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The New Media Asia 2011 Conference

Do you want to engage your online audience with an impact? Want that info at a bargain?

Then you need to go to The New Media Asia 2011 Conference to hear some of Asia’s foremost entrepreneurs and social media warriors share their insights.

Held this 11 and 12 May 2011 at the Royale Bintang in Kuala Lumpur, TNMA is organized by the jovial and popular Colin Charles (@bytebot).

The theme for 2011 is ‘Impactive Engagement’ and the program promises an amazing line-up of speakers including TED-ster Derek Sivers (Founder, CD Baby), Timothy Tiah (Founder, Nuff Nang), Paul Moss (GM, Alt Media), and Jon Wade (Head of Digital, Weber Shandwick) to name just a few.

It’s such a sexy line-up that my friends @meiyingt (Yolk, Grey Group), @nikicheong (RAGE.my, Star), @davidlian (Text 100) and @preetamrai will also be speaking at this event. (P/S: Follow the speakers on Twitter).

So what makes this conference different? Well for one, at RM499 for 2 full-days,  you’ll be getting GREAT content at a crazy bargain.

In contrast, we paid well over RM3,300 for me to attend the last digital summit. More importantly, this is your opportunity to engage with the cream of Asian new media movers, influencers, and smarts.

If you’re in KL this is a no-brainer. Anyone and anybody in social media and digital marketing will just have to show up unless you have a good reason to miss it.

Anywhere else in the region, maybe I need to say this again… you’ll pay US $180 only for a 2-day conference, listening to no less than 30 experts share what they know about what works.

WHY would you miss this?!

But wait…

If you register before Friday 6th May 2011 using the ‘SMCKL’ promo code, you’ll pay…

RM388 only!

So go on and register quickly at http://www.thenewmedia.asia before it is sold out. Follow @bytebot @thenewmediasia on Twitter while you’re at it too.

For hooking you up, all I wish is for you to tell TNMA that you found them through practical-strategy.com. Happy engaging!!!

ABOUT TNMA

The New Media Asia Conference is a 2-day conference on Social Media and the New Media. This includes the many facets of social networks, news portals, podcasts, etc. We will be exploring the usefulness of social media, as well as the reach of new media. For more information, please visit http://www.thenewmedia.asia.

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Malaysian Social Media Rockstars in Singapore

Social media is a wonderful thing. It has the power to connect people from the same country to have burgers in another country.

Last Wednesday night, I had the pleasure of having dinner with a few fellow Malaysians (@nikicheong @mikefoong @ben_israel @jinkien) at Fatboys Burger Bar in Singapore.

If you aren’t following these folks, you should. They may look like harmless nice guys, but these are heavyweight influencers and shapers of the digital landscape in the region.

You’ll do good by getting familiar with their faces and what they do, for one day the very life of your business may hang on their validation. Especially if you have a presence in the Asia Pacific region.

Sure I’m dramatizing a little as per potential outcomes here, but my gut feeling isn’t exactly based on a whim.

According to the research company BIA/Kelsey, online social media spend for 2010 topped $2 billion dollars, and that is projected to rise to $8.3 billion by 2015.

Looking at the trend, you’ll want to get to know the right people early on in the game before they become out of reach for you. These folks are the early adopters in Asia and at the forefront of the action.

So here’s a little synopsis of who they are and what they do. Do follow, embrace and engage with them and remember to share that you found them on practical-strategy.com via @fooz!

WHO?

MICHAEL FOONG | @mikefoong

Organizer / Twestival Singapore 2010, 2011, Pecha Kucha Singapore 2011

You should follow him if you are into high-tech gadgets, social media events, and web videos. Mike is really a social media rockstar. By day he’s a consultant for Oracle, and by night he’s a video producer, events organizer, and blogger extraordinaire.
WEBSITE: http://www.mikefoong.com

NIKI CHEONG | @nikicheong

Organizer & Regional Coordinator / Twestival Kuala Lumpur 2009, 2010, 2011

Niki is a Journalist, celebrity-twitterer, and avid charity events organizer. This influencer is the Editor of RAGE.my for the STAR newspapers in Malaysia. His true passion is in youth empowerment. Mostly, he’s who you want to be talking to about social issues in Malaysia and how cool your brand is.
WEBSITE: http://www.nikicheong.com

