the frequency a kenny chung blog

September 6th, 2018
according to

So I kinda went viral last night.

Who knew that Tweeting at the President of the United States would be a goldmine for impressions and social engagement?

I saw a bunch of replies to this Tweet in my timeline:

I saw that nobody made the obvious joke. And I had a few minutes to spare, so I whipped up this image and hit “reply”:

Donald Trump Treason Tweet Jeopardy Clue
Link to Tweet

Didn’t expect much from it, but by the end of the night, the Tweet got pretty good engagement:

That’s 71k impressions in a few hours. Not bad for 10 minutes’ work.

I decided to do some sentiment analysis for the replies, and came up with these figures:

  • 36% were positive (mostly variations of “LOL”).
  • 17% were neutral (replies that didn’t make sense, or could’ve been either positive or negative depending on how you read them).
  • 26% were negative.
  • 8% were spam.
  • And 13% were people elaborating or correcting me joke, mostly with the addition of how “Treason?” wasn’t in the correct form of question by Jeopardy standards.

For only 26% negative sentiment, I’d do it again. And you know what? Only one person called me a child molester.

Who knew Twitter could be so civil?

Steve Buscemi Fellow Kids joke on 30 Rock

If you watch 30 Rock religiously, then you’re probably aware of the origins of the “fellow kids” meme that’s been making its rounds on the internet for a few years now. It’s a screengrab from an episode where guest star Steve Buscemi plays a private detective who at some point infiltrated a high school by pretending to be a student:

That joke has taken a life of its own, with reddit at the forefront of proliferating references to it. The term “fellow kids” was adopted as a pejorative shorthand for brands and advertisers trying to relate to millennials using slang or memes (often to cringeworthy results). As of this writing, the subreddit /r/FellowKids has over 62,000 subscribers, this author inclusive.

A few notable examples:

Mountain Dew saying Bae on Twitter

Microsoft handing out shibe doge meme fliers at their Windows 10 Conference

WhatABurger Tweeting dank memes

Sources: reddit, @BrandsSayingBae

Should Your Brand Be Using “Dank Memes”?

The short answer is “no.” The longer answer is “maybe, but only in very rare circumstances”. By definition, memes take a life of their own, and a brand trying to align with that messaging is essentially giving up some creative control. The term “dank memes” is itself a reference to marijuana culture.

When social media “gurus” post memes that they don’t fully understand, not only does it open the brand up for ridicule, but it can also negatively affect brand messaging. And because you can write a textbook and debate for days on the genesis and true meaning of specific memes (KnowYourMeme has created an entire website on trying to crowdsource explanations for them), it’s often safer to just stay away from using memes on brand channels.

One of the most egregious examples of a brand misusing memes is Truth (the anti-smoking coalition). Their latest ad campaigns are chock full of popular memes. Here’s one of their current commercials:

Let’s only briefly touch on the fact that the “it’s a trap” meme is a reference to trolling straight men with photos of women who are later revealed to be transgender. This reinterpretation of the now-famous line from Return of the Jedi originated on 4chan (naturally). It would have literally taken 30 seconds of research for Truth’s creatives to figure out that it was probably not the best tagline to base a campaign around. The rest of the commercial misuses several memes and shoehorns them into their anti-smoking messaging.

Can memes ever be used properly?

Yes, but it’s a minefield. Here are a few pointers for getting it right:

  1. Understand the memes
    There’s no quicker way to show the world you’re out of touch than by misappropriating Internet culture. A simple search on Know Your Meme or Urban Dictionary should be the first stop for anyone trying to leverage memes or youth slang.
  2. Don’t force it
    I cannot stress this enough. If it doesn’t fit your brand to be using sophomoric memes, then don’t use them! Does it make sense for Mike Huckabee to be using a meme related to gangsta rap to reach potential voters? Absolutely not.
  3. Don’t try to create memes
    I cannot tell you how many meetings I’ve been in where people’s ideas of a successful social media or creative campaign is “to go viral”. Going viral is a result of a good campaign, not the goal. You can’t control it, and you definitely shouldn’t start your own meme. You’ll seem like you’re trying too hard and there will be backlash from the /r/HailCorporate crowd. Don’t do what Lunchables attempted:

    Lunchables trying to create their own meme

  4. You can’t change the meaning of memes, so don’t try
    Trying to co-opt a meme is at best guaranteed to fail, and at worst, it’ll create a backlash. Especially when you try to co-opt an organic meme like Bagel Bites tried to.
  5. Use the right message for the right channel
    This is more of a general marketing tip, but it still applies when we’re talking about memes. The things you can get away with on Facebook are different from what you can do in a magazine ad, or a TV commercial. If something’s worth sharing, put it on a network that facilitates sharing. Don’t do this:

    Target says holla in an email

  6. Be timely.
    Like most trends on the internet, memes have a relatively short shelf life. That means you should stop referencing Gangnam Style no matter how funny you still think it is. This also makes it dangerous to create costly television spots that reference memes if you don’t plan on refreshing your creative. Here’s a great example of the GOP trying to use an old meme and being called out by the Democratic Party:

    GOP and Democratic Party on using memes on Twitter

Brands Doing It Right

Some brands get it right. Old Spice created some of the most viral commercials of the last decade. WWE consistently becomes the top trending hashtag during their live events. I saw this cat commercial as a pre-roll on YouTube once and didn’t skip it. Count that as a success.

