10 reasons why you should not become an Instagram influencer

Am I a hypocrite for writing such a blog post? Why not read on to find out for yourself.

While the desire to be popular has existed among youths since the dawn of time, the tools made available these days to just about anyone makes for a slippery slope for those who just want a quick shot at fame on social media without understanding its implications on mental and emotional health, and worse still have no notion of how digital marketing actually works.

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Is social validation really the best thing since sliced bread?

While I can’t over generalise by saying that choosing to become a social media influencer makes you a bad person, there are some very real consequences that come with choosing to live such a lifestyle for the uninitiated.

So here are my ten reasons why you probably should not become an Instagram influencer, or at least not everyone who wants to be one is a good fit.

1. You are one heck of a confused person

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Influenza or influenzee? You may think you command a decent social following but you say yes to almost everything that seems like a good idea. Instead of being the strong personality and persuasive opinion leader, you are someone who is more likely to be influenced by others, and are even willing to compromise on your own values and ideals.

2. Validation means everything to you

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You lose sleep over the number of likes or comments you get on your latest Instagram post. Yeap, it bothers you that much.

3. You may lose your friends

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If this is a knee jerk decision just because you want to be famous, be ready to lose some of your friends who are a little more narrow minded or whose values are directly at odds with this kind of life.

Not nearly enough people realise that there is already a stigma associated with being an influencer – because many arrived via illegitimate means or have the wrong motives and have tainted the industry. Oh and by the way, real influencers never refer to themselves as influencers.

4. Hello Depression

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Numerous online articles have documented how Instagram has taken its toll on the psycho emotional health of influencers, including but not limited to depression. Research suggests that the social platform creates anxiety and makes us regularly compare ourselves to others. Small wonder why so many people fail to understand this statement. “You are enough”.

Read: How instagram takes a toll on influencers’ brains

5. You have boundary issues

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You have a problem saying no to people. You also get the feeling you are always easily offending others, which compels you to allow them to encroach into your physical, emotional and cyber personal spaces. Because you “feel bad”.

The opposite may also be true, you are easily offended when others put up their boundaries against you, and you often take this as a personal attack.

Read: Instagram is supposed to be friendly, so why is it making people miserable?

6. You do not know your mission and life purpose

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It is normal to not know for sure how your life is going to pan out, even if you are trying your best to figure it out. But there is a difference between not knowing, versus not living your life with purpose.

Becoming an influencer without knowing your greater mission, will make your posts all about you and nothing else. There is no greater purpose, nothing that serves or benefits society or leaves a positive legacy.

7. You have a history of bullying 

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Oh yes, cyber bullying. If you do not know how to love and treat others with respect offline, imagine the damage it could wield online once you have amassed a sizeable following, and how devastating it would be.

Slamming others, controversies, scandals, drama and conflict always bring about the highest engagement and viewership, but is this something you want most people to remember you by?

8. Jealousy and Hate are real

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Be prepared to deal with other people’s insecurities. If the words “jealousy” and “hate” were merely terms you used for fun in the past with your friends, start getting familiarised with their very real effects because it will come in the bucket loads.

This includes hate mail and personal DMs, cyber attacks, and passive aggressive behaviour. Not just from online followers, but from your real life as well.

9. Everthing you do is simply ‘For the Gram’

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You find yourself significantly altering your daily habits in order to please your audience. While it may come naturally for some personalities to regularly pose and be funny, not everyone is naturally like that.

If you find there is no congruency between your online and offline life, then something is really amiss.

10. You over post on product endorsements and branded content

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The top reason you wanted to become an Instagram influencer was because you secretly thought you could enjoy freebies and have your own discount code under your name.

You use not so subtle ways to try to get brands to notice you, not knowing that it actually makes you look desperate for attention.

And what you did not know (as you are not a digital marketer) is that posts with direct in-your-face ads tend to have the lowest engagement and likes, so when you see your endorsement posts do poorly, you overcompensate and try to cheat the algorithm by buying likes and comments – not knowing that to the trained eyes of marketers, the fraud is made immediately visible.

Yes, even some influencers “verified” by influencer agencies are guilty of this.

Read: Focus on authentic engagement, not just your follower count

About me
John Yeong is an Instagrammer ( @thejohnyeong ) but strongly advises people not to follow him on Instagram unless they truly enjoy his content or like him as a sports presenter. He enjoys blocking follow-unfollowers and gets high on making fun of his closest friends.  

6 things to do in London for the clueless solo traveller

A London Travel Guide 

So your next stop is London, United Kingdom.

You have some time on your hands, but you are not quite sure how to theme your itinerary for those few days because you don’t want to do anything too touristy, and would very much prefer to wander about free-and-easy outside of shopping.

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Look no further. Here are six ways to explore London aimlessly and still look cool if you want to not stick out like a sore thumb tourist.

If you are just a fan of food and touristy things, then scroll straight to the bottom of this blog post.

1.Go Hyde in the Park

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Hyde Park London is one of four Royal Parks, and the largest of them, to connect the Kensington Palace to Buckingham Palace.

If you are a fan of flora and fauna and enjoy going on walks, or if you like to have picnics or just want to find a nice corner outdoors to read a book, then making the trip to Hyde Park isn’t a bad idea.

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Hyde Park, London

The park also boasts of easy running routes for joggers, with distances ranging from 5km to 7km, depending on which route you take around the perimeter.

It’s also a nice go to place to go and kill some time while waiting for your hotel room to be ready for check-in, which was what I did.

2.When you feel depresso, have an espresso

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Okay so I didn’t order an espresso because I wasn’t depresso, but why not make coffee hunting one of the themes of your stay in London?

Whether you are just looking for a spot of caffeine, or a place to rest those weary legs and take five from all that walking, London is certainly one of the best cities for coffee.

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Cappucino @ Monmouth Coffee.

