A team of MBA students from the Atkinson Graduate School of Management – including Anthony Tham, Jillian Toda and Hussain Al Haddad – prepared an exceptional case analysis for the National Association of Asian MBAs (NAAMBA) conference. The analysis was submitted as part of the annual conference and is included below:
Using Social Media to Encourage Entrepreneurship in the Asian American Community
Reprinted with Permission
In 2011, UC Los Angeles student Alexandra Wallace’s video rant “Asians in the Library” went viral over social media. Following this event, online petitions and video responses by Asian Americans were distributed throughout the Internet. Social media sites — including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr — allowed Asian Americans the opportunity to voice their opposition to Wallace’s narrow-minded declarations that the normative image of an “American” is being white. This example is one of many throughout history that have marginalized Asian Americans from mainstream society. In a 21st century context, however, the broadcasting power of social media has provided a catalyst through which a marginalized group — in this case, Asian Americans — can join the public forum.
This case study will explore how social media tools can be used to empower marginalized communities. Here, marginalized groups will represent those living outside of the mainstream culture that has been defined by society as white, male, heterosexual, and able bodied (1). Marginalization conveys how processes of social practice, policy, and program development enforce such dominant discourses over minority identities. Asian Americans are one of many marginalized groups in the United States, and there are numerous sub-groups within the Asian American community. While it is important to recognize the extensive diversity of Asian Americans, for the purpose of this case study the examples presented will focus on Asian Americans described in a recent Pew Research Center study: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino,Vietnamese, and Indian. (2) These Asian Americans have innovatