#AskMeAnything Series

A few months ago I had the opportunity to share my stories in FuckUp Night KL. I know, the name itself is seemingly obscene and you’re probably assuming it’s some sort of an orgy fest. It’s not like that at all. The event was about failures and screw ups that people had to endure before they became successful. It was a great avenue to connect and interact with people from all walks of life, learn from each other and by the end of the night, you walk away with insightful life learning experiences from successful individuals you may never get elsewhere. It was particularly liberating for me because I was just starting out in building my ideal lifestyle around travel, writing and hockey and be successful living it.

I’d like to give a special shout out to Maverick, who invited me and moderated the session. I had lots of fun!

Last week I decided to relive the same experience again. Except for this time I’m hosting the event on AMA. For those of you not familiar with the acronym, AMA, it means “Ask Me Anything”. It is a live Q&A session I conduct online in AMA feed. The session allows anyone from the travel, location independent and digital media community to post questions to me. The questions were based on topics like travel, social media, email marketing and ice hockey. I had 1 hour to answer the questions. It was awesome and I wanted to share some highlights here.

While all questions I received were amazing, here are the highlights:

Emily Allen – How can companies appeal to millennials through branding?

The most important thing is to have a product for them. It doesn’t really matter if your brand has been around for many years, but if you have a product they will buy, your brand will flourish.

Take Uniworld. Uniworld is a river cruise company that has been around for as long as the millennial’s parents or even grandparents can remember. The bulk of their business is mainly catered to retired elderly or people with money who has all the time in the world to go on holidays. Uniworld fleets have always been catered to them, everything from the way the cruise ships are painted to the interior decor, to the food and beverage and down to the entertainment and activities that are offered while on board. Everything was for them.

Recently, Uniworld decided that they needed to grow their customer base, which means they wanted to still keep the retirees and rich people but they also wanted to have a piece of the millennial pie. So what did they do? They redesigned, renovated and reimagined 2 ships from their fleet for the younger audience. And by that they added, DJ lounges, silent discos, changed the way the whole ship looks, change the sail hours, change the destinations and park ships in the middle of really cool cities so they can hop off and enjoy the night before sailing off the next morning. Even the trips and tours are created for the millennials because we all know, they’re active and constantly moving so they added kayaking, TRX, yoga and lots more.

The entire brand is catered to the millennials. So U by Uniworld will have two ships by 2018 just for a set of customers who’s age is between 18 – 35-year-olds. This age group can range from honeymooners to digital nomads, to fresh graduates looking to travel before entering the workforce. It’s a totally separate brand.

Stewart Tara – How has the internet changed the concept of branding?

I think if anything, the internet has revolutionised the concept of branding through “information at the tip of your finger”. People are now able to find products and services instantly and accurately, all thanks to algorithms.

Then you have websites. Anyone can set up a website for free. You and I conduct research before we decide to purchase anything. So any brand that is not online is missing out on endless supplies of people like us looking to buy their product and services.

Then you have e-commerce, that practically changed buying habits and behaviour of the world’s population. Why? it’s because people get information fast by scrolling through images and prices while sitting at home. People want to make fast and informed decisions without wasting time. Even if they haven’t decided to buy, they now have information and can make decisions later.

Then you have online advertising, which isn’t just limited to websites and search engines. It’s now on social networks, mobile apps, on devices like Kindle, music streaming services like Spotify. And then you have social media, email marketing and analytics.

If you look at all of them, the internet literally embeds brands into daily human lives.

Mark Hinton – What would you change about the game of hockey to increase its popularity?

I wouldn’t change a thing about the game. Its perfect the way it is. Skates, sticks, pucks and ice. That’s hockey.

On that note though, I would love to start an all women’s hockey league here in Malaysia something like CWHL or NWHL and perhaps rave about it on every social media platform, tv, magazines to inform young girls that there is hockey and that girls can play too.

It’d be nice to have a new generation of a much more skilled and talented bunch of girls who loves competing. Our biggest challenge at the moment is ice time. We need more rinks.

Steven Hall – Would you ever gamble on sports, and why or why not? 

I don’t really believe in leaving my financial fate in the hands of someone else. In this case, the athletes. Win or lose, that fate belongs to that athlete and I hate not being able to control it.

Lindsay Anderson – What do you think of the criticism of the violence in hockey?