I was told prior to my trip earlier this year that Monmouth Coffee Company was a must-try, and I certainly didn’t come away disappointed.

I had my cup of Cappucino for £3.10. If you really are depresso, you can have the Espresso at £6.75. The cappucino I had was not overly thick or creamy, just the way I like it, and one of the best I ever had.

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Tira-mis-u I miss you.

Workshop Coffee London is also another brilliant place to checkout just off Regent street. The Flat White is a must try! I’m also told they have five outlets now, with The Pilgrim being just a stone’s throw away from Paddington station.

For a list of other great coffee place ideas in London, you may wish to check-out this listicle by TimeOut.

3.Bucking up your idea

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Buckingham Palace, April 2018.

I did mention this wasn’t going to be too touristy of a London blog post, but I couldn’t help myself from swinging by Buckingham Palace to witness the change of palace guards.

I didn’t take the Palace tour of course, but with it being 17 years since my last visit to London, this trip would have felt a lot less representative of London if I didn’t at least visit Buckingham Palace!

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Outside Buckingham Palace grounds.

It is also one of the more Instagram worthy places for those who are avid social media users like myself.

Timing for the change of guard is available here.

4.Football Stadiums Tour

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Wembley Stadium, London.

Who doesn’t know the English Premier League?

But if you are a football fan, then there are plenty of iconic football stadiums in London that you will want to pay visits to.

Being a Manchester United fan, it was probably the worst possible time to be in London, with United hosting Arsenal at Old Trafford those few days.

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The least I could do was feature a Manchester United player. Rashford’s autographed boot at Wembley Stadium, inside the players’ tunnel.

But with ticket prices sky-rocketing and me being unwilling to pay beyond my budget cap, I opted for a tour of Wembley Stadium and catch a Premier League game at London Stadium instead – West Ham United hosting champions Manchester City.

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Sitting in the midst of West Ham fans, as City wrapped up the Premiership title.

Don’t make the mistake I did. After buying your tickets online, you’ll still need to collect a physical ticket at the stadium, so do factor in a bit of extra time before kick-off!

5.Potterland for Potter Fans

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I am not the biggest Harry Potter fan around for sure. Probably more of a Lord of the Rings fan than HP.

I’ve never read the books, only watched the movies, and been reprimanded by countless friends who are Potterheads for not doing so.

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Butterbeer, anyone?

But even then paying a visit to the Harry Potter: Warner Bros Studios London Tour moved up quickly on my priority list, when I heard that some hard-core fans who reside in UK even made repeat visits of up to twice a month!

Which made me curious to find out what the hype was all about.

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All set for the Hogwarts Express!

If you do intend to visit the Warner Bros Studios London Tour, do take note it is 20 miles north-west of London, and it will definitely take up a good half to three quarters of your day.

More details on how to get there and booking tour tickets are available here.

6.That Belongs in a Museum

That Belongs In a Museum

London is also known for its Museums. No surprise there, with all that history.

The better known ones of which are the Natural History Museum, British Museum, Tate Modern (Museum of Modern Art), Museum of London, and Victoria and Albert Museum.

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Loving the high ceilings and architecture of the British Museum.

Being the poor planner that I often can be, I missed out because I failed to check on the Natural History Museum’s Opening Hours. So do check before you visit!

But the British Museum isn’t too bad an alternative, and hey, it’s showcases some of the most significant global finds, and was the first ever national museum to open to public!

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To learn more about the best museums to visit in London, visit this listicle here.

When in London, do as the tourists do

If the list of suggestions above are a tad too boring for your tastes, here are some alternatives you may find useful, which includes tips from writer Nicolette Mok, whom I personally refer to as a London expert.

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Thanks for sharing your experience and research material with me pre-trip, which is way beyond whatever is listed here!

Food Ideas for Makan fans

Visit Blacklock for quality meat, though this is on the pricier side so it would be better to go in a group to maximise value. There is also London Shell Co, Duck and Waffle, Burger and Lobster (which I am told is a Singaporean favourite simply because it is deemed as value for money!), Granger and Co, and Barrafina.

How could I neglect to list down Borough market? If you’re a fan of Fish and Chips, then Fish! is a must visit place – though you will want to choose the stall over the sit-down restaurant, which is a lot pricier than the stall).

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Chiltern Firehouse by night. Classy restaurant choice, albeit pricey.

For fans of hot chocolate, you don’t want to miss out on a visit to Dark Sugars, located on Brick Lane. There are also great bagels at Beigel Bake, and doughnuts at Crosstown Doughnuts.

I really shouldn’t be promoting this last one, as I am one for healthy and active living!

There are also countless food options that include Asian food from Covent Garden to Leceister Square, Tottenham Court Road, Piccadilly, Bond Street, and Oxford Circus.

Sight-seeing & Lifestyle

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St Paul’s Cathedral, opposite the Millenium Bridge.

If you are one for the sights, then St. Paul’s Cathedral, which is directly across the River Thames via Millennium Bridge, If you would rather see me cross the Millenium Bridge like a boss and you can visit my Instagram.

I find that the beauty of London is that most places are all conveniently walk-able, although there is also the Tube, which is a slightly more expensive option.

Last but certainly not the least, visit West End for the Theatres! Still probably the best place in the world to catch the widest range of musicals from Les Miserables, to the Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, Mama Mia, and the Lion King just to name a few!

3 simple truths on the path of intentional solitude

The Call to Freedom from Ourselves

I’ve struggled to write about my UK trip earlier this year. Not because it wasn’t memorable or noteworthy. Quite the contrary.

The trip turned out to be a key marker of my 3-month sabbatical from work, and a major milestone on my journey towards uncovering my purpose, healing and growth.

For the purpose of my varied audiences, I’ve decided I will make two separate blog posts from the trip: this being the first which is more reflective; and a second more touristy post on some of the highlights from my time in London.

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Entrance to St Beuno’s, Northern Wales.