BEN ISRAEL | @ben_israel

Co-Founder / Social Media Club Kuala Lumpur (SMCKL)

Ben does great things in the social media space. By day he puts on the Digital Strategist hat at Edelman Singapore. He’s also active in conversations about political news. A must-follow if you’re into all things digital and social media in the region.
WEBSITE: http://benisrael.me/

JIN KIEN | @jinkien

Online PR Warrior

JK works in PR and mainly on media relations. His passion includes pop culture and furniture. Furniture? Yes, furniture! Wonder if he hangs out at IKEA for fun? Ask him!

JACKIE MIAO | @fooz

Founder & Organizer / Twestival Kota Kinabalu

And of course, you should follow me @fooz. By day I run Mediatropica, a digital consultancy servicing the Asia Pacific region. By night I am involved in a plethora of uber-social and non-social activities. I’m passionate about social entrepreneurship, connecting with interesting people and seeing new landscapes. Also, I get and give free stuff away to people who engage with me!


Did you find this useful? Let me know in the comments section below.

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Social media & online PR strategy chart

Here’s a great chart from Content and Motion on what tools to use and how to make social media and online PR work for your business.

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3 Ways to Create More Time for Yourself

Yesterday, I delivered my third speech at a Toastmasters meeting. I spoke for 7 1/2 minutes on tips I recently learned on how to create more time. A member of the audience told me that she hurried to take notes, so here is my speech if you want a recap. I think many people will find it useful too!

When people ask why you don’t pursue your passions, do you find yourself saying that you don’t have the time or resources amidst your busy life to do them?


The truth is, most people living in urban areas will lead relatively busy lives. Whether you are a full-time student, homemaker, employee, or entrepreneur, you share something in common inasmuch as the fact that your role is “full time.” This means most of your day is taken up to play your role, leaving you the remaining time to run and live your life.

The problem however, is not that there aren’t enough hours in a day. Everyone gets 24 hours regardless of age, race, or financial status. So why do some people seem to have more time than others? The answer was recently revealed to me in a book entitled the 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss.

Today I will share 3 rules from the bestseller on how to create more time for yourself. By the end of my speech, you will have more insight on how you use your time and be equipped with the tools to begin improving the quality of your life.

Rule #1
 Never Do Anything You Don’t Have to Do

Don’t be a sucker! It would be silly to be busy doing things that don’t need to be done, and here are some ideas on how to practice this rule.

1. AVOID MEETING IN PERSON as much as possible
For example, if you can answer a question via email, don’t offer the answer via a phone call, and if you can discuss something over the phone, don’t offer to meet in person. Practicing avoidance could save you as much as 2 hours of unnecessary time spent on preparation and traveling.

2. ELIMINATE UNNECESSARY TASKS that you are doing on a frequent basis that can be done by less effort
For example, don’t give your attention to questions that can be answered by an FAQ list on your website. Set up a website to address any questions people may have about your services and you’ll find you’ll be doing less work.

3. AUTOMATE REPETITIVE & REDUNDANT TASKS
For example, where there are e-payment options, set up standing instructions for recurrent bills like utility charges, credit card payments, monthly subscriptions, and others. If you avoid showing up at the payment counter, you can save as much as 1-2 hours for for every bill you need to pay. You can also automate your life by delegating tasks to other people to do on your behalf.


Rule #2
 Batch-Process Repetitive Tasks

The key to creating more time is to process some of the things you do in “batches,” and you do that by scheduling specific times for these activities and sticking with it. Here are some ideas…

1. BATCH-PROCESS YOUR EMAILS
Make a commitment to check your emails twice a day instead of every time you hear your inbox chime. Set up an auto-responder to let people know you only check your emails at set times like at 12pm and 4pm. If immediate attention is part of your service, get a good assistant to process your emails for priority and urgency, and keep him/her as your only point of contact.

2. BATCH-PROCESS YOUR ERRANDS
For example, you can buy groceries once a week instead of picking a few items every day. Just to illustrate, If you take 10 minutes to travel to the shop, 10 minutes to shop, and 10 minutes to travel back, you save 2.5 hours if you shop 6 times a week.

