The second webinar of the Sunway University Orientation Quadbinars series was held on Friday, 26th February, from 8-9:00 pm on Zoom. Wei Ting Lim, co-founder and CSO of Quadby, hosted the session. Joined by guest speakers Hubert Lee (@hubertceo), Edward Lauh (@zenlauh), and Moses Wong (@moseswck), Malaysian TikTokers who have made a name for themselves on social media. Also present were Quadby members from other universities, such as UPM, MMU, and the University of Nottingham Malaysia, to discuss the overarching question, “Famous for what?”
On an ever growing platform saturated with up-and-coming personalities, what is it about these three Malaysian TikTok celebrities that has captured the attention of their audiences? To begin with, Hubert, founder and CEO of Quadby who recently became verified on TikTok, said he wouldn’t consider himself “famous”, as the term feels awkward to him, but, instead, “well-known”. After receiving a sudden spike of 1 million views on a single TikTok overnight, he went on to become most well-known for his ongoing Rich Dad Series. Hubert stars as both the son and the rich dad who spends his fortune over-generously (and ironically), all in the best interest and to the bewilderment of his son. Its popularity has prompted him to capitalise and spend the most time on it, now comprising over 40 episodes with almost 50 million views combined. Aside from TikTok, he is also known for his start-up work, business competitions and pitches, and investor relations.
As opposed to Hubert, Edward’s popularity did not take off overnight, but has been climbing gradually. His content focuses on Malaysian-based sentiments that his viewers, most of which are Malaysian and Singaporean, can relate to. He started his TikTok journey in October 2019, fresh after completing SPM and loaded with SPM jokes, and has since surpassed 160K followers while being a student at Sunway. Although he does have a substantial following from the US, he thinks his Malaysian content made him famous, particularly the Ah Beng persona he takes on in skits. On top of that, he displays his passionate acting in parodies of TVB Hong Kong dramas.
Meanwhile, Moses said he became known for Google translating, as a “banana” who doesn’t speak Chinese. His use of incorrect or sometimes profane words caused by poor translations provide comedic relief that his largely Malaysian audience can identify with. A Sunway alumni and current digital designer, Moses started his TikTok journey in February 2020 and now has over 388K followers.
The three accounts have a cumulative following of over 1.8 million. Wei Ting proposed the question of how they garnered these followers or, in other words, how they grew their account. Moses had no explanation for his growth except that he simply posts what he likes and therefore has the passion to keep creating for. He advised to not allow trends or viral topics dictate the direction of one’s content, as he himself doesn’t often follow the trends unless he relates to the humour or it is within his niche.
Certainly, Edward said that finding one’s niche is important as well as being consistent in posting. He tries to post at least once a day and stay centred on local content, which he knows best and he knows that his audiences enjoy and follow him for.
Hubert added that in order to know what his own audience enjoys, he implemented A/B testing. As an analytical person, he believes that there is a formula to success. Until a recent TikTok update that changed the algorithm, Hubert found that one needed to post at the optimal timing in order to have the best first-hour performance, which, in turn, affects its trajectory for success. Besides, he takes into consideration language, editing methods, and having a consistent momentum for his series. After weeks of experimentation, Hubert concluded that posting at 1PM worked best for him.
The title “influencer” has varied meanings for different people. Wei Ting asked whether the penalists consider themselves as influencers and, if so, what they think they are actually influencing people on. Moses doesn’t like the idea of being called an influencer nor TikToker because he doesn’t believe he is truly influencing people to behave in certain ways or adopt certain habits. He only accepts being called a “content creator” because his intention since the beginning has been to humour and entertain through his TikToks.
Edward, on the other hand, doesn’t necessarily mind people calling him an influencer or TikToker, but he, too, prefers the term “content creator”. This stance results from the negative connotations that the term “influencer” has collected online. Over the years, many social media influencers have been called out as problematic or reduced to the idea that they have no real talent or hard work to testify to their popularity. It has almost been another way to say that their influence is not legitimate. Edward didn’t want to get jumbled up in that mess. He merely intends to provide content that people can scroll through during their free time, more like an entertainer.
For Hubert, what started out as a means to express himself and create fun videos to “scold” people during the onset of the first MCO, ended up with his popularity skyrocketing, so much so that he has experienced fans going out of their way to get photos with him in real life. Even with his mask on in public, a fan recognised Hubert and ran over from a distance, calling out to him as “Rich Dad”. Another time, a child was staring at Hubert but too shy to speak to him herself so her dad asked on her behalf whether Hubert was in fact “Rich Dad” and if his daughter could take a photo with him. With that, came the realisation that he has a sense of responsibility to uphold. Indeed, while one may reject the title of an influencer, there is still an influencing power of a content creator. Younger audiences, especially, may come across Hubert’s profile and look at the verification symbol as an indicator of credibility. In this regard, and along with being an entrepreneur and founder of a company, Hubert believes he has a responsibility to instill values into the community, his teams, and families. The content he puts out in some ways ties back to what values he wants to convey. Ultimately, he wants to “avoid toxicity and don’t start toxicity”.
