Startup Extreme Speaker Spotlight
You have probably heard it before, amidst the general discussion on whether or not new media is better than its traditional counterpart: “Everybody can be a social media star today” — as if opportunity discredits the merits of those who succeed. Because, even more so in 2019 than in 2009 or earlier, you really have to work to find your unique social media brand when there are millions of others trying to “make it” in the online world.
Two people, who in definitive terms can be said to have found their unique brands and businesses online are YouTube creators — and a married couple — Xandria Ooi and Yuri Wong. Ooi, with her subscriber count of more than 613.000 on Facebook and 36.000 on YouTube, has carved out another career as a speaker by making videos on having a positive outlook in life. Formerly a journalist with her own column on life advice in Malaysia, she turned to social media as a way to reach more people and engage with an even bigger audience. Making the move from traditional media to social media, she went a step further to launch a 30-day program for happiness as a way to make her workshops and training accessible to her audience worldwide — an idea her husband gave her.
Before I started making videos, my audience were mainly Malaysians. Less than 10.000 on Facebook. The moment I released my first video, my audience grew 6 times within a week and it just snowballed from there. Not only has the reach grown exponentially with consistent content, my audience has extended and I am connecting with audiences from the US, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Australia, Canada, and more, which is amazing.
Her husband, Yuri Wong, is an award-winning composer and producer who has created music for films, TV, and viral videos that have accumulated more than 100 million views worldwide. He made his way to the creative world of YouTube videos when trying to figure out what makes a successful online business. Wong, an Electrical Engineering and Computer Science graduate, decided on starting his own YouTube channel to see what it would take to become successful on the video-sharing platform. With more than 102.000 subscribers on YouTube as of now, it is safe to say that he found the key to online success.
I’m a music composer by profession and passion, but I’ve always thought of myself as a scientist of content and media, where I would be picking apart the elements of why certain pieces of content work and why others don’t. Since my qualifications are technical in nature, I’ve always looked at online media less in a purely, for want of a better word, ‘creative’ light and more in a problem-solving perspective. In the earlier days of YouTube, I always wondered why some people got more engagement and views than others, and putting on the scientist hat, I looked at the data which was available and made the conclusion that I could do it for myself, so that’s exactly what I did.
Value to the viewer — in the online era
Looking at it from the outside, Ooi and Wong appear to have rather different brands and businesses, even though both are based on YouTube. However, the couple says their channels have a certain something in common — value creation. Wong reveals that optimising what they have is part of the key to their success.
Most definitely — the fact that all the channels we have are focused on delivering value to the viewer, whether it is entertainment, information, connection or inspiration.
Said in a different way: Taking the audience seriously — while also bringing quality content — will get you success sooner or later. Ooi says trust is a vital part of why their businesses keep their subscribers, instead of only having viewers dropping by to check out their videos.
Our content and audiences are vastly different, yet the one thing that we have in common is that our audiences trust us to deliver content that can add value to their lives, whether it’s entertainment or inspiration.
The accessible social media star
In the “old days,” getting “easy access” to celebrities and well-known people was virtually impossible. 15 years ago you could send your fan mail by the postal service, to an address which maybe got you closer to the stars. Today, the situation is very different: Today’s famous people have their own social media accounts — and you can communicate directly with anyone by tagging them on Instagram, messaging them on their Facebook fan page, commenting on a YouTube video, or Tweeting them in a heated debate.
This obviously brings positive feedback literally to the inbox of the person you are trying to reach. However, the criticism also gets easier access: With a few clicks you might have sent a hateful message you in the early 2000s would’ve had to send by the postal service.
Ooi says she mostly receives positive feedback, and that this might be because of the nature of the content she is sharing.
I’m really lucky to have had amazing feedback from my audience — they’re incredibly supportive. When it’s about happiness, I think people are more hesitant to spread negativity — especially when I make videos about that exact topic! The main feedback from my audience is that they’d like a book, which is why I felt compelled to write one — and that they enjoy the daily videos as well as the LIVEchats. I do hour-long live video chats with them twice a week on Facebook.
Connecting with the audiences is a large part of Wong’s and Ooi’s jobs in the online world, but approaching creative ways of communicating can seem daunting even to experienced YouTube creators. Ooi found that being busy “creating amazing things” gives her very little time for thinking about any negative feedback.
When I decided to make a video every single day for 365 days, one of the main concerns (besides time!) was, “Am I going to be able to write something interesting and helpful every day?” Wondering and worrying about this was more stressful than actually doing it so I decided to just do it. As it turns out, when you have to do something, you can get it done. New and fresh topics weren’t a problem to write, to my surprise. The bonus was that when you’re so focused on value and creation and having to just do the work, your focus isn’t on the people who have negative opinions.
