Young Upstarts

All about entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, ideas, innovation, and small business.

Penn Olson on Social Media and Marketing

Willis Wee and Sarah Chong, at first glance, look like your typical non-descript young Singapore Management University (SMU) undergraduates. Which they are, of course. But what people may not realize is that the two are the brains behind highly-influential Singapore-based social media and marketing blog Penn Olson, read by marketing practitioners from all around the region.

Yes, you heard right. Seasoned marketing professionals listening to two kids who haven’t yet graduated from school. Sure it’s no Mashable – yet – but at over 100,000 page views a month it’s still an impressive feat.

Willis, a third-year undergraduate at SMU who is interested in marketing, advertising, public relations and business development, blogs at Penn Olson and consults on social media and marketing for businesses while juggling schoolwork. Sarah is likewise a final-year student in the same university studying economics and business management whose passion lies in marketing. “Seeing and learning how businesses create, promote and sell their business excite me,” Sarah says. “It has been a privilege to do what I do, and to be able to observe and move with the changing consumer trends.”

First started in July 2009, the site targets readers who are into marketing, advertising, PR, and how technology, research and concepts can be used to improve business. Willis and Sarah were exposed to the power of social media last year, and became very interested in its potential in marketing.

Relevant topics around the social media and digital marketing spaces such as social media could be your business’ most valuable asset and how the world spends its time online is a key draw for marketing practitioners. “We’re fascinated by the way how some early adopters are using social media in marketing, and the power of the digital community,” Willis explains. “So, we thought we could contribute to the web by blogging our ideas and findings on how social media has or can change the way marketers promote their products.”

Both admit that they blog for passion – there’s no current business model. “But of course to maintain the blog – and (make) some pocket money – we do sell ad spaces, conduct talks and consult for other businesses,” says Willis, who adds that they’ve spoken at various events (for National University of Singapore, HP and 3M) and worked professionally on The Singapore Airshow as well as some other projects which he declines to name.

Of course, it helps that Penn Olson does build their credibility and expand their network of contacts in this space – they recently got a shoutout from Edelman Digital, which should help their credibility cause immensely. “We’ll see how Penn Olson grows before making a decision on its business model. For now, it’s all about passion and providing the best tech and marketing content for our readers.”

It’s All About Constant Learning

(Photo credit: Kevin Lee, @inrsoul)

Penn Olson co-founders Willis Wee and Sarah Chong (Photo credit: Kevin Lee, @inrsoul)

Sarah says it is important to remember that social media is merely a tool that has the potential to reach out to millions in a more creative and personal way. “Consumer trends and behavior habits are changing every single second. Whether you are a businessman or an employee, you have to keep up with the latest,” she hastens to add. “Be open and not skeptical about new technologies and ideas. Only then, would our creativity juices flow.”

Willis agrees. “Constant learning is so important. The digital space is evolving so rapidly that what’s relevant months ago isn’t quite the same now. So, as tech-savvy marketers, it’s always good to keep track of what’s hot and what’s not to provide clients with the best marketing solutions.”

“The biggest thing I have learnt not to do is to look at the same tool and say ‘that’s all to it’,” Sarah shares. “Whether it’s blogging or coming up with marketing strategies, we have to be creative and think out-of-the-box.”

“Don’t set limits. The first person who can get that good idea out wins, and the person who can use the same overused tool and create great new ideas wins big.”

Daniel Goh is the founder and chief editor of Young | Upstarts, as well as an F&B entrepreneur. Daniel has a background in public relations, and is interested in issues in entrepreneurship, small business, marketing, public relations and the online space. He can be reached at daniel [at] youngupstarts [dot] com.

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