” into a Light Show projected on the facet of VivoCity.

The bloggers were also introduced to the artists in person over a casual drink and snack at Queen & Mangosteen. I have to say a little alcohol made everyone quite happy.

Bel at HP event

Blogger guests were also introduced to the TouchSmart technology through creating personalised “postcards” using an HP proprietary drawing software. I manage to attract quite a crowd while trying to create the above picture correctly. I was however a little disappointed this software did not allow multi-user interactions. HP TouchSmart is also used as a platform to display the new Windows 7 OS.

HP “City of Dreams”

HP City of Dreams Banner

Approximately a month thereafter, I received an invitation from Waggener Edstrom to attend another HP event called “City of Dreams“. As an extension to HP’s effort in supporting the local creative circle, this event was sparked off with an online HP Lightropolis Contest that seen over 400 submissions. A winner from each category was chosen, encouraging creations spanning different industries from engineers, graphic designers to animators. The event marks as a finale and these winning works are now exhibited at ION Orchard.

To showcase the “Dream Work Stations” of HP, this event invited mainly bloggers with design backgrounds as target audience. The little surprise was that we had to create a desktop wallpaper with the theme of “City of Dreams”. I am proud to say my team was the winning team. Not with our design sense, but with a better understanding of the HP brand.

Our winning wallpaper

Our team (@iammyy, @berubetto & myself) amused the General Manager of HP by claiming green was chosen as the background colour due to HP’s initiative of Green IT. As technology of the future, HP’s concern in its CSR activities are further emphasised in this “City of Dreams”. It seem that we managed to market ourselves across.  We walked away with an HP Laser Gaming Mouse. Nothing to complain about though I would definitely prefer a TouchSmart personal computer or one of those dream workstations. Haha!

With the General Manager of HP

Why HP knows Social PR?

Many of the same bloggers were invited to both events and despite by different PR agencies, the Product Manager from HP had a good memory and could remember some of us by names and occupations. The effort of “following up” and maintaining the relationship is especially essential in building the fundamentals of a direct response channel from the digital population.

HP seems to understand the importance of community influence and attempts to identify these individuals (influencers) as significant word-of-mouth broadcasters for their current & future campaign initiatives.

HP has a successful Facebook and Twitter presence for its CSR arm, “HP Power to Change“. Their social media consultant of a managerial level who goes by the name of @HPinsider actively scans the Twitterverse for HP related news and links. Just half an hour before the “City of Dreams” event, @HPinsider made a tweet introducing the attendees. Yes, social media should be managed by someone who is of capacity to answer queries and not by junior marketing staff. Glad HP realised that. Across the board, it looks like there is an understanding of a common corporate direction and digital blueprint in place. It is important that the entire company works out a holistic vision to what they want to achieve out of the digital sphere. And to understand the building these relationships at an early stage for future opportunities is important.

In view of this, I would say they had been relatively successful. I wasn’t a big fan of HP before this, but would definitely keep an eye on their future developments. I believe my responses has achieved some of their KPIs. Raising awareness of both brand and product is more relevant for social media than trying to push direct sales. Hence social media should be seen as part of a long-term brand marketing process and not simply a direct sales channel. Relationship with bloggers or social media activists should be viewed as a friendly partnership rather than pure online journalism.

It would be interesting to see how HP further engages CSR in Asia as well as their continued efforts to support local arts.

Are PR Agencies Understanding Social?

After going to a few blogger events, my only disappointment is that not all the PR agencies did a good follow-up job. Basically the invitation, thereafter the thank you ends the relationship. And many of these agencies still do not have their social media domains added to their signature.

To know the group, you first have to be part of the group.

Amongst them, I must say Waggener was active and prompt. Their staff continued the conversations (both clientele related and just regular chat) with the bloggers on Twitter and Facebook and created a bond which could come in handy for many future uses.