Ooi’s new book, “Be Happy Always — Simple Practices for Overcoming Life’s Challenges and Living with Joy Each Day” is now available for pre-order on Amazon and will be released worldwide on the 15th of August 2019.
Wong says most of the feedback he receives ranges from gratitude at his lessons to criticism of any aspects of the work — from funny comments to suggestions on what to create. At the same time, Wong says criticism is to be expected. To him, it is just a matter of what percentage of the audience that will bring about negativity.
My approach to this is to focus even more on serving the value that I bring to the audience that appreciates it. It reflects life, because you can’t please everyone, but you can surely do your best for those that appreciate what you do.
He elaborates further: In the end, good online content comes from serving the audience, not being led by them.
There is this quote that I don’t know is real or not, but I love it. It’s attributed to Henry Ford, the inventor of the modern production line that allowed for many people to own cars. He said: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” To me, that reflects how sometimes people don’t know exactly what they want, but when you make something that creates value for them in some way, they will appreciate it. So I just trust what I make.
Ooi says she tries to implement her own advice when dealing with negativity from subscribers and other viewers. She also puts off time for reflecting upon her own reactions towards the negative feedback.
I’ve always believed in not taking things personally, so every time there’s a negative comment, I get to observe my own ego and feelings towards it. This is great practice! And then I make a video about my observations, so it’s a win-win. The one thing I don’t do, is to respond back negatively — that’s just fanning the fire. I hardly reply to negative comments, unless there is a positive objective to it.
Meeting with problem solvers at Startup Extreme
Wong and Ooi are going to this year’s Startup Extreme — where Wong will be part of a creative panel, and make music/perform during ‘Yuri Makes Music’, and Ooi will be the speaker during ‘Your Own Happiness’. Always looking to connect with “problem solvers,” Wong is excited to meet people who won’t accept a broken status quo.
I’m looking forward to connecting with various minds that love solving problems and looking at life in different perspectives. People who are very much about serving the world in better ways than we currently have. What I love about entrepreneurs is that they’re problem solvers who don’t accept the current solutions that may be broken, underserved or badly designed.
Ooi is looking forward to experiencing the Startup Extreme networking opportunities — which are all about pulling people out of their comfort zones.
I’m excited to connect with dynamic individuals we won’t otherwise get to meet and connect with, as we’re so far away in Malaysia! I think it’s extremely interesting that a Startup convention is organised in such an unconventional way. From the looks of it, it’s set up to take people out of comfort zones — it really encourages the stripping away of everyday concerns that may not matter in the big picture, and focus on value creation instead. I can’t wait to experience it!
A media revolution waiting for its people
But what about the vast majority of us, who at most can get 20–30 Facebook likes on a Facebook post, and a few random likes on a YouTube video? Has the window of opportunity closed before we even realised that it was open — or do we just need to find that really good idea?
Wong says he still sees a world “full of opportunities for evolution and improvement,” and that many people have yet to replace the role “scarce media” (radio/TV, printed magazines etc.) has in their lives. This is particularly true for the older generations, who mostly have yet to fully integrate all the possible digital mediums in their lives. But done right, there are still several opportunities for those seeing a market and potential of improving something — giving way to what Wong calls “unlimited media” (YouTube, podcasts etc.).
The potential of getting more people to watch unlimited media instead of staying faithful to the scarce media is proven by what has already been achieved: Content creation has taken off all over the world — this fascinates Ooi, who has hosted and produced TV and radio for over a decade.
I used to work in “traditional” media, where we are depending on a broadcaster’s platform to showcase our work, interest, or talent. Now, people in the same industry are creating their own platforms for their work to be seen and voices to be heard, and this is a trend that will only escalate to bigger productions where individuals re-invest the money they make into equipment and manpower to create more content that rival “bigger” companies. It’s no longer the biggest that will win, it’s who has deeper permission with the audience.
Seemingly, the revolution of online content creation is still waiting for everyone to join in, even though it is proceeding forward rapidly. With an ever-growing number of teenagers and young adults learning how to harness social media in ways that bring them business potential quite unlike what their parents ever had — the future is bright for anyone who has social media as their second home.
Yuri Wong and Xandria Ooi are coming to Startup Extreme this year, where Ooi will be a speaker, and Wong will perform and be part of a panel. To get your hands on one of the tickets for this year’s event — which entails the opportunity of meeting both Wong and Ooi — go to this link and apply!