Unbeknownst to most, the purpose of my trip was not merely for sightseeing. Nor were the 10 days I spent in silence at St Beuno’s College, Northern Wales, a simple detox from social media.

1. A Call to Trust

Rather, it was anchored on a call for me to trust. To trust that I would receive. Not because I deserve it. But simply because I am loved.

Sounds simple enough. But when you’ve been emotionally manipulated all your life, and carry with you the scars of brokenness from numerous broken relationships and friendships, trust becomes the very last thing you want to do.

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Roses and flowers have been a very symbolic part of my journey.

It becomes your greatest fear. And you learn (erroneously) to only trust yourself.

If you find yourself regularly second guessing the intentions of others, it is the greatest symptom that you are actually trapped in your own unfreedom.

Because living in shame and fear has become your way of life.

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Art Space at St Beuno’s. One of my favourite rooms!

2. A Call to Freedom

We are, all of us, creatures in need of liberation. We do not need to be visibly the victims of an oppressive society.

Some of us could be victims of dysfunctional families, or simply victims of our own poor choices.

As such, freedom could mean an entirely different thing from one individual to the next.

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Have you ever been completely alone in the wilderness, admiring the vast beauty of creation?

It could range from anything such as a freedom from guilt, to freedom from hate and unforgiveness, or freedom from our pride and ego that blinds us to our own flaws.

Perhaps to another it could be freedom from jealousy and envy,  freedom to express our authentic selves with the world  without the fear of judgment, or the freedom from the wounds that bind us and block out real love; preventing us from being healed.

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Artist at work.

Yet the greatest irony is that in order for us to reach new degrees of freedom in each of these areas, the journey always calls us into deeper waters.

We are constantly called to arrive at new ports, to encounter new truths that are way outside our comfort zones, and very often, that are way beyond what our finite minds can comprehend or accept.

And such has been my own journey of intentional solitude to date.

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For every mountain, there is a valley. Both are necessary.

3. A Call to Love

Among the multiple journey threads that developed over the 10 days I spent at St Beuno’s, the most major takeaway I had was an unexpected one.

I was expecting from the beginning a call to leave everything that I was doing, my job even, to serve in something that was deemed as more visibly meaningful, or more measurable tangibly in terms of “loving and serving” the community and others.

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Meditative walks in the Labyrinth.

Because that appeared to be the more common/popular path of those who have encountered a conversion experience, and been touched by unconditional Love.

But no, my call wasn’t to leave all that I was doing.

What turned out to be the most difficult thing for me to do, was to actually stay put and finish the work I had started in the face of regular judgement and disgruntlement.

A work that would take me through difficult paths and leave me feeling terribly misunderstood at times, but teach me what it really means to love.

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Listen to the silence, let it enfold you.

6 things to do in Yogyakarta for solo travellers

Looking for solo travel vacation ideas in Southeast Asia? You needn’t look further than the city of Jogja. Also included are my recommendations on some Instagram worthy photo spots!

We may not always have the luxury of travelling with companions. And if you’ve yet to travel solo, and are hesitant to do so, I strongly recommend it! It’s an entirely different experience altogether which helps you learn so much more about yourself. But this is a topic for another day.

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Yogyakarta, Central Java, Indonesia.

Due to bad weather, I did not get to try the main attraction I went to Jogja for, which was the Jomblang Caves. This was somewhat disappointing, but I am thankful for having a fantastic local guide (thank you Prita!) and tour operators who arranged for a fun alternative and made my trip equally memorable.

If you intend to head to Goa Jomblang, just remember they only make one drop per day (usually in the late morning), and it is heavily weather dependent activity because of safety.

You will also want to bring along a shower cap for hygiene purposes (helmets are provided), and gloves and boots are provided too. I was told it can get a little muddy at the bottom. Head torches and insect repellent are also strongly recommended.

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Mee Goreng. One of the local delicacies on offer in Jogja.

I got my personalised 5 Day Central Java package through Beyond X Boundaries, who are mavericks for experiential travel.

The benefit of this was the flexibility of having a local guide and assigned transport with you throughout your stay to make it hassle free, and also having the freedom to visit destinations without needing to follow a group or being constrained by time limits at each location.

However, if you are backpacker and your preference is to do a solo trip without having any local guides, you can easily visit these places on your own which I think are pretty cool nonetheless! And of course, these are suitable travel ideas for non solo travellers, with friends and family as well.

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Weathering passing showers at Prambanan Temple inside a chamber. Rain took nothing away from a wonderful experience at this temple though.

1. Prambanan Temple

My first stop in Jogja took me directly from the airport to the impressive Prambanan Hindu Temple, a UNESCO Heritage site. It is also known as the Roro Jonggrang Temple, built in the 9th century, and is the largest Hindu Temple in Indonesia, arguably the largest in Southeast Asia.

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My unexpected celebrity moment at Prambanan temple. To hear these lovely school kids sing, you can see my related Instagram post on @john.yeong  here

This is a great travel site if you are a fan of architecture, history or cultural heritage, with lots of stories behind the temple and the conservation efforts that are ongoing around it.

The temple compound itself consists of four main temples with many sub-chambers, with lots of Instagram worthy corners for you to take photos for the Gram.

Venue guides are provided on site, and if you are looking for English speaking guides they also have them in abundance.

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Plaosan temple, not too far a walk from Prambanan Temple.

You should cater about 1 to 1.5 hours here, unless you get swarmed by local school girls with a talent for singing, like I did. Then add about 30 minutes.

Till today I don’t know why the students flocked to me the way they did, could be something my guide Prita told them while I was busy on tour. But you can safely assume this won’t happen most of the time!

Estimated Cost: USD$18

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Cave tubing in Goa Pindul.

2. Pindul Cave Tubing

My second morning was where I made my trip to the Jomblang Caves, a 25m sinkhole in diameter, and 50m deep. I stumbled upon some wonderful photos of Goa Jomblang on Instagram from a couple of people that I follow, and have told myself since then I must pay a visit!

