Niki Cheong is blogging

10,000 Twitter followers is pretty special

Niki Twittering

If you’ve ever heard any of my talks on digital culture, you would know that Twitter is my social network of choice. There are many reasons for this but one of the main ones is that Twitter has connected me with people that I would never in my life have imagined I’d speak to.

Early this morning, that number hit 10,000 people (not including those that I am following and have spoken to in passing). I’m not one to make a big deal about my social media numbers but even I would admit that 10k followers on Twitter is pretty special. So I thought I’d “commemorate” the occasion with a blog post – to pay tribute to the social network that has in many ways changed my life, and to thank some people who have been with me along the way.

My love affair with Twitter goes back to 2008 when I first signed up for it. For a few months, I experimented with this new “micro-blogging” tool but in Malaysia then, it didn’t have such a huge impact. By the end of the year, however, it had started making waves worldwide and the number of Malaysians who started Twittering was increasing quickly.

By early 2009, it was all the rage, and I had for a while been pushing for R.AGE, the youth section that I was working in, to engage with readers using the platform. At the height of Ashton Kutcher and CNN’s challenge to each other to get more followers (remember that?), the editors at The Star decided that we needed to write about this new platform. I volunteered to do that story, which became a cover story on StarMag, the then-Sunday lifestyle section.

I would say that writing that article was the tipping point. A couple of then-acquaintances (people I had only connected to on Twitter, who I know consider good friends) tweeted about how I had brought Twitter mainstream in Malaysia. It was a big compliment but make no mistake, writing that article led me to great opportunities.

I have since met people who told me that they joined Twitter because of that article. The perk is that many of them, of course, started following me and my profile as a “prolific Twitterer”, as I have been called, escalated. But because many people don’t know how to refer to someone who tweets a lot, I started getting introduced as a blogger and that too, made a huge impact in my life.

It was after that article was published, and people realised the “social influence” that I was perceived to have, that I started getting invited to judge competitions and give talks on social media and journalism. These invitations would keep coming for many years after that, and I have had the privilege of speaking at the same events as a former prime minister, guest lecture at universities and appear as a panelist on talk shows on TV, radio and podcasts. I was even interviewed for a BBC radio show about social media and politics in Malaysia.

Perhaps the most memorable one would be when the PR Association of Malaysia invited Dr Michael Netzley who is based in Singapore to speak, and I was invited give a talk alongside him, and moderate a panel on social media, titled Confessions of a Twitter Addict.

(You can watch the second and third parts here if you like)

That same year – 1999 – I was bestowed some amazing honours: I was one of August Men magazine’s inaugural Men of the Year for Social Networking and Martell VSOP awarded me with Media Personality of the Year (a peer nominated award, which made it extra special). There were a few other accolades after – a dubious Top Twitterer in Malaysia public voting campaign (in which I came in second), being featured in a reality TV shows about the life so bloggers called Project Alpha, another Men of the Year honour from M2 magazine and I was listed by Time Out magazine, alongside my good friends Carmen Soo and Jonson Chong, as one the five Twitterati of Kuala Lumpur. I even won a car in a blogging competition and PayPal even wrote me a song!

KL Twitterati

The best part about this was being able to put my personal experience and knowledge to practice at work, and the R.AGE team worked very hard at making sure we were always engaged on social media. The icing on the cake has got to be the Best in Social Media award we won last year at the Asians Digital Media Awards 2011.

I was also extremely proud of hosting a Pecha Kucha event last year with the British Council where I brought eight people from various industries/backgrounds to talk about how social media has impacted their lives and work.

But for me, it wasn’t all about work and pleasure. One of the strongest appeal of Twitter for me is that it affords the potential to use social media for social good. Some of the campaigns I’m most proud of is being named a Digital Ambassador for the Power over Cervical Cancer campaign (I would continue to work with the National Cancer Society of Malaysia for its Relay for Life event), the #AIDSaware campaign and most significantly, Twestival.

In our first year of organising Twestival KL, me and some friends (a couple of whom I had first met via Twitter) managed to raise over RM11,000 by mobilising the Malaysian Twittersphere for a home for juvenile delinquents in Klang. The year after, I joined the Twestival Global team as the Regional Coordinator for Asia, and continued in that role until the last Twestival event.

My Twitter profile also gave me the opportunities to speak and engage to many young people at various events in the area of youth development, something that I am very passionate about.

As I sit here in London, I wonder how much of my life currently would be what it is if not for the opportunities that have come my way after I joined Twitter. Yes, I put in a lot of hard work over the years as well, and I have had support from an amazing number of people, but I think it would be wrong to deny that Twitter had a big impact in the trajectory of my life.

I can’t thank everyone individually, but I hope that you all know how grateful I am to have you guys with alongside me on this wonderful journey. Thanks for helping me hit the 10,000 mark and I hope that you’ll continue to enjoy the content I create and help move as much as I enjoy the conversations and engagements we have (and will continue to have, I’m sure). I also look forward to learning more each day from all of you, as I have for the past four years.

11.23pm Greenwich Meridian Time

Discussion (4)

There are 4 responses to “10,000 Twitter followers is pretty special”.

  1. What a milestone! Keep it up… I’ve always enjoy reading your Bangsar Boy column… and now the Tales of two cities…

    • Thanks Susan, really appreciate the support. Hope you saw the Tale of Two Cities last week.

      And if you’re on iPad, I’m writing an Olympic City column every Friday!

  2. Let’s do more good cause with your 10k Twitter followers!

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