21 February, 2012

SMWHK – Pitch Yr Culture: Social media and the search for music

[at]smwhk #smwhk #smwPyc

We weren't sure what the audience for PyC #3 would be like – since we'd combined with Social Media Week, we knew we'd be drawing in a different crowd to the eclectic mix we normally attract.


We were grateful that XXX in Sheung Wan was the perfect venue for us: Collapsable chairs, lounging couches, one projector for presenters, another for the TBWA Socializer. What more could we ask for?


Searching in Chinatowns everywhere
We got under way with Adam Cheung (writer, programme editor at RTHK and 80s Canto and J-pop junkie). He doesn't download music, preferring to buy CDs (he enjoys the pleasure of unwrapping and playing it; he respects the musicians). But he's not an idealist, he can't avoid Hong Kong's storage space issues anymore than anyone else.

Along with a great story and sense of humour, Cheung brought along a 13-year overdue cassette tape from the main library in Toronto, which he waved around as he walked us through his teen years. In fact, Cheung was born in Hong Kong, but his parents tricked him into moving to Toronto, in 1989, by prefacing the move with a holiday around the USA. In the '90s he started to yearn for Cantopop and J-pop, finding random music in Chinatowns everywhere: Toronto, Boston, Montreal... all in the dollar boxes. (Now days, he roams around the Sino Centre (Mongkok) and Sham Shui Po.

Come 2007, YouTube entered his life, where he found old songs. Cheung points out, like many music fans, that things that were hard to find, are now searchable - and he misses the search. But he did find himself in an '80s canto music video for Sam Hui's 許冠傑, 甄妮 - 無敵是愛 on YouTube. He was about 6 at the time.

Three degrees of collaboration
Next up, we had Derek Bullen ("music is a hobby"), who was prepared to tell his own story of origination and downloading. It all started when he downloaded a music-making software. He made a track called Hopeless and sent it back to a friend – who commented on the sadness of the piece. Bullen was happy enough to have "transmuted his emotions into a song" – he was happy. His friend put the song online, along with his own songs, which also made Bullen happy, since he was "limited with social media". A few days later, a stranger who had downloaded the track, uploaded it to the same site, with additions. It's what Bullen calls "three degrees of collaboration" and the song maintains a certain touching lament. "Later, we all met up. But that's another presentation," he quips.

Ching Chong
The next presentation was set to be the funniest of the night. Artist and curator Isaac Leung hit the topic on the spot with the statement "social media can punish and reward you!"


Alexandra Wallace made news recently by YouTube-ing her rant, about Asians in her university library. Jimmy Wong took it upon himself to sing a reply in kind, and by now, both have had around 4million views. "Google Alexandra and you get hot pics. But now days you'll also see pictures of 'sexy' Asian guys," jokes Leung, who started 'following' Wong because, well, he's quite cute.

Before making us laugh non-stop for four minutes, Leung emphasises his initial point: "You'll also find stories online of people fired over social media." Wallace chose to stop attending classes at UCLA.

Hong Kong loves Facebook
Our fourth presentation came in Cantonese, along with a bilingual presentation, something that PyC is always grateful for (and perhaps a first for SMW?). Arto Leung (founder of Mugazine.net) talked about the sharing of information – and how Hong Kong loves Facebook (it's so true). But, echoing Cheung's sentiments, there's no surprise like finding the record you wanted.

That said, the Internet makes people "honest". They say when they hate an album... they complain and share, the like and share. So it changes society in a way. In keeping with his native-language presentation, Leung plays 困局 (dilemma) by local act, Ni.Ne.Mo, who were present at the event. Their song reminds me of Bloc Party.

Origins and re-writes
Blogger and YouTube channel member Ching Hoi made things interesting by presenting her own song. Well, originality already came up once in the evening, and it came up again here. As an amateur songwriter – and to promote a love of Cantopop – Ching decided to make a Canto version of the theme song from popular Taiwanese movie, Apple of my Eye.


She explains the difficulties of writing in Cantonese, which requires both tone matches and rhyming - you have to balance the tone and the lyrics, to be convincing. While she cares about the original song, she points out that re-writing and copying are two different things. And it's clear from their comments that her audience also cares about the original; some of them even offering new re-writes.

While it's convenient, sharing music on YouTube has also helped her to make new friends. "There's no need to promote and spend - just ask friends to share. I hope I will make more original songs of my own, too."

The silent approach
The sixth presentation of the evening was mostly silent. Reign Lee (Founder of Indie Mag; Singer/ songwriter) takes a great approach to both topic and style. Silent, with emphatic images making strong cultural references and setting the timeframe: The invasion of Kuwait, fall of Berlin wall, Sinead O'Connor refusing to play in the USA if their national anthem is played first. Frank Sinatra threatening to punch her.