Unfortunately it did not materialise this time round, but I still managed a wet and equally fun-filled day, with a good alternative for both solo travellers and travellers with friends alike, that can happen even if it’s raining – Pindul Cave Tubing!

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Some crazies like me will jump into the water. If you are acrobatic, you can add that into your repertoire of jumps.

There are several points of the tubing session where you will have the option of jumping off rocks and reliefs into the water. This is both inside the caves as well as further down stream along the river tubing session.

Even for those who are a bit afraid of heights, this is a must try and incredibly fun!

You can have a look on the feed of my Instagram account in March 2018: (@john.yeong ) to see how it looked like!

Estimated cost: USD $3.75

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Sunrise at Borobudur.

3. Borobudur Sunrise

Who likes early mornings? I don’t. So you could imagine my struggle to wake up at 4.15am!

Nonetheless, this was one of the more unforgettable mornings and the Borobudur Temple is a MUST visit if you are a traveller visiting the city of Yogyakarta. It is the world’s largest Buddhist temple, and quite simply breathtaking.

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Rich culture and heritage carved into the World’s largest Buddhist temple.

This place is best seen at sunrise, when the air is fresh and full of birdsong, and the mist is just clearing.

You would definitely not want to arrive late for this, as depending on different seasons there could be quite a crowd at the top, which takes a little away from the overall experience.

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You could easily spend a couple of hours getting lost in the various beautiful corners of the Borobudur temple compound.

It doesn’t take my advice or a rocket scientist to figure out that you’d do well to bring your cameras along for this trip!

Many picturesque moments regardless of which time of day you visit.

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My breakfast view at Borobudur. Not too far a walk from the main temple.

Probably the icing on the cake for me, and not part of the usual Borobudur Sunrise package, was having breakfast on the hillside with a fantastic view of Borobudur – thanks to Beyond X Boundaries.

The usual Borobudur package includes breakfast but it is in the main hall, just in case anyone is wondering where they can get breakfast after the sunrise!

Estimated Cost: USD$20

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Breathtaking view from the top at Pinus Pennger Bantul.

4. Pinus Pengger Pine Forest in Bantul

The Pinus Pengger Pine Forest was an unplanned part of the itinerary for my trip, but turned out to be one of the nicest places, where picture taking is concerned.

You could even bring a book along for a quiet read, if spending a few hours here is your intention.

This is usually a quiet area, without busyness and noise that comes with huge crowds of people that define most touristy spots.

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Nice walksways, bridges, and hammocks are some of the features in Pinus Pengger Bantul.

Plenty of Instagram worthy corners for your photos as well, some of which you may even have seen on Instagram but never knew where on earth this surreal place was. Now you know!

This place is best visited in the late afternoon, closer to sunset, though just a word of caution…

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Pretty insta worthy location don’t you think?

The drive there can be pretty long, and if you’re someone who easily gets mountain sickness, you’d probably want to take a nap on the drive up.

Estimated Cost: Free-of-charge, only parking fee

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My GoPro footage from the Jeep tour was too bumpy and shaky to upload, so this picture with Prita near Mount Merapi will have to do.

5. Merapi Lava Jeep Tour

I decided to take in this off road ride on a Jeep that was arguably the bumpiest in my life. If you are a traveller who loves nature, and a fan of bouncing around in a moving vehicle, then this is just for you.

You will even have the option of standing up during the ride (albeit firmly holding onto the handles) just to enhance your jeep ride experience.

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Instead of Jeep Tour footage, I am sharing a photo of Nasi Lemak that I had before my tour. My advice though? Don’t go on tour with a full stomach!

There are various local operators for this activity, and there are generally three routes, categorised by short, medium and long which will determine your time taken from 1.5 hours to 2 hours. And it costs about Rp 350,000 to rent the jeep.

As part of the tour you will get to also visit certain sites and mini museums of the most recent Merapi Volcanic eruption.

Estimated cost: Rp 350,000 

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Downtown Jogja by night.

6. Batik Art and Silver Making

And if you are into culture and heritage or wish to try your hands on making something, then you may want to consider Batik Art at the Tirtodipuran complex, where you experience using candles and wax to make your own mini Batik Artwork.

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Do I have the makings of a Silver smith?

You could also try Silver Making at Kota Gede which I realise I am terrible at! The shop owners were giggling and how much I was perspiring just to get one done! But I think it turned out looking real nice? What do you think? (See picture above)

So there you are! 6 highlights from my Jogja trip, although there was more than just this that I visited. Other temples, and other beautiful sites worth checking out – including cycling tours for those who are cycling enthusiasts!

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Start off the blog post with food photos, end off the post with food photos. #JustSaying

More travel ideas to come soon from my London and UK trip, as I attempt to catch up on months of backlog for my blog! Thank you for your patience, your support of my work, and I hope you enjoyed this read.

Focus on growing authentic engagement, not just your follower count

In an age of modern day influencers, the online space has become an increasingly saturated marketplace for businesses and individuals.

Having been blessed with the opportunity to immerse myself in this industry: to both live it first hand, and to lead and develop a network of ambassadors from Singapore’s sporting eco-system, I take on your questions regarding influencers and Instagram Marketing in this post. 

May these shed light for media practitioners, provide useful insights to aspiring influencers, and infield knowledge for businesses who are less digitally-savvy to make more informed choices when planning for their next campaign with influencers.

Also read – Redefining Influence: Empowering lives through storytelling in sport 

 

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True influencership is the resonance of an online following who identifies with you, and with the expression of the things you love. Photo taken at influencers engagement session organised by Sports Hub.    Photo credit: Singapore Sports Hub

How can I become an influencer?

Influencership is never an end goal. It is simply a by-product, a spin-off.

True influencership is the resonance of an online following who identifies with you, and with the expression of the things you love.