One major thing the three have in common is that they enjoy producing humorous content. In doing so, what are the values they find? For Edward, there is value in being able to spread happiness. He is consoled by the thought of someone’s rough day being turned around or made a little better after watching his TikToks. Similarly, Moses finds value in making people smile. Compliments based on physical appearances are nice but what really keeps him going are the compliments on his personality.
Hubert’s values come under two umbrellas: for the community and for the company. In these unpredictable and even scary times, he thinks the three of them are articulating what makes them happy into content for other people to be happy. As for the community, his biggest value is in making someone’s day. The impression of a TikTok is reflected by its views, likes, and comments. These data are useful for Hubert to show investors in the form of statistics to prove that there is value in doing what he does on TikTok – that it isn’t something he’s just wasting time on; there is an audience interested in what he has to share. He once faced difficulties in forming collaborations for his startup business but, after his rise on TikTok, he would receive more requests, immediate replies, and offers to judge startup competitions, among other opportunities. It has come to a point where this generation no longer cares about how much press or publicity one gets, but rather if one is famous on social media.
Moving onto audience questions, the panel was asked to share tips on how to actually start in the content creator field. Moses said to have no expectations. It isn’t advisable to start out with goals concerning followers or likes. “Do what you want, no matter how cringey or crappy.” Edward agreed and said that one should have fun while being genuine. If one puts on a mask and puts out content that is forced or not true to themself, audiences will eventually see through that.
Hubert voiced that if one is looking for a word of encouragement to start, then they should rethink their purpose. He believes it’s unlikely that anyone would take the initiative to encourage others into starting on TikTok, of all places. In this day and age, many like to seek external validation. However, the choice and power lies in one’s own hands and boils down to whether they dare to delve into it. So, “just whip out your phone and start shooting!”
All of them laughed over how embarrassing or weird their first TikToks were. Moses recalled that, in the beginning, his friends used to ask him why he was making TikToks and thought it was something silly for kids. Nowadays, the same friends ask him to help promote their Instagram shops. This led Hubert to say that every platform has an evolution. Youtube, for instance, launched as a video dating site. Moreover, Twitter, which has 192 million daily active users worldwide as of 2021, started out as an “elite” platform in Silicon Valley. TikTok, once seen as a platform for underage children to dance, is no longer just that. Now, there are a plethora of niches and channels, ranging from comedy, to fashion, language translation, and self-care. Hubert remarked that for the first time ever, through TikTok, one can learn how to cook a meal in under one minute. Just as Douyin, the original/Chinese version of TikTok, started as an educational platform, there is also an educational niche and TikTok’s own EduTok initiative. The platform continues to evolve.
Wei Ting vouched that when she was introduced to TikTok, her first impression was along the lines of, “Why should I download this app for dancing?” Subsequently, Hubert had changed her perception and she is now an active user on the app, where she enjoys comedic content such as Hubert’s, Edward’s, and Moses’, in addition to cooking/baking TikToks.
All of them have full time commitments to juggle outside of TikTok so how do they manage it? Edward admits that he is not super diligent as a student but tries to stay motivated by having a routine. During the MCOs, he’d spend more time than ever at home, which can get dull; thus, he made it his routine to get up, go to class, and spend his lunch times brainstorming ideas for his TikToks. If there is free time left, he would shoot those ideas immediately. Often he shoots his videos in the afternoon and posts at night. By having this routine, he doesn’t find his studies too hard to juggle. It boils down to time management and self-discipline.
Moses and Hubert concurred. Working from home, Moses uses his lunchtimes to shoot one or two videos. If he has posted one of those TikToks today, then he would post the other the next day or add this to the queue. Filming videos ahead of time for another day is what he calls an investment. Hubert highlighted that juggling his company and fundraising meant having less sleep. He likes to ensure that his “18-hour work day” is not disrupted and, with this mindset, prioritises the things he can do less so as to be more productive. For him, this meant that work trumps shuteye. Some days he runs on just 3-4 hours of sleep. If he slept at 11PM and woke up at 9AM, he would feel that time has been wasted.
To wrap up the seminar, Moses and Edward reiterated some final pieces of advice for the participants to take away with them. Even though they were relating to content creation, their words of advice could easily be applied to other aspects of life. Moses said it may be cliché but, “Just do it. Who’s going to stop you but yourself?” Edward concluded with, “Don’t seek validation from everyone. You could be the most friendly, rich, handsome person, but someone can always find a way to talk bad about you.” Hence, instead of spending time worrying about what others think, one should spend time on becoming the best version of themself. Accordingly, one can better understand what they want or need and then set out to achieve it for themself.
The webinar ended after a virtual group photo with all the Zoom meeting participants and a nudge for everyone to download Quadby, a student community app that allows one to find like-minded individuals and chat with anyone on campus to better network with fellow students online. Now is the best time to join!
By: Michelle Cheong