More recently, Domino’s created a campaign where you could order a pizza through various devices, including via emoji. On paper, it sounds like a decent stunt but also potentially FellowKids territory if not done right. Domino’s understood that millennials are fluent in irony and the tongue-in-cheek tone they took in their commercials was spot on:

Outside Of Your Control

Internet, grant me the serenity to accept the memes I cannot change, the courage to use the memes I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Sometimes you simply can’t predict what will go viral. The internet is both a fickle and crushing machine.

Dos Equiis created a great mascot and tagline with the most interesting man in the world and years later, are now reaping the rewards for its memeworthiness.

There’s an incredibly strange and cult-like subreddit called /r/Kelloggs devoted to their cereal brands to the point where users honestly don’t know if it’s a joke or not.

And most recently, “Netflix and Chill” has become one of the most commonplace memes, especially among Black Twitter (a subject for a different blog post). It refers to young people (typically men) inviting other people over to watch Netflix and “chill” as the pretext for engaging in sexual activity. The phrase proliferated on social media and has become one of the best things to happen for Netflix’s brand recognition. All this without Netflix lifting a finger.

Lastly, when in doubt…

…err on the side of not looking stupid. This is probably a good life lesson in general, but if you don’t understand a social media phenomenon and aren’t willing to pay someone who does, then just forego it altogether. Having your target audience perceive your brand as stupid is not a place you want to be.

Outrage is the new black.

It’s been only a short four months since Slate’s 2014 recap, calling it the Year of Outrage. People don’t easily change behaviors, and we have yet another example of social media users rallying behind a campaign of anger. The victim du jour is Trevor Noah, who was announced to take over The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. It didn’t take long for Twitter users to dig through his history and find some “antisemitic” and fat jokes that he’s made. A whole list of them is available at Buzzfeed.

Trevor Noah, the new host of The Daily Show

I’m not going to defend the jokes themselves (because they’re not particularly funny), but I do think it’s unfair to cherrypick through Noah’s Twitter history to manufacture outrage. The most “offensive” Tweets cited are from 2009 and 2010. At the time of this writing, Noah has close to 9,000 posts, which means people went out of their way to locate these examples. Five or six years is archaic by social media standards, and comedians change their sets and their comedy style/jokes based on topicality and audience. The more recent “antisemitic” examples cited in the Buzzfeed article are barely offensive. One is about how Jewish girls are not easy to bed, and the other is about the stereotype that Jewish businessmen are wealthy. I’ve definitely Tweeted things way more offensive than that. Humans have a knack for pattern recognition, sometimes to a fault.

I understand that people are concerned that the content of The Daily Show would be affected by Noah’s “bias” against Jews. But first, you need to prove that he actually has a bias. If you can comb through 9,000 Tweets and find that Noah has made more Jewish jokes than he does against other groups, then by all means, call him a racist or an antisemite. But I’m sure none of these angry Twitter users are doing that level of analysis. It’s much easier to just be blindly offended.

In Chris Rock’s Vulture interview, he spoke about self-censorship and how it’s bad for comedy. He cites Dave Chapelle banning cell phones from live performances, and the interviewer mentions that Patton Oswalt is critical of how Tweets have gotten comedians in trouble. Whether or not it’s the correct platform, comedians test out jokes publicly on Twitter. That’s just the reality of it. Six years ago, Noah was a 25-year-old trying to break into the comedy scene by making jokes in poor taste on Twitter. Dog bites man. Big deal.

The Shame Game

I recently listened to an interview with Jon Ronson, the writer of So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. In it, he talks about how the advent of social media has caused us to lose sympathy for other human beings in the digital space. Someone’s life or career can be destroyed with a single joke Tweet. Says Ronson:

That what we do on Twitter is we surround ourselves by like-minded people. So, it’s like it’s a constant approval going on. You know, we say “This person is a monster,” everybody around us congratulates us for saying that, and it’s a great feeling to be told that you’re right. So, there’s no incentive to change your mind. If 100,000 people are tearing apart Justine Sacco for her ill-advised AIDS joke, then there’s absolutely no incentive to say: “I’m not sure that the tearing apart of this woman is justified.”  Because everybody else on your timeline is tearing them apart, and it’s much safer and it’s much more comfortable to join in with the throng.