It is not a short cut to fame or popularity, nor a means for you simply to get endorsements or sponsorships. If those come in due course, they are merely bonuses, not an entitlement.

Therefore not everyone who wants to become an influencer has the patience, persistence or the right heart to be one.

Be passionate

We are always at our most influential when we are expressing our true passions with the world. Be it sport, fitness, photography, food, dance, yoga, or modelling or whatever it is you love doing.

That kind of energy catches on quickly, because people can sense authenticity. Authenticity lives on inside each of us regardless if we have been wise or foolish before.

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Sport Singapore ambassadors Kerstin and Gary at a Facebook LIVE session during GetActive! Singapore 2017’s Closing Ceremony.       Photo credit: Nick Lye, SportSG

Why engagement rate over follower count? 

Because the biggest brands and smart businesses who are digitally-savvy won’t just look at your follower count, but also analyse the full demographics behind it.

And since most public instagram accounts carry with them some inactive accounts, dummy accounts, and bots, be it intentional or not. So your follower count is never a fully accurate measure of your true online influence prior to further analysis.

Active Interest

Here I define authentic engagement as having an active audience that takes an avid interest in you, the things you do, and in whatever ideas you are trying to pitch across or communicate. This denotes a deeper level of engagement.

From a business perspective this also has a higher likelihood to translate to actual conversion. The end goal for any business is always successful conversion and customer retention, what we call brand loyalty in marketing terms.

This takes time, discipline, and consistency to build; especially brand loyalty. It can never be attained simply by having a bigger budget, or pumping in more ad dollars for ad-hoc sponsored posts or other quick fixes. Whether you are a business or a personal brand.

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At ‘Splashtastic Saturday’, an Influencers engagement session, with yoga instructor Dawn Sim (far right), and her cousin Amelia.         Photo credit: Singapore Sports Hub

How is engagement measured?

The most updated engagement rate calculation formula should be Total Engagement (Likes + Comments) / Total Reach x 100. Why follower count is not the key consideration, while being important, is because reach includes non fans and followers (content discovery via other means like hashtags), while Instagram’s algorithm also means that not all of one’s followers will see any given post.

Failing to include (real) engagement rate as a metric is why many businesses and digital campaigns involving influencers fail.

Heavier weightage is generally given to comments than likes, reason being that it takes an extra step and more effort for someone to type out a comment in reply to your post, instead of just tapping on the like button.

Quality of engagement

The quality of comments is also studied manually to sift out real engagement from spam comments and spam likes.

However, it doesn’t really take a trained eye to tell them apart in any post. Informatively, the bulk of your real engagement usually comes from direct followers, and others through content discovery channels like your hashtags.

 

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Behind-the-scenes with former national footballer Isa Halim at the filming session for last year’s Singapore Football Week online commercial.         Photo credit: Sport Singapore

Have you ever bought followers?

Of course I have! I am called “Potato Paikia”, and which bad boy has not tried every taboo thing in the book at least once? LOL.

Jokes aside, I really did it once some time back – during the start of the brand ambassadors network project we’ve been developing. This was needed as a subset of several tests and experiments that were done to fill the knowledge gap our team had. That’s also when we discovered how little we knew, versus what we were actually dealing with in the current market.

I couldn’t do this on the company’s official instagram page for obvious reasons.

But since I conduct regular clean-ups every few months, and have done multiple purges on my account by this point, accounts that were used for that purpose are purged, and this can be verified or analysed via my instagram demographics.

A Study by Singapore Influencer Agency on Industry averages

A study done by local influencer agency PopularChips some time back showed that most influencers (including celebrity influencers) have bought followers at least once over the course of their lives, and of greater concern for brands is that a huge number of them – whether micro, nano, mid or celebrity influencers fall short of the average industry benchmark of having at least 40% local followers in their demographics.

While having a full detailed database has not become possible following the review of Facebook’s privacy laws earlier this year, making it not possible to pull data from non-business pages, this is still something which should be consulted with the influencers you wish to engage, if you are a brand looking to use influencers in a given campaign.

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I personally find national fencer Lim Wei Wen quite a character, which is one way to guarantee high engagement.          Photo credit: Singapore Sports Hub

But follower numbers still matter don’t they?

Yes, but only to an extent. And definitely not as high up the priority list as the vast majority think it is. Several studies have shown that in today’s context many micro-influencers often bring higher engagement to the table than celebrity influencers, and are also much more cost-effective in helping businesses achieve their targets.

Also read – The rise of ‘micro-influencers’ on Instagram

This is because once you go beyond a certain critical mass of followers on instagram, your organic reach begins to drop, which indirectly leads to a lower engagement rate on average. In other words, your percentage of likes/comments does not increase proportionately with follower growth, because after a certain point, it actually dips.

Good engagement begets more engagement

In contrast, if your content and posts are of high engagement traction, these will be surfaced by instagram as good content, and therefore appear in more feeds over the first 24 hours of posting (i.e. impressions), making the likelihood of its discovery even higher which leads to further engagement.

Your posts will never reach all of your followers, just a small fraction, who are usually the ones who interact with you the most. And on instagram, organic reach for picture posts also perform better than video posts.

So content that are not consistent with this algorithm often stand out to marketers, as it means there is likely some form of doctoring, whether via legitimate or not so legitimate means, unless it had gone viral.

Whatever I just shared is based on algorithms built into instagram, which isn’t secret. It isn’t biblical truth, so it may evolve again in the future.

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Samantha Low, a Sport Singapore ambassador, presents on a LIVE show.           File photo: Nick Lye, SportSG

Dream big, but be realistic 

Unless you are a mega celebrity, your followers-to-following ratio is very unlikely to be astronomical if you are an influencer who primarily has a local following.

The growth of your local followers will plateau off at some point, particularly in a small country like Singapore. Not everybody will be interested in you or your content; and the opposite is also true – just because somebody doesn’t “follow” you on instagram, doesn’t mean they are not following you.