I think there’s more to it than just violence in hockey. Many people view it as something horrific. Perhaps those who criticise the violence don’t truly understand why there’s violence in hockey in the first place. I use to criticise violence in the game myself but after watching The Ice Guardians (a movie documentary about “enforcers” in hockey teams) I finally understood from a pro player’s perspective why the game is the way it is. It has everything to do with the way our biochemicals in our bodies work i.e. “adrenaline chemicals” when you play, it’s the sense of loyalty and responsibility towards your teammates,  it’s the bread and butter of a player and it’s also a team strategy.

I could definitely relate to all of them, except I’m not paid to play. I play because I love the game. Sure there are times I go a bit crazy too when I play but it’s only because its part of the game. I play to win not to lose. And sometimes a body check I throw to my opponents may seem violent but it really is to inject intimidation to the other team. At the end of the day, a poised, controlled and confident team always has the upper hand in a game.

Micheal Evans – What social media platforms are ideal for brand marketing?

Instagram. There are over 600 million users on Instagram worldwide which means you have an endless supply of people you can reach out to for your brand with a single post. On top of that 85% of the world’s largest brands are on Instagram, so if your brand is not on it, you’re sort of missing the gold rush!

Then there’s Facebook. Facebook is different than Instagram and it obviously doesn’t appeal to the audience the same way. Facebook is the place to share more insightful contents. Photos don’t get as much engagement on Facebook. It may catch someone’s eye, for a while but won’t necessarily equal engagement. Interesting, compelling and useful contents wins every time.

YouTube. It’s obvious. People love videos and interactive contents. You and I both know we can’t live without it. It’s like a library of talking visual content that becomes alive. So yes YouTube.

Sean Smith – How do you make email marketing less spammy?

There’s a few key rules that I set myself for. I make sure to stay away from spam trigger words or phishing phrases such as “don’t delete”, “order”, “cash” or sentences like “no purchase necessary”. These are actually words that could bring your email into recipient spam folders.

I also try to balance my email with text to link and text to image ratio. Spammy emails usually consist of so little texts with lots of links and images. My focus is to use more text content and maybe an image or one link.

Allison Torres – How do you set your price for freelance tasks?

I usually start off by finding out how long clients are looking to work on the project. If it’s just a few weeks, I’ll set price by the hours I’m able to allocate for them. If it’s 3 months or more, I’ll set it on a fixed rate and will still consider the hours I can allocate plus the type of task needed for that project.

Scott Hess – Who are your favourite travel writers, and why?

I love Sarah Marquis, Eric Weiner, and David Greene. I love them because they tell a story that they had experienced in so much detail that I felt I was actually travelling with them.

Martha Wilson – What are some tips for making travel writing compelling?

Always write for readers in mind. Why are you writing? If you want people to read your article or your writing, it has to benefit them as well. In doing so, you don’t need to be too textbook-ish because, at the end of the day, you still want it to be an article that is insightful from your perspective.

Jeffrey46 – Do you have the advice to avoid getting exploited as a content writer?

Know your worth and believe in your expertise and skills. And if you feel a client is only willing to pay you peanuts for quality work, it’s ok to say no and move on. And if you’re not satisfied with something, don’t be afraid to let them know, because there will be clients who are willing to pay you well for the quality content you produce.

Hatim Hazriq Zulkepli – Out of all the countries you’ve been to if you had to pick one to get an award for most scenic, which would it be?

I’d say New Zealand. It’s not just scenic, but it also has some of the wildest climate change, different terrains and environment all in one place. I personally enjoyed Huka Falls, which is located in Taupo (North Island).

Karen Preston – What is your professional opinion of SEO writing?

Blogs or websites is a primary channel where you create awareness about a brand or product. It’s a place that will lead to micro-conversions such as sharing, page views and visits, engagements etc. You need these micro-conversions so your products and services will be at the top of your customer’s mind when they need it and are ready to use them.

Molly Fuller –  What are your tips for dealing with airport security?

If you mean the officers, I say smile, greet and be cool. I’ve never had to deal with bad or scary airport security personnel before except for when I brought back so many clothes from shopping in Thailand. The officers thought I was smuggling clothes to sell. So if you plan to bring back a bunch of clothes cause you happen to be a shopaholic, I’d say spread your clothes by packing them in your friends’ luggage or bag.

Fortunately, they let me go.

If you have any questions you’d like to ask me just like these guys, post your questions on the comment box below and I’ll do my best to answer all of them.

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