3. BATCH-PROCESS YOUR PHONECALLS & USE VOICEMAIL

Set up your voicemail by recording a custom message stating that you can’t come to the phone right now, that you check your voicemail everyday at a specific time, and that the best way to reach you is to email you. If urgent, let your recording inform the caller to contact your assistant. You don’t need to pick up the phone every time it rings, unless you’re expecting the call.


Rule #3 Get Assistance

Whether they are robotic or human assistance, the gist of outsourcing is to get help that is cheaper than what it cost you to do the task yourself. Here are the three types of assistance.

1. SYSTEM ASSISTANCE
Use websites and software tools like Salesforce, Google Voice, Evernote, iCal and Outlook to help with scheduling, screening calls, documentation, and task automation.

2. PHYSICAL ASSISTANCE
Hire a human assistant who could assist you in common tasks like answering phone calls, emails, running your errands. You may think only CEOs can afford help but even a student can get physical assistance. For example, a housemate can pick up groceries for a fee of RM$5, which will save the student an hour to use as study time.

3. VIRTUAL ASSISTANCE
If you find that having a physical assistant is not the best solution for you, look toward virtual assistance for things you may require help with. Websites like YourManInIndia and Elance are among the online services that offer virtual receptionists, secretaries, concierge, marketing, and many other services for as little as US$5 US dollars an hour to start.

To recap, here are the 3 rules again.
Rule #1 Don’t Do Anything You Don’t Have to Do
Rule #2 Batch-Process Repetitive Tasks
Rule #3 Get Assistance

The English writer Thomas Fuller once said, “He lives long that lives well; and time misspent is not lived but lost.” I believe that if you apply these three rules right away, you will improve your quality of life and create more time to do the things you love.

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Why You Should Manage Your Identity Online

Yesterday, I gave a 7-minute speech about the importance of managing your identity online. Several people told me that they found the information really useful, so I thought I’d share the transcript with you.


Are you aware that what you put online could cost you lost opportunities at best and your life at worst?

Seth Godin, bestselling author and blogger of the most popular marketing blog in the world said that “People watch what you do more than listen to what you say.”

Gone are the days where seemingly cathartic comments like “I downed a bottle of Jack Daniels by myself last night” or “My client is a dumbass” are excused as circumstantial expressionism or innocent venting.

Today, saying something like that on a social network like Facebook could set the impression that you’re an irresponsible alcoholic, or suggest that you often smear the people who are the source of your livelihood. Whether or not that is true is immaterial but that’s what people think you are.

As a digital consultant who has used the Internet for 15 years, I believe it is imperative to create and manage one’s online personal image and data, and today I’ll share with you the reasons why you should care about online identity management.

According to Wikipedia, Online Identity Management or OIM is a set of methods for generating a distinguished web presence of a person on the Internet. OIM is also known as online personal branding, online image management and personal reputation management.


Cyber-vetting

Firstly, the most important reason why you should manage your online ID is the growing emergence of ‘Cyber-vetting.’

Cyber-vetting is another term for a ‘virtual background check’ used by potential employers, clients and business partners usually with tools like Google. The goal of such a check is to determine the suitability of a candidate for a role.

In a survey carried out by CareerBuilder.com in 2009, 45% of employers registered with them has said that they use Google and/or other tools like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to check out job applicants. This is in addition to background checks that have been conducted by recruitment agencies.

Fast Company magazine published the CareerBuilder.com survey results sharing that among the reasons that employers have rejected candidates, 53% respondents said that their decision were based on provocative, inappropriate photos or information.

Drinking or drug use, bad-mouthing previous employee, colleague or client, poor communication skills, discriminatory comments, lying about qualifications, and leaking confidential info from their previous job were some of the other reasons that employers have used to justify rejecting a candidate and they are getting that information from the very data you allow them to see.

Just over the past two years, 13 people including a prominent CNN Editor, UK Politician, Australian Radio Host, Comedian, Newspaper Editor and even a waiter got fired because of what they wrote on Twitter. There have been several sources reporting that some people have gotten fired over their Facebook statuses as well.