Also read – Influencers vs Ambassadors vs Advocates – stop the confusion! 

Many influencers and some celebrities start targeting overseas followers when that happens, so that their follower growth can continue. I don’t think that this is necessarily wrong, as many influencers do have legitimate work with overseas brands and audiences.

Demographics that reflect your work

It just needs to be consistent with your line of work. There is something definitely wrong if you promote local brands but hold an audience demographics with the majority following from an overseas country, or one that looks like a map of the United Nations without a focus.

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Celebrating the countdown to National Day 2016 with Wohoo.co influencers Ziyi Kuek and Flora Isabelle.         File photo: Sport Singapore

Is using influencers still an effective marketing strategy? I have my reservations, and have had bad experiences in the past. Isn’t it just fluff and fancy gimmicks to catch the public’s attention?

(Question asked in reference to a recent social campaign run by an optics brand)

It really depends on what your goals are. If influencer marketing is a route you choose to take, then it would be more effective if the influencers you hire are an accurate reflection of your brand and brand values.

Also, I personally find influencer marketing to be more effective for top of funnel and building brand awareness, but less effective for bottom of funnel marketing.

Longer term influencers in the industry are often termed as brand ambassadors in the industry, and often perceived to be of a higher level of credibility because there is consistency and regular association built over time with a brand.

Also read – Influencers vs Ambassadors vs Advocates – stop the confusion! 

It also helps if they are major fans of your brand already, instead of random influencers from a totally unrelated vertical hired to do a one-off shoutout for you.

The key thing you should be looking out for here is a significant overlap between their follower demographics and your target market, or new markets you are trying to reach. Their engagement rates should also fall between the mid to high range.

(see preceding article on “what is a good engagement rate on instagram?)

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National hockey player Laura Tan, seen here being interviewed by journalists at Sengkang Hockey Stadium for an online feature.          File photo: Sport Singapore

Understand your needs

Businesses need to have a thorough understanding of their own needs before looking to influencers or any other marketing tool for help. Even great influencers with high reach and good engagement, but have influence in an irrelavant demographic to your market, will not get you your desired outcome. A business cannot blame influencers if they didn’t do their own homework first.

And your marketing strategy should never hinge purely on influencers, nor should you hire influencers simply for a quick shoutout for your product because it is in trend. That never works.

Tell your unique story

In order for your brand to reach top-of-mind recall eventually, the use of effective storytelling with an emphasis on your brand values is always more critical than the mere amplification of any single message, though these should never be thought of as separate, or as a linear process.

Read – 3 simple steps to create a powerful brand strategy people love

Do read former Team Singapore rugby player Chua Yini’s article in this link above on brand storytelling which I personally find insightful for start-ups who are still defining their brand identity; a process I am familiar with having started a business before with my cousin some years back.

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The adidas runners initiative, or AR, is one example which I consider a successful use of both celebrity and micro-influencers, done on an international scale. Campaign mechanics also involve online-to-offline, and back to online engagement, thus closing the loop.         Photo credit: Aik Soon, adidasSG

How do I improve engagement?

Treat your followers as real people, not just another statistic

I am equally guilty of not being mindful enough of this at times, but we must never forget this and cheapen influencership.

When your account or business starts to gain traction online, you will understandably need to deal with a larger number of interactions. And on some days you may find yourself overwhelmed if you also have other work to deal with, and it is very tempting to just ignore people.

Don’t lose your loyal fans

While creating space for yourself and your personal life should be a top priority and is always a good thing, ignoring people for no rhyme or reason will lead to you losing real and good people over time.

So even if it takes you much longer to reply, do your best to give a simple one when your time frees up. That being said, you should not tolerate abuse or harassment, and such cases warrant blocking or reporting without you needing to feel guilty.

Authenticity in your endorsements

Instead of taking on just any product that is thrown your way, discern if it’s something you actually believe in and have tried.

If it’s just something meant to boost your own ego over competitors, your followers will be able to pick it up. And that post will sub-communicate: “I need this thing in order to get recognised. This post is about me, notice me.” It won’t tell your audience much about the actual product, or your partnership with that brand.

And bear in mind that while having a handful of endorsements may build perceived value through social proofing, having too many endorsements has the opposite effect and will make you look fake, inauthentic and cheap.

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Men’s national singles tennis player and Sport Singapore ambassador Shaheed Alam, managed by ONE Management, in last year’s filming for Singapore Tennis Festival, held in conjunction with the WTA Finals Singapore.       File photo: Sport Singapore

Stay away from scripted captions

If the brand hiring you insists on using their caption instead of giving you the freedom to express your own opinion, politely turn them down.

This may be seen by some as obvious, yet many influencers who are desperate for endorsements will agree to almost anything. While it may be short term disappointment by rejecting, you get to keep your integrity and build your credibility this way.

It also demonstrates that you are someone of high value, and that one lost opportunity is inconsequential to you. This actually frees up time and space and will attract more like-minded partnerships to you further down the road.

Myth Buster #1: All captions must be kept short

It is a myth that all instagram post captions need to be kept as short as possible. While having good visuals to capture attention is always highly recommended, try alternating your captions to build different emotions within your audience that relates to the mood that you or your brand is feeling at that point of posting.

That being said, do not post a lengthy phD thesis either, and do break up your lines for easier reading if it is on the longer than shorter side.

Myth Buster #2: Losing followers is always bad

Spam and irrelavant accounts exists in all public accounts like I said earlier, whether they are bought or passively following you. Which is why performing regular clean-ups is a very healthy practise, though most won’t do it because they are afraid that losing followers gives people a bad impression of themselves.

Obsession with follower count will lead you to pegging your own value or self-worth to your online follower count – which makes you unfree to act; or to tap into your maximum real influence. Having too big a percentage of spam accounts can seriously affect your organic reach, and therefore give you a much poorer engagement rate.

Tidying up your account also helps you to carve out a more targeted demographic. This will benefit both yourself and potential clients in the longer run; as you will clearly know what you want and what you can offer.

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Team Nila volunteers Jannah and Randall at a photo shoot last year. The latter is an avid citizen athlete who competes regularly in marathons.              File photo: Sport Singapore

Bring your brand personality to life

An equally important step to improving engagement is to bring your brand’s personality onto your page. Many think of this as simply taking nice or professional pictures and cool videos, or making them visually appealing by stringing them together in a row.

While this might work for some, it won’t work for most cases. The style on your page has to be a representation of you, not someone else. So instead of copying others, be unique. Learning best practices from others is different from copying their style.

Good engagers and communicators have the skill to effectively carry their tone of voice and stamp their personality onto their page consistently, to get their audience involved as part of the story telling process.

Know your audience

Spare some time to listen to those who engage with you the most, and take note of what they have to say to improve your content. Constructive feedback are not personal attacks, they are meant to mould you into becoming an even better version of yourself.

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Eleven Sports TV presenter Duncan Elias in last year’s myActiveSG Festive Challenge: Battle of the Sexes edition.                 File Photo: Sport Singapore

As always, I welcome interested parties, be it fellow content creators, businesses, schools or students with ideas, to connect with me through my LinkedIn or Instagram.

Depending on the nature of your collaboration request, I might surface this to our other Sport Singapore ambassadors if I deem that they are a better fit (just as I have in the past).

If you are more interested in direct content partnerships with Sport Singapore on Sport Singapore’s online platforms, we can also arrange for a chat to determine suitability when I am back from my sabbatical in June.

Do keep a lookout for season 2 of our Sport Singapore ambassadors in the coming months! There are quite a few new faces joining our team, so it is exciting times ahead!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lombok: Chasing sea turtles, walking beneath waterfalls

Hey, everybody. Can’t believe this is only my second travel blog entry after last year’s maiden Vietnam trip post. If you haven’t read it, you can read that particular post here.

Most of my previous posts were all reflections or on filming or work-related, so I’m not exactly the best versed at travel blogging. So do be kind!

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Flower petals floating along the water.

This was a much needed getaway for me after an intense period of work and self-searching for what has felt like an eternity. My personal therapist and close friends have also shared that I looked visibly drained in recent months.

I guess the fact that I’ve had to contend with discernments in both my professional and personal life has exacerbated the process, and made this trip all the more a necessity ahead of the craziness that lies ahead.

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A view of Lombok from the speedboat, en route to Gili islands.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Lombok is an incredibly beautiful island, filled with lush greenery and surrounded by crystal clear blue waters. I feel it is way under-rated when placed in comparison to its more famous and illustrious cousin, Bali. Oh, and did I mention that it is a lot more affordable as well?

Being able to speak the language does help me a lot of course, me being half-Indonesian from my mother’s side of the family. But even without this benefit, getting around is not too difficult particularly when the locals are all really friendly.

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Gili Trawangan, the most commercialised and populated of the three Gili islands.

There is much more to Lombok than what I actually came here to experience this time, with trekking on Mount Rinjani, the second highest volcano in Indonesia, a popular choice – usually 3 days 2 nights from what I heard. This includes a stop at the lake after catching the sunrise on the summit.

But I decided to give it a miss this time. I came here to recharge and refresh, thank you, not to kill myself! There are also plenty of other hidden gems on this island as well, some of which you can read here. Thank you Serene for the link for research. 🙂

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Local indonesian cuisines are delicious, albeit a little too small in portion.

Food wise, Lombok offers a good balance of local and western cuisine mainly. Food quality is great of course, you seldom go wrong with Indonesian cooking. 🙂 Price wise it is also very affordable, although it does get slightly pricier at touristy spots such as Gili Trawangan.

Snorkeling at Gili Islands

After spending a full first day at the hotel doing practically nothing (I needed this), and a full body and facial massage, the second day was brimming with activity with my visit to the Gili Island archipelago: Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air. Thank you Sol for the recommendation!

Crystal clear blue waters of Gili Islands
Crystal clear blue waters surrounding the Gili Islands archipelago.

I’ve never been the best of swimmers but somehow seeing how beautiful the waters were I just felt it would be a total waste to come here and not experience the snorkeling. So it was a full day of snorkeling off all three islands, with lunch in between.

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On the lookout for sea turtles while snorkeling at Gili Islands.

Apart from some beautiful corals and sea life, chasing sea turtles was certainly my highlight of the day.  I also learnt that sea turtles are solitary creatures, much like introverts like some of my friends and family (hur hur) – so they aren’t usually spotted where there is a big crowd.

You can watch my underwater experience in the video embedded here.

This meant we needed to travel to deeper waters and more remote spots, but our effort wasn’t wasted and I managed to spot five sea turtles in the end, all floating around lazily like they didn’t have a care in the world. Such freedom! I am envious.

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Children playing under the Senang Gile Waterfall.

Sendang Gile and Tiu Kelep Waterfalls

After a night’s rest, the second day was spent on a mini trek through the monkey forest to visit two of the waterfalls on Lombok. There are others, but these two were relatively near each other – Sendang Gile and Tiu Kelep.

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Monkey business in the rainforest.

Apart from Niagara Falls which I’ve been to several times during my six-year stay in Canada, I have actually never been to any other major waterfalls of note before, let alone to have had the chance to play in one. The one in my mom’s garden doesn’t count!

So let’s just say this was one unforgettable experience for me even though I was travelling alone.

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My first experience playing at a waterfall. An unforgettable one.

I even made a couple of local friends with the kids and guides along the way. Of the two falls, Tiu Kelep is the more impressive falls for me.

There is nothing that beats the feeling of standing under a waterfall and letting the cool pounding water run all over your body like a free massage and shower. Alright, maybe more cold than cool, but your body feels warm immediately after that.

