… is maybe the title of my next book, if there’s ever another one.
Now that we have entered 2021, I have been creating content for 17 years now. I repeat this every single year, but I still don’t know how anyone manages to keep up with social media, with all that is happening.
Sourcing content and maintaining Instagram alone has kept me busy enough, for I will have to visit new destinations, take non-shitty photos so that it could be edited to a decent level, churn out captions, and at the same time be impromptu to allow a curious peek of a tiny part of my private life on Story and mix things up a little with Reels to kiss Zuck’s ass so he doesn’t kill my engagement and also force myself to conquer my fear of public speaking by going Live once in a while… Also, does anyone even use this new Guide feature?
And ALL of these, is just Instagram alone. ALL OF THESE.
Now let’s look at people who also spend time replying Facebook messengers, making consistent TikTok videos,
retweeting funny memes (okay Twitter is dead), go out when lockdown is over so one can stream live on Twitch, spend a whole life time editing Youtube videos and… spending sleepless nights debating on ClubHouse wtf?
Sorry but I need like fifty more Cheesies. And even if I have that many clones I’ll probably just station each of them at different prefectures to enjoy local onsen on behalf of me instead of being Zuck’s slaves…
Oh wait. I totally forgot about blogs… too. (I genuinely did, even though I am typing in one right now.) Well I love how its lack of presence and importance is so self-explanatory.
I don’t really have a massive update worthy of a blog article, to be honest. And I consider it a good thing. However recently I did an interview with Clozette, about “veteran influencer” (oh I absolutely love how that sounds very battle-worn), which made me rethink a lot about my current position as a content creator. And I thought I would share my full reply as a filler and half-arse apology for my chronic lack of presence here.
In the content creation industry, you’re someone who needs no introduction. But what’s something people would still be surprised to learn about you?
Thank you so much for your kind words. I guess it would be that I couldn’t speak any English before I graduated from secondary school. I was Chinese-educated all the way and English was mostly self-learned. Until today I still frequently makes silly grammar misstakes! I also speak Japanese now and all my languages are “half bucket water” so you can expect super rojak conversations from me.
When did you start creating content? On what platform did you start?
Oh boy if we really are going back that far, I’d say it was xanga back in 2004, which the current generation probably have never heard of! I started off as a “blogger” (basically just someone who accidentally created a blog in her computer lab), experimenting on all kinds of platforms until I settled down with my domain, cheeserland.com. Ok thanks for making me sound ancient.
Tell us about your content creation firsts:
Your first blog entry?
9 Sep 2004 September. Probably a rant about a bad school day and too much assignments… (Okay I just checked. It’s about my first car and something cheesy.)
Your first Instagram post?
2011 November. Don’t make me scroll all the way back! A dear friend who was ahead of me in terms of boarding the hype train made me create an Instagram account. It was back when selfies were cool.
Your first partnership?
5 April, 2007. It was, ironically, an advertorial for a blog advertising agency. It was an era where I got paid to tell people you can actually earn money from blogging.
Why did you start to create content?
I am the only child. There was no siblings for me to pull each other’s hair with so I poured all my emotions to my diary since I was 9. It was just a transition from written chronicles to an online journal.
Was becoming an influencer/content creator something planned and intentional? Or was it something that just organically happened?
I totally did not in my wildest dreams think that my internet rants would take me this far. I did think I would like to one day become somewhat of a writer/author when I was writing “My Ambition” essay in primary school. Influencer/content creator wasn’t even a thing back then, so this was completely unexpected.
At what point in your career did you realise that you could make a living out of being a content creator? What were your fears about trailblazing a new career path in an industry that’s still in its infancy?
I didn’t even have time to think about that, it happened and grew so quickly just like any other new industry. As there were not many of us back then, I was one of the first batch of bloggers (back then) in Southeast Asia who were making this a full time career. You could call it the pioneer’s privilege.
When did you start noticing your audience really picking up? In your opinion, what are the things that you did right in order to be where you are now? What are some things behind the scenes that people don’t usually see?
Across all these years I was asked countless of times what is my secret of building such a large audience. In all honesty, I thought of it as nothing else but pure dumb luck and stubbornness. If my starting point was not exactly where it was, I would have been nothing. It was all Goldilocks for me. The timing was right, so the first generation of bloggers thrived. However at some point many of us went on to pursue something else in life. I was one of the very few who was too stubborn and clueless to look anywhere else.