ID Theft

Secondly, you should also manage your online identity to avoid identity theft. Online ID theft is when someone creates an ID using your name or pretends to be you fraudulently to gain the benefits associated with being you. Some of the risks associated to having your ID stolen is reputation damage, credit card and financial fraud.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, 9 million Americans fall victim to ID theft each year. If you don’t manage the sensitive information about you like your birthdate, SSN or I/C number, address, phone number, or claim your ID online, ID thieves could pose as you for their gain and may even take control of your public image.

In 2001, a man called Abraham Abdallah got caught while stealing $22 million pretending to be somebody else. How did he do it? He surfed the web to gather background data on a victim and one of his tactics was to open a mailbox under his victim’s name. Some of his victims may come as a surprise to you. They were famous names like Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Warren Buffet, and Paul Allen.

To avoid public ID theft, you should start registering yourself on all the major social networking websites and pay attention to what’s going on in the net space. If you cannot manage all your profiles, you could just create them and point it to your active profile. The best way to prevent people from stealing your ID is to claim it, monitor it, and be aware of where you keep a presence online.


Cyberstalking

Finally, you should manage your online ID for your own personal security. The idea is to avoid cyber-stalkers from gaining information about you that could compromise your safety. With 500 million users, cyber-stalking is now rampant on Facebook, and with the increasing use of geolocation services like Foursquare, the need for OIM has never been greater.

Did you know that in 2009, Facebook removed the profiles of 5500 convicted sex offenders? That’s just the people they found. What about those who they haven’t found yet and those who are yet to commit the crime?

Removing some personal info and photos from your public profiles is one of best thing you can do, as is setting your privacy settings on Facebook to limit access to information about you. This can help keep potential employers, clients, and ex-lovers and former friends from accessing them. If you don’t already know, the default setting on Facebook allows everybody to view everything, so you have to manage your ‘privacy settings’ to change those permissions.

Setting your privacy settings will also deter cyber stalkers and sex offenders from gaining access to pictures, sensitive and personal information about you. Data like where you live and hang out should never be shared, so be mindful of what you broadcast and stay away from revealing about your location for safety reasons.


Best Practices

To summarize, you should manage your online identity because if you don’t, your reputation, credibility, and personal safety could be compromised. Things that other people do that could affect you negatively include (but are not limited to) cyber-vetting, identity theft and cyber-stalking.

The best practice is to treat social networking and profile management sites like PR channels because they are. Any information that you don’t need 800 million people having access to is better kept offline or removed immediately.

Remember not to post anything online that could compromise the safety of your family, friends and yourself. Things like your phone number and personal home address would fall under that category as is provocative pictures of yourself and unnecessary negative comments that you make about people, places, and your work are better left unshared.

Lastly, if you find managing all the existing data daunting, consider deleting your account and start a brand new one. Do reflect on the wisdom of the legendary Warren Buffett who once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” With that I hope you’ll think about what you post the next time you log into your social network.

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YouTube’s Got Talent

Now that the 2009 season of Britain’s Got Talent has come to an end, it’s time to hit YouTube for the maximum exposure and minimum drama kind of talent show. If you’re a brand, here’s your chance to reach out to these up and coming social musicians who could definitely do with some sponsorship arrangements.

1. DAVID CHOI | Genre: Pop/Acoustic
The first one on the list is the romantic comedian whose talent landed him a perma-gig at Warner Chappell Music. David comes from a musical family though he claims he has had no formal training on the guitar. He began uploading videos of himself in 2006, and in three years he has acquired 119,000 subscribers, making him a YouTube superstar by social networking standards.
YouTube | Twitter
Website: http://www.davidchoimusic.com/
2. KINA GRANNIS | Genre: Acoustic/Folk
The beautiful Kina wows with her acoustic guitar and songwriting skills. Her curly-ness is also the winner of the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl contest and the face behind the Gotta Digg!hit. She actively plays live gigs around the U.S. and makes weekly videos for her 74,000 subscribers.YouTube | Twitter
Website: http://www.kinagrannis.com
3. ZEE AVI | Genre: Acoustic/Folk/Retro-Jazz
Zee Avi Fellow Bornean Zee Avi’s lyrical honey is so sweet that she has gone from gigs in Malaysia to a record contract in LA. With almost 25,000 subscribers, she’s got a throwback appeal the likes of female vocalists from the era of P. Ramlee, which is something the Malaysian public has been aching for in current times. Be sure to listen to her Honey Beetrack!YouTube | Twitter
Website: http://www.zeeavi.com
4. SINGINDORK888 | Genre: Rock
Singindork888 SinginDork888 (also known as Afraid of Everest) has covered popular rock songs impressively and written some of his own. 27,000 subscribers wait eagerly for his releases as the singer-songwriter of passion serenades the ladies with his rich voice and helps other aspiring guitarists follow in his footsteps. You’ll never guess what he does for his day job… the Singin Dork’ is a pharmacist! What an inspiration to all the closet singers of the world!
YouTube
5. LANA MCKISSACK | Genre: Jazz/Pop
Lana McKissack Watching breezy videos of her hair flapping while she works the camera will make the lads loosen their collars and lasses imitating her moves. Lana is a playful songstress who can cover Disney hits and jazz classics with equal comfort. She already has 6,000 subscribers and it is only a matter of time before the list grows.
YouTube | Twitter
6. JANE LUI | Genre: Acoustic (Piano/Guitar)
A newcomer on YouTube, Jane first impressed with Firefly on her guitar. Her primary instrument is her voice, seconded only by the graceful playing on her piano and rhythmic pluck action to accompany her silky vocals. Her album Barkentine is available on iTunes.
YouTube | Twitter
Website: http://www.janelui.com
7. ZACK KIM | Genre: Experimental
This South Korean whose hometown include Seoul and Kuala Lumpur can play two guitars simultaneously using a technique called “Free Hands.” With 55,000 subscribers, he’s definitely one of my favorite recent YouTube finds. Between serving in the Korean military, making YouTube videos and playing on Korean T.V., he’s just too cool to ignore!YouTube
Website: http://zackkim.blogspot.com
8. JENNIFER CHUNG | Genre: Soul
Jen Chung 20 year-old American Idol rejectee has proven her critics wrong by acquiring 70,000+ subscribers on YouTube on her own. Jennifer does not need to be a reality TV contestant as her melodic propensities have already made her a YouTube starlet in her own right and she can now manage her musical career on her own terms. Be sure to hear some of her ‘bedroom’ covers and originals alike.YouTube | Twitter
9. MIA ROSE | Genre: Acoustic
Mia Rose Here’s a British-born Portuguese lass who croons for her 194,300 subscribers. As an all-time Top 5 subscribed musician on YouTube, she has been featured on Rolling Stone, The Sun, and The Age. If she’s making news, you’ll have to at least find out why!
YouTube
Website: http://www.miarosemusic.com
10. THEBATHROOMGIRL | Genre: Acoustic
TheBathroomGirl Last but not least, this British-born Malaysian-Chinese lass started making videos of herself singing in the bathroom. With 13,000 subscribers, she has left her bathroom and ventured onto bigger rooms to collaborate with other musicians. If you like watching someone with a funky sense of fashion to go with a beautiful feminine voice, this girl definitely has the quirky factor to keep you coming back for more.
YouTube

That wraps up my list of featured artists on YouTube. Happy listening!

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Location-based Ad Targeting

Here is a screenshot of the NYTIMES.com website when viewed from Malaysia. There’s a Malay ad in there!

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Digest: Managing Your Online Identity

No matter where you are in the world managing your online identity should be a priority. There are many reasons why you should be aware of where and how your details are being used on the Internet. Social networks collect and store so much personal details about you, your network and thoughts and so it is important to make sure you understand and know where you are spreading yourself.

Facebook

Applications

If you’ve been on Facebook for a while now, chances are you would have replied to some of the hundreds of application requests in the past. You may have added them and authorized many random applications like Blood Lust, Booze Mail, Hatching Eggs and/or the hundreds of others out in Facebook ether. These applications collect information from your profile, remix them and serve it out for their own purpose. Maybe you’re aware of the apps you’re using but there are many that you have probably lost interest in and aren’t actively using anymore.

One of the ways to manage your profile well is to make sure you delete all the apps you are not using and revoke rights to access your profile if you are not using them anymore.

Removing Applications

You do that by going to your applications page and deleting them off your account. If you have only selected to not show it on your profile, chances are these applications are still lurking in the background with access to your profile and usage behavior.

Stop Authorization to Access Profile

To make doubly sure that those applications can’t do anything anymore with “new” information about you, select the Show: Authorize option on the pulldown menu on the right hand side of the same Application Settings page and begin deleting the programs you don’t wish to have access to your profile.

You may not be paranoid about what the people behind seemingly harmless programs like “Hatching Eggs” and “Hug-a-Friend” want with your information, but intent has nothing to do with what actually happens to your data. There is a high probability that your information would be used without your awareness such as access to your friends list, behavior and profile that could transpose to a sea of unwanted spamming and aggressive marketing in the future. Your information can be spun out of context if you don’t manage it carefully.

Twitter

Generally I would advise for serious social network users to consider several accounts to serve different purposes. These can include but are not limited to a business, professional, personal and anonymous account.

Business Accounts

For business accounts the general rule is to crowd-hoard at the beginning and progress to using that account for PR, marketing and support. If visibility is your intent the formula is simple. Maintain and/or grow your audience and continue to use the account for anything from announcements to damage control. The business account angle is best used by companies and brands announcing new products and service packages, but mostly this is should really be a PR channel for businesses.

For larger organizations, there can be subsets of the business account (several accounts forming the larger social network strategy). Employees with special roles such as the CEO or CMO would be able to engage with social networks that way.

Professional Account

Think of the professional account as a PR channel for an individual’s career. These accounts should be purposed for tweets that are only related to a person’s profession. This would be a perfect account to use to announce blog posts related to what you do professionally, also the account to use on your business card and portfolio website. Depending on the type of profession you’re in generally it is best to use your real name for professional accounts. On the flip side, I wouldn’t suggest total visibility if your job involves discretion. (i.e.: Doctor, lawyer, accountant, policeman, etcetera). Those roles represent practices or firm which can be represented by business accounts rather than an individual’s professional account. Of course that discretion is up to you but definitely, weigh the risks and benefits associated to the open promotion of your profession before you talk about a patient’s punctured left spleen or your civil cases as that could be illegal. In other words, think before doing!

Personal Accounts

Whether you are a social butterfly or like to keep your tweets between your friends and family, keep your personal account separate from your professional account. This is where statements like “I baked some brownies today for 200 people” would be best served. If you do not want the world to access your tweets, you can set them to private. The amount of visibility you have on the Internet is completely up to you though I would advise to use a nickname instead of your real name for your personal account without direct references to your full name.

This is not a shady rally (you can do that with an anonymous account)! The use of nicknames is simply a smarter way to minimize the gate-crashing of your personal tweet-party from the rest of the Internet. (I.e.: potential employer/client with Google access).

Anonymous Account

For those needing a canvas to vent and rant about things that may not be socially appropriate, there’s always the option to create an anonymous account where you can be completely honest about how you feel about a host of things without worrying about offending or upsetting anybody who knows you. This option gives your mind the freedom to roam, which for some people is an essential space to have. Needless to say, extra care must be employed when tweeting as you have to consider the damage to your professional and personal life should any of your tweets lead back to your name and face. Perhaps this is a cowardly way to say what you truly feel, but consider the fact that not all your thoughts should be shared with people you know. You would be wise to keep this account a secret if ultimate freedom is your goal, though bear mind that you are not above Twitter’s terms of use and neither are you immune from law enforcement if your tweets begin to sound wayward!

Inactive Accounts at Other Social Networks and Websites

Import all your contacts from places where you are inactive to the social networks you are currently using (manual or otherwise). Eventually data portability will become a reality but until then, a phasing method of directing visitors using a link with a near-intention of closing inactive accounts should be the plan. It only makes sense to erase your presence in places where you are not present anymore. Remember to keep receipts of all the places where you have been present as being aware of your online footprint will help you manage your identity better. Knowing where your accounts have been closed is a good thing as you maintain a macro view of where you’ve been and and how you’ve used the Internet. This will minimize unpleasant phenomena such as identity theft, phishing and a host of other horribly inconvenient experiences.

By managing your online identity, your lifetime experience on the Internet would likely be more pleasant as you minimize the potential for unsolicited flack. It is time to put on your french maid outfits before all that stuff comes back to bite you in the back!

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Trends: Cupcake Social Branding Emerging

Amex cupcakes

Ever since discovering Buttercup in London I knew the cupcake would play a larger role this year and so I was determined to frame a story around the cupcake phenomenon.

Believe it or not, the humble cupcake is now a viable marketing tool. Early adopters started paying attention to cupcakes in 2006, but this craze is now infiltrating the mainstream and is just going to spread farther and wider. What was seen as an old-fashioned indulgence of the yesteryears is now growing a new rep as a trendy “brandable” delicacy to have at some events.

The Comeback of Cupcakes

This isn’t just my intuition talking. Time magazine published an article Cupcake Nation in August 2006 discussing the rather unhealthy mania which has pushed the cupcake to unprecedented popularity. The New York Times published a story about the cupcake’s comeback, Resident Publications posted a list of cupcake bakeries in Manhattan, and ModernBaking.com published a story about customers going cuckoo for cupcakes.

From the groundswell cupcake aficionados Allison Bojarski, Nichelle Stephens and Rachel Kramer Bussel created the blog Cupcakes Take the Cake to cover everything related to the world of cupcakes. Their success has brought them on the Martha Stewart Show and also MSNBC. Other bloggers like Mej at Yo Mama confirms the comeback of cupcakes, EatLikeAGirl shares where cupcakes can be found in London, many others have given accounts of people going absolutely bonkers for cupcakes and the mania is showing no signs of abating.

Capitalizing on the Cupcake Mania

I have begun to notice that some companies have already jumped onto the cupcake bandwagon and are using these edible joythings ever so creatively.

Merchandising with the Cupcake Concept
Some companies are taking advantage of this trend and are creating cupcake-themed merchandise. Action Toys, Inc. announced in February 2008 that Crazy for Cupcakes toys are now available for children 3 years old and up, Johnny Cupcakes continues to cash in with themed merchandise and even luxury brands like Tiffany & Co. created an 18k-gold cupcake charm to serve cupcake enthusiasts.

Labeling of Cupcakes

Meanwhile on the more conservative side of the collective phenomenon, corporations are labeling their cupcakes for functions and events to foster loyalty among employees, express brand pride and extend brand awareness.

Absolutely anything from logos and images can now be printed using edible inks on icing sheets. It might surprise some to know that some Canon bubblejet printers are used to create them. These bespoke cupcakes can be ordered at specialist bakeries in most major cosmopolitan cities like San Francisco, New York, Chicago and London.

The Cupcake as a Product

While labeled cupcakes are bound to amuse some, Tiffany & Co. has taken the cupcake to a whole new level with the creation of the “Tiffany Cupcake.”

Last weekend I came across these Tiffany cupcakes inside a glamorous candy box-house setup with a touch of Hansel and Gretel charm. The signature Tiffany-blue cupcakes can be purchased for a little under £3 each by anyone visiting Somerset House. Tiffany is sponsoring the ice-skating event there and on Saturday mornings adult ticket holders can get them for free in conjunction with Breakfast with Tiffany.

Cupcake-as-a-product works very well for a luxury brand with a cult following like Tiffany. Many can’t afford to buy Tiffany items on a frequent basis and few of their products cost less than £100. What the Tiffany cupcake does is offer brand loyalists the exclusive Tiffany experience for £3. Some may argue that it brings down the exclusivity of the brand but cupcakes are perishable and the brand-addiction fix is only temporary. If anything the sugary cupcakes only serves to strengthen and proliferate an addiction to the Tiffany brand.

Should luxury brand owners decide to give the cupcake-as-a-product route a miss, they should still keep their eyes and ears open for groundswell activity. Brand loyalists are willing to spend more than just money but time to evangelize their favorite brands. As with the case of Tiffany, if brand enthusiasts can’t get the real thing in a blue box they’ll create their own experience by baking cupcakes or purchasing knockoff versions from artistic bakeries.