You can see how much I enjoyed myself in the video embedded here.

I strongly recommend those who haven’t made a visit to these falls before to do so at some point.

The final day in Lombok was spent winding down again, learning to be still and at peace with myself and appreciating the quietness. I am really starting to enjoy the moments of stillness I get these days. My senses are heightened whenever that happens. And those moments feel so full.

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Quiet mornings at Senggigi, Kebun Villas and Resort.

I don’t know if you guys know what I mean: there are moments in our lives when we are surrounded by many people yet feel alone, but this is the total opposite. To be surrounded by no one, yet to feel so full, so appreciated. So loved.

Anyway, it’s back to work on Monday. And here’s praying that I will be mindful in my dealings with people, to be fully present, and to bring this fullness into each moment I have at work to allow those around me to share in this fullness and love.

This is JY7, signing off.

Redefining influence: Empowering lives through storytelling in sport

I have to admit I was pretty sceptical of influencer marketing at first. Being someone who’s had to work with social marketing agencies and various influencer networks over the years, I’ve always felt it was a mere numbers game and that it is difficult to establish actual authentic meaningful engagement.

That beyond short-term successes with impressive numbers on a report card there is little to substantiate long-term efficacy since campaign tactics that are used are often short-term, and tied closely to a given product’s life cycle.

Also Read: SportSG’s announcement of the Sport Ambassador & Influencer initiative here

So it was hugely ironic that when I was tasked with our Content Lab@Sport team to look into developing a more sustainable model for SportSG’s content strategy over the next 5 years, given our limited resources, that we ultimately arrived back at the word ‘influencer’.

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Finalising the legal paperwork. Kerstin and Samantha pose with their contracts after signing on for the first term of the initiative.

But this is not to be defined in the same breadth as modern day influencership as I mentioned above. Though given the inter-twining and social nature of our work, it is impossible to totally disassociate ourselves from it either.

The key then lies in marrying the two, and redefining what influence actually meant for us here at SportSG. This was an opportunity for us to reframe “influencership” and to chart our own path in the right direction.

We also knew from studies of consumer behaviour, that people hated to be advertised to these days, so we were intent on breaking away from in-your-face marketing tactics and explore a more subtle yet authentic approach.

Also Read: Harbans J Singh’s Thought Leadership piece ‘From awareness to advocacy’ regarding this Sport Ambassador and Influencer initiative here

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myActiveSG show hosts and presenters. Photo: Emmanuel Chiang

How then could we best create and harness the kind of influencers that align with our vision to produce fun, entertaining, and engaging content for our audiences? Content that is compelling enough to spark the kind of purposeful online conversations we are actually looking for, in order to bring the Vision2030 narrative to life? This, taking into consideration the multitude of operational and situational factors that are always at play.

I am thankful that over the past 12 months, with the help of our agency Gyro in co-conceptualising this framework, we are finally able to start the ball rolling with the first run of this initiative. It is a first-in-public sector attempt, so we are only right to be cautious. But as they say, without risks there can be no innovation.

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Team Singapore represent. Photo: Emmanuel Chiang

Selecting the people who are the right fit to be our storytellers proved way more challenging than we first thought. The process included careful study of each potential candidate’s social profiles with our agency, sometimes for months, before mapping them onto our forecasted initiatives and their projected roll-outs.

And what of our choice of sport ambassadors and influencers? What do we deem to be more critical than things like number of followers, reach, and having a camera-friendly face? To me it’s pretty straightforward: a heart of service, a compelling personality, an aptitude for sparking online engagement, and the right values to become our living brands.

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Laura all smiles for the camera as she is happy that she isn’t standing beside ‘Jonathan’. I kid. She is mean but not that mean. Photo: Emmanuel Chiang

We wanted people who shared in our common belief, and want to use their influence for something that is greater than themselves. Not the ones who constantly asked us what’s in it for them.

Which is why even though some of our first batch of candidates may not arrive with a follower-count of jaw-dropping proportions (a couple of them intentionally do not wish to grow their following), but it matters little to us; as our true interest lie in the quality of organic online conversations they bring to their existing communities, and the ripple effects that come after.

This I believe, matters much more than follower-count and impressive numbers of likes which those who are less digitally savvy or clued-in are typically more drawn to or buy-in to at first.

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Our two beloved sport volunteers from Team Nila. I am hopeful we will meet more of such cool volunteers in subsequent runs of this initiative. Photo: Emmanuel Chiang

There are afterall plenty of opportunities for us to work with our ambassadors regularly on our shows and platforms for their exposure to the masses eventually, where numbers and public awareness of who they are is concerned.

And so I look forward to working closely with this team, and God-willing if I stay in the same role, with subsequent batches that come later on as well. To creatively storytell together and produce good content for SportSG’s platforms.

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Candid shot while waiting for a group photo to be taken. Photo: Emmanuel Chiang

All our Facebook LIVEs, Sport 101s, Reality Series game shows, short films, promotional and teaser videos, blog posts, and lifestyle feature content can now finally start to make sense to those who previously may not have known the background and true purpose of our work.

They are, each and every one of them, necessary pieces of a much bigger jigsaw. An integral part of a deliberately thought-out content strategy, and not just random calls we make for event coverage or ad-hoc activations as a means to profile ourselves.

Those who have truly seen our real work behind-the-scenes will know just how difficult it is to be part of any single activation, let alone to orchestrate and chart multiple journey threads and customised narratives across all our events and initiatives such that they all make sense for the public.

Not that I am complaining, as it is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had to see the fruits of our labour finally fall into place. We do hope that the sacrifices that are made today can eventually help SportSG reap the benefits in the medium to longer term.

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Camera taking a photo of another camera taking a photo. Photo: Emmanuel Chiang

For now it’s off to Lombok for me for the next few days. Time to spend some much needed quality time alone with myself and our divine creator, whom I have neglected amidst the busyness.

Work for now, can wait.