Lee's social networks are real; human. While interviewing Aimee Mann recently, the conversation lead her to recall an old song she loved: Joey by Concrete Blonde. So from one social network, to another, we hear the song that deeply inspired her as a musician.

Being human and socialising: We all need to be loved
Our final presenter (almost ironically) presents The Smiths' How Soon Is Now. I say that, because Stuart Lennon (Senior Communications Manager for Animals Asia; Singer/ songwriter; Co-host Crosswires HK) willingly jumped onto the PyC roster just a week before the event.

In his early days, Lennon was all about distortion and screaming – so he didn't know this song in '84 when it first came out as a B-side. As a punk/ metal/ anything heavy fan, Indie and Britpop wasn't his thing - and so he admits to first hearing this song as a cover by metal act paradise lost.

But his friends all loved Indie and Britpop, so it was almost peer pressure that lead him to embrace the original. He decided it was one of the best music videos he'd seen, blending audio and visual, yet ironically, The Smiths hated it and pretty much disowned it.

But that's just fodder and Lennon gets to the point. "The chorus lyrics speak to two key aspects of being human and socialising".

You shut your mouth, how can you say
I go about things the wrong way?
I am human and I need to be loved
Just like everybody else does 

"The first half speaks to Internet trolls. The second is the flip side of the human condition – wanting to connect, be in tune. Hating and loving. That's why we constantly check our Facebook to see how loved we are – or tweet about tweeting."

He finishes poignantly, "its a shame that as we use these social networks, we forget that as we want to be loved, everyone else does."

// Wait – he has an end note: "By the way, I stole my images from the Internet, but i don't illegally download music. And I made this presentation using an app on my phone."//

SMWHK - Social media and emerging fashion – is it worth my time?

[at]smwhk #smwhkdesign Hosted by [at]shopdcreateurs

For some key points about fashion blogging, whether you're an emerging designer looking to promote your brand, or a blogger building a following, look no further.

Social Media Week's Social Media and Emerging Fashion Designers: Is it worth my time? event, hosted by Cedric Delzenne of Shop Des Createurs can help you out. With a panel of bloggers - like Maura Thompson, Founder of Sassy Hong Kong, and Jasmine Webster, Fashion Blogger DressMeblog - and designers like Anthony Hill, co-founder & Creative Director at HILL, the discussion on how best to use digital media to get what you want will soon unravel.

For a preview of this event, please see my article in SCMP.

A couple of sites to check out 
Before we start the real discussion, Webster leads us through a few sites that she really likes to use.

The online pinboard scrapbook website, Pinterest, has sparked a lot of attention lately. Not just because they recently claimed to be the fastest website in history to break the 10-million-visitors-a-month bar, but in the tech world, more so for its use of Skim Links. It seems sneaky (and it creates revenue for the company): As users 'pin' an image, an affiliate link is automatically attached. So as you're loading images, you're inadvertently driving traffic to a specific website – up-selling it, if you will, without knowing so.


Now this one really is for fashionistas. Using the Virtual Styling Tool, you can gather different clothes and accessories that you like and create your own fashion collection, or "set". Of course, you can publish your set (which looks like a glossy fashion mag spread) and share it with your social media friends.


Key tips relate to any blogger - whether you're the fashionista type or not:
Thanks to the range of experts on the discussion panel, the range of tips come in fast, and accurate.
  • Make sure you're really ready to launch – if your website isn't done, you would be better to wait 
  • Build some Facebook posts and fill with images before launching the page (don't hit 'Publish' until you've built some content) 
  • Make sure you're ready to constantly engage your audience, before you start 
  • Content is vital – good images are key 
  • Be genuine – blog about things you actually care about or like 
  • Assume that viewers will only stay online for about four seconds. They're likely to look for links before deciding to read what you've said 
  • Anything that goes online stays online 
  • Relate all your posts back to what the audience wants to hear – not just what you want to say 
  • Keep it relevant (brand/ topic) and constantly monitor and adapt – give your audience reasons to like the brand other than the products you're selling 
  • Engage – ask open questions too 
  • If you make a mistake, it's ok – but be genuine 
  • No matter how busy you are, you need to stay in touch with your customers. If necessary, have email notifications for Twitter, Facebook (etc) notifications


Sexy analytics
Blogs, Twitter, Facebook - all of the above (and more) can be used for analytics too. Now, analytics can be limiting so it's important that you understand how the information is measured, and that you don't take these numbers to mean more than they do.

Ways to make the most of reading analytics include scheduling the themes of your posts. For instance, Tuesdays could always be about a particular product type; Fridays could always be a poll. With most analytics, you can look at the particular day (like Tuesdays) to see what the response numbers are like.

Converting followers into sales
For many businesses, it's more than just spreading the word and being in touch. Sales are vital to keep any company running. Thompson talks about using the advertising links (on the right side of a Facebook page – until they change the design again) or a featured sponsored story to promote a page or company and that in her experience, it works well.

Social media is a great way to build a story around you and your brand, it will build a background catalogue of features so that it's easier to then start attracting attention from the 'big' press. One way to start that journey is to make strong links with good, well-followed bloggers within your industry. Bloggers have power, so if you can find one that loves your brand and will advocate for you, then you're in a good position.

Why you need to get personal with bloggersAs Webster keenly points out, "bloggers are about being personal". That's surely part of the parcel. So, don't assume that they will relate to – or read – a press release. If the personal touch is missing, it doesn't feel authentic, so it doesn't mean a lot. If you really want to get their attention, you'll need to invest some time into sending a personalised message - but first, make sure you understand what makes that blogger tick.

The final equation
In closing, the panel agreed that the main points to remember are be consistent, be regular, create a "voice" and focus on your target audience.


Later, Webster tweets in some help for those who want to know how to find a good blogger, with 15 questions to ask before working with a blogger.

17 February, 2012

Slumbers Never Cease With These Apps

I love sleep. Hey, I'm Asian and we do love to sleep! So I couldn't avoid the intrigue of checking out some sleep apps!

15 February, 2012

SMWHK – Future of Television


This year's Social Media Week Future of Television event, hosted by Hong Kong PR Network, brings together a panel of industry experts, Jill Grinda (Vice President, Operations, CASBAA), Leslie Tang (the Hong Kong Correspondent for Channel NewsAsia, a regional TV news channel), James Ross (Director of Lightening International; previous Regional Director at ITN) and Doug White, Director of PRDA media agency). The list of topics set for examination includes the rise of web TV, second screen viewing, trans-media story telling and social TV apps, as well as Hong Kong's changing social media television landscape.

Jay's daily round-up
Before starting, Jay Oatway's daily round-up raises questions that put us in the mood: Where does this social information spread? How many times does it change format? How many links are via close friends? And more.

But the main theme of the day is Pepper, the rescued long-stay SPCA dog that Ali Bullock (Animals in Photos) wanted to have adopted before the end of SMW. Don't worry, she found a home (and a hashtag - #savepepper), by 5pm (Tuesday), in a 24-hour SMW campaign.


Define the future of TV
That's SMW news, not television. So, Tang starts the discussion, saying, "it's hard to define the future - there are endless possibilities. Traditional media is trying to stay relevant on a new playing field". White adds that emerging platforms leave a place for traditional medias, but consumers would find a greater range of content. "Even YouTube videos get re-posted - original placement isn't so important. Expect new viewing tools and to effect what we're viewing," he predicts.

But while these new platforms are changing the way we consume, Grinda says "TV is all about content - it's more important than how we consume it." Ross adds, "it'll be more exciting and interactive - more important. Regardless of the platform, content is important."

From YouTube to TV - and what is TV?
Have you ever seen Annoying Orange?

It went from YouTube to a network hit. Before answering if that's going to happen more frequently, White asks, "what is TV? It's the content not the box. Shows will be viewed through different platforms and with so many new ones, there's space for this to happen more."

So, can web-based companies outbid TV companies for shows? Grinda points out that major networks, like Time Warner, are driven by their business model: Subscription. While YouTube channels are niche, they average viewing of 15 minutes/day, while average TV viewing time (USA) is five hours. If YouTube want to make more advertising dollars, they need to up their viewing-time stats. "Can YouTube threaten major cable platforms? They need high-end content," she states, adding, "people are mindful of their business models."


Ross adds, "no major broadcast network will go down without a fight - they have major content like the Superbowl. Networks focus on 'water-cooler' content - if you haven't seen it, you can't talk about the one thing that everyone around you is talking about." Have you ever felt left out when your colleagues were talking about a TV show? (It's why I started watching Lost, which I hated). With perfect timing, Grinda chimes in, "Obama's State of Union speech was shifted so it wouldn't coincide with last episode of Lost. Note how they didn't shift Lost!"

Time for an ad break
So we've talked about content - what about advertising? Now, most ads have various formats for different platforms. But as the ways that we access 'television' changes, this could change too. "Advertisers still mainly focus on major platforms, but as platforms grow together, I think it will all come back to a single campaign for all platforms," Ross says.