Sure, Justine Sacco worked in PR so she shouldn’t have Tweeted that AIDS joke. And of course, the people threatening Curt Schilling’s daughter deserved to be publicly shamed. But other than the people who worked for the MLB, did any of them deserve to lose their jobs? I don’t have an answer for that, but it’s a slippery slope. Is a simple “these Tweets are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer” caveat enough anymore? It doesn’t seem like it. On the other side of that coin, those people certainly shouldn’t be making sexually assault jokes against Curt Schilling’s daughter (or anyone’s daughter for that matter). Self-censorship has its merits, but particularly for those of us trying to be professional. Or those of us who care about our reputations.

This all relates back to the echo chamber effect, which states that we as media consumers self-select the information we’re privy to. It becomes a feedback loop, where a user chooses to receive a certain type of information, and their thoughts are reinforced because the people they follow are of a similar mind. Says Eli Pariser, author of The Filter Bubble:

One of the underlying dynamics here is that a lot of what this personalization trend is about is making the Web a more passive experience, delivering information to you, rather than you having to seek it out.


What these companies are trying to do is make it easier and easier just to sit back and have the information passively come to you. And it would be sad if it went in that direction because when you do get yourself on the hunt for information that’s exciting and interesting and different, you learn a lot.

This type of feedback loop becomes dangerous, as reddit knows all too well. People gather their pitchforks, and there’s really nobody around to tell them to slow down and think things through. Ironically, The Daily Show has always been one of the more level-headed voices in the media. This type of manufactured outrage is something that Stewart would lampoon on his show.

I’ll end with this quote from comedian Stephen Fry:

Stephen Fry Quote about Being Offended

It’s often said that comedians can get away with saying anything as long as they’re funny. That said, Trevor Noah’s only crime was not being funny. And we should only punish him for that if it happens on The Daily Show.

August 31st, 2013
according to

Those of you with YouTube accounts will be familiar with this popup below:

Using your real name on YouTube

It’s destructive (stops any YouTube playback), annoying (it will come back in a week or two even if you hit the “I don’t want to use my full name” button), and it’s creating clutter.

What I mean by this last point is that even if you don’t want to connect your YouTube account to your Google+ account, you can choose to keep your old username. Except, that actually creates a new Google+ account for that username. So then you’d end up with two Google+ accounts, one dedicated to YouTube.

I understand that Google wants more of our data, and more activity on their social network. But this just rubs me the wrong way and seems to be an overly-insistent and heavy-handed vehicle for going about this.

Yelp seems to polarize most mixed company. There are some who are part of the “Elite” (myself included) who think of Yelp as a social club with private events and great food. There are business owners who love their high Yelp ratings for providing incremental business and digital word-of-mouth. There are also the owners who claim Yelp extorts them for positive rankings. And then there’s the casual user.

Most of the casual Yelp users I speak to fall into one of two camps – they either trust the wisdom of aggregated reviews, or they think the opinions of strangers are largely useless. Well, as the title of this post states, both of those groups are using Yelp wrong. Here are a few simple tips to improve your Yelping experience:

1) Create an Account!

The first mistake casual users make is not creating an account. There are many benefits to having an account other than being able to draft reviews. An account allows you to bookmark restaurants/other establishments, and allows you to check into places and receive deals (like Foursquare). There’s much more, and I could go on and on about these features, but the most important advantage of having an account (in my opinion) is the ability to friend and follow other users.

2) Find People Who You Trust!

If you use Yelp a lot, you inevitably start seeing the same faces over and over. For instance, if you’re often perusing restaurant reviews in Downtown Brooklyn, you’ll likely see Peter D’s profile pop up quite a bit. After reading a few of his reviews, you realize that you like his writing style and that you go to the same types of places that he does. So you send him a friend request. What this does is bring your friends’ reviews to the top of business pages, no matter how recent or favorable. If you’re shy, you can also become a fan of someone; this means they won’t know who you are, but their reviews will still come up first when you’re logged in. Think of it like Google’s personal search results.

Yelp Review of Mable's from Peter D
This is how reviews of people you’re friends with or following show up at the top of Yelp pages. Above is Peter D, Brooklyn’s Community Manager and all-around good guy.

3) Engage With Other Users!

Lastly, one of the major quality control components of Yelp are the compliments and comments. If you like someone’s work, you can say so on their profile; this gives authority to reviewers. And if you like a specific review, you can give it a “Funny,” “Useful,” and/or “Cool” vote (what Yelpers affectionately refer to as FUC-ing reviews); this gives credibility to individual reviews. In fact, this is how the Review of the Day is calculated (I have a few under my belt).

Yelp Review of the Day for Fette Sau
My ROTD for Fette Sau. You can see how many times it’s been FUC’d at the bottom of the review.

Last, but not least, you can actually meet people at events or connect with existing friends on Yelp. It is, by all definitions, actually a social network. If you start treating it as such, then you’ll find that it’s a much more useful tool in your planning decisions.

4) Be My Friend!

By the way, if you need a recommendation of who to follow in New York, here’s my Yelp profile!

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licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.