Please share the moment you realised that you’ve become internet famous. Did you feel a sense of pressure from having a growing platform? If so, how did you deal with it?
When I appeared on a national TV program in Japan, I knew that this wasn’t just my imagination. Internet fame is however extremely volatile, it could vanish in a blink especially when you are big on platforms that aren’t actually yours. Although many acknowledge that I am somewhat of an online personality, and I truly appreciate that, deep down I know that I am but a mere normal person just like everyone else. Until today I can’t help but sometime struggle with imposter syndrome – that my “fame” is entirely made up and that I have no real talents (except I probably love Japan a little more than most people).
(Wow that was… 10 years ago.)
Did people start to treat you differently when you became famous on the internet? How did it affect your self-esteem and outlook in life?
To many people’s surprise, I am an extreme introvert. My personal life still remains largely private so internet fame does not really affect me in real life, especially in 2021 when pretty much everyone around you also has some sort of online presence. It really isn’t so much of big deal. I see it more of that I am part of a large community where everyone contributes something useful for someone else.
What are the biggest advantages and disadvantages of being a popular veteran content creator?
Advantages – my brand is built, and I have stable relationships with many long term clients based on good trust. Also, many of my new clients are actually my readers/followers who have been with me since more than a decade ago, who now graduated from school and went into marketing. They already know my work so that makes things a lot smoother.
Disadvantages – to strike a balance between boarding the hype train and sticking to what you do best. For example, I am very adamant about telling stories through my words especially when it comes to promoting destinations. However it may not work so well with fast-paced, visual-centric, bite-size social media channels such as Instagram and TikTok… more so if paired with audience’s short attention span.
Over the years that you’ve been a content creator, what are the things that you learned about yourself and your creative process?
One thing is for sure – you can lie to the whole world but you cannot lie to yourself. I believe that the only reason why I am still blogging and creating content today is that my work is not entirely motivated by monetary rewards, but that I genuinely want to share what I truly love with the world – Japan. Having more people share my love for Japan is the biggest reward for me. It is my ikigai. I know it for sure that even if I cannot monetize my content anymore, I will still do it for as long as I can. I think that’s true love. You can’t beat true love. Haha.
What are some interpersonal skills that you’ve developed as a content creator?
And you are asking an extreme introvert? Haha. Well, I do mostly everything on my own so it doesn’t help me get any better at social skills, to be honest. If anything it just made me even more socially awkward since I don’t actually have to meet anyone in real life to get things done. But for sure you need to learn how to be sensitive towards the community and understand the needs of your audience through communicating with them frequently.
Content creation is very dynamic. How do you keep up with the changing trends? What is it like to change your main platform from blogging to social media sites (like YouTube, Instagram and TikTok)?
Yes, just as mentioned above, it is still something I have to work on. This old dog is still figuring out new tricks…
As someone who has witnessed the transformation of the industry over time, in what ways is it different now and from what it used to be when you first started?
This community has become so enormous now that whatever one does it is no longer exclusively unique. One definitely needs to work harder to grab the attention since you are competing with literally millions, or even more – creators out there.
(And struggling to have an existence in a clubhouse party and summon the courage to talk to strangers without the assistance of booze.)
One critique of netizens for content creators is that they eventually lose their relatability once they become successful. How do you stay grounded and relatable to your audience?
It is excruciatingly cheesy (like me!) but it is solid gold – be genuine. When my interests change (and they have changed countless of times), I understand that I will lose some audience. But that doesn’t mean I won’t gain new audience who appreciate my new sharing. Just keep doing you. And keep doing a better you.
How do you deal with burnout and the pressure to constantly put out new content?
Are you kidding me? I have not enough space/time/more of me to share ALL the contents I want to! My content is very Japan-centric at the moment and (*shamelessly insert Japan PR*) with Japan, you never, ever, ever run out of content. Ever. I need more lives for that.
(Amount of content I have in my albums.)
Would you want your children to follow your career path?
It’s actually entirely up to them. They can be a rock star or a parasitologist. Who knows what will be in trend next?
(My son wants to be a Kamonegi, apparently.)
What can we expect next from you?
I am definitely trying to add more values to BOTH my clients and my audience by developing better personal skills and better content. It is very rare a career allows you to please both sides, and I am truly grateful for what I am able to do, and I hope people who enjoy my content will stick around a little longer.
Yes, see you guys here, for just a while longer 🙂