Are you checking Facebook while reading this blog?
Do you second screen view? How often do you watch TV while you're Whatsapp-ing a friend, or playing a game on your iPad? People Tweet while they watch a show - divides attention - but can this be taken advantage of? Tang, as a news anchor, makes some interesting points. "New media has made news more like a conversation. You watch TV but check social media to learn more. We can attract audiences on various platforms- shows have their own Twitter feeds, which works well for news. We can receive real-time questions for reporters on site."

Brands: product placement, great TV and Jennifer Aniston

What does it take to make great TV? White has some experience creating content for himself. "We tried to do all things - humour, arty and webisodes. Product placement worked well for us, through subtle inclusion in shows. These days, viral gets you a wide audience, so you have to appeal to different people. Take the Jennifer Aniston Smart Water advert as an example.

But brands are reluctant to let go of the idea that it's only about them - they don't think it can be funny, or stray from the point. Brands could promote more than their product - take social good or education as an example. Typically, ad breaks are our TV break. It has to change, we're bored - advertising hasn't changed in so long. Brand messages, display ads and TV ads are still very traditional."

Or, forget the product placement, try trans-media storytelling
Perfectly, the topic of trans-media storytelling comes in here. Cha Ching on Cartoon Network Asia, is a short animation (10 x 3-min episodes) teaching children to be smart about money. It was made by Prudential but is entirely brand-free and has been a massive success. Harsha Harjani, Manager of Communications at Prudential steps out of the audience to clarify, "it was a CSR program for Asia. It's innovative for an insurance company - and it went well for us - it's everywhere."


We also have TV characters with life beyond TV, through social media. The Coca-cola polar bears watched the Superbowl, with a Twitter feed airing their comments on the game. Beyond that, apps created for specific shows can extend content. "An app that interacts with your show has a huge power. It will happen more and more - perhaps slower on Hong Kong's terrestrial platforms but this is all tech development. TV is still about great content, putting messages across. What changed is the tech - how we put the message across," Ross explains.

And the downside of social media is...So, what's the down side of social media for TV? Tang has specific concerns. "With social media, anyone can act as a citizen journalist. Apparently Twitter broke the news that Whitney Houston died, before Associated Press did. When individuals spread news, facts may not be checked. Quality control in content and production as well as authenticity could become a problem." She raises an issue that Grinda brings to the table: "Piracy is a huge problem for us - we must be careful."

But it's not that simple. White asks, "what's the ground-base there? If I send an article from the Huffington Post, where am I? What's the boundary?" Since we share media so easily and often, perhaps we should all think about this. Ross gives a sensible response. "Citing!" He exclaims. "State the source. Bloomberg was small once - and quoted other sources because they had to. Our industry suffers a bit from old business models - it takes a lot of money to make great content but how can we make money from sharing content?"

After all, production costs aren't slight. Did you know that an hour of great content costs about USD $3million?

Don't forget the PR touch
Finally, there's something for the PR fans in the room. "Whatever you're pushing, it has to be interesting. Touch the viewer; give them something. Not just a flat press release or video," advises Ross. "Know your customer. YouTube are great at that, whereas a network is more likely to know the customer's address," says Grinda. White prefers to take things slowly. "I don't usually let my customers jump straight to viral. Build a little long-term loyalty first, so you know them.

Jokes keep it light but be honest and sincere or you'll be called on it." Finally, Tang adds, "be as interactive as possible, so viewers can create their own content too. In the news, we increasingly use images and video from witnesses."

With so much to go away and think about, it's hard not to be tempted to just sit and watch TV for a while.

14 February, 2012

Social Media Week, Hong Kong 2012


Ok, so usually, my blog is filled with quirky observations, documentation of weird happenings, or my little shrine-like collections. But I can be serious too – after all, I run my own organic creative services company.

It's Social Media Week again ([at]SMWHK #SMWHK), which means running all over the city to get to as many events as possible, learning, debating, listening and sharing all kinds of ideas and information about tons of topics that relate back to social media.

I've already had a piece in SCMP in advance of the event, promoting events like Blogging 101 and blogging for fashion lovers. You'll find it on my company Facebook page, here.

In fact, I'm also organising an event on Friday, February 17th 2012 under the PitchYrCulture banner, with many, many thanks to Andrew. (There's also an official Pitch Yr Culture blog and Facebook page).

On top of that, I'm an official contributing blogger for SMW. You'll find my profile on the main SMWHK site, where they'll also re-post my blogs.

In the meantime, help to re-post my blog entries until Twitter can't handle capacity (which it already seems to be struggling with and it's only day two of SMW).

Blog entries:

10 February, 2012