Say Hello to Social Branding

The Groundswell is Baking and Sharing Brands with Each Other
Whether successful brands like it or not, the groundswell is happily baking at the moment and if brand owners pay attention they could benefit from these activities. Brand loyalists, cupcake artists and bakeries are using the cupcake as a means of expression at parties and weddings to share brand experiences with their customers, friends and guests. Trademark and copyright violation concerns aside, people are baking works of domestic art and sharing that with other people at parties and also pictures of their creations on social networks like Facebook and Flickr.

Take a look at these cupcake pictures I found below:-

Tiffany Cupcakes

Beijing Olympics 2008 Cupcakes

Here is another example of branded cupcakes made to celebrate the Olympics. Some are professionally made-to-order and some are baked by amateurs. Notice how different the designs are.

Barack Obama Election Campaign 2008

Where the cupcake phenomenon has really made a noticeable impact is in the area of politics. Obama supporters have used the cupcake strategy to raise campaign dollars and to rally for more votes. A Flickr search for the term “Obama cupcakes” returns 527 results (as of today), not counting cookies. There is even a special interest group dedicated to Obama cupcakes and cookies.

Nintendo Super Mario Bros. Cupcakes
Video game enthisiasts from children to adults are enjoying Super Mario Bros. cupcakes independent of Nintendo’s involvement. This experience outlives the life cycle of a product version and will likely help sustain continued interest in Super Mario Bros. until a new version is released with a new gaming system.

Chanel Cupcakes
Last but not least, here are some amazing looking Chanel cupcakes. These will do well as treats girl friends give other girl friends on special occasions. Maybe they only seem relevant to women, but then so is the whole Chanel brand save the men’s line.

Embracing the Groundswell Bakery

Instead of panicking and threatening to sue Mary, Jane and Jill for trademark and copyright violation, brand owners should observe what is happening in the groundswell and learn to embrace the validation of their brand. It would serve brand owners well to sit back and enjoy the free promotion from volunteer brand evangelists, because the more people enjoy looking and eating knockoff cupcakes the stronger those brands become as a result of the viral sharing. The offline sensory experience will leak onto the online visual experience courtesy of cupcake creators and citizen journalists alike.

If you are a brand owner, this may be a good time to think about planting a seed for the groundswell to pick up on. Maybe they may just bake and share your brand with their friends.

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YouTube Live! Streams its First Event

3:00am – London Time
Youtube Live! is currently streaming its first event from San Francisco, CA. Amazing [idea]… I’m watching it right now. Check it out!

11:14am – London Time
YOUTUBE LIVE! JAPAN
There seems to be a lot of confusion about when YouTube Live! Japan was to be on, but as stated on the channel it would be on at 3pm Japanese Standard Time. It is now 8:50pm there, so I think they are just about wrapping up. You can watch the replay here. Acts to watch out for is BoA, IQ and Blue Man Group. I love BoA! A multilingual Korean singer-songwriter pop-star who can speak and sing in Japanese too. Here’s a video of Boa’s collaboration with M-flo (my favorite Japanese hip-hop group).

SET DESIGN
The set design in Japan is awesome.

RECAP ON YOUTUBE LIVE! SAN FRANCISCO
So just what did I think of last night’s YouTube Live! event?

The idea of having such an event is brilliant, but I say this with a disclaimer. I thought that the program was trying to do too much and I found it more like a party among YouTube maniacs in the process of trying to be a talent show. YouTube Live! can definitely be improved and the organizers should now keep their eyes and eyes open to the Blogosphere, even on YouTube itself. There will be some thumbs up reviews but for most part I think many people will slag off the program as leaning on the boring side and suggest improvements.

There were quite a few talented acts doing some amazing things. I particularly liked the B-boys, Parkour peops, cup stackers and the DJ for the event did some interesting mixes on the turntable and mixers. Some people were annoying; actually very annoying. It was clear that their fame is attributed to how much attention they feigned on YouTube. I’m beginning to think that an event like this could hurt some YouTube broadcasters who have had the good fortune of many viewers to their videos and have a strong subscriber base. When people are shown to be trying “too hard” in person, their appeal disappears. Fred was actually the least annoying one out of the chatterboxers.

I love the idea, YouTube should continue bringing YouTube stars together but I definitely think the program should be planned and executed differently.

For more information on YouTube Live!, here’s an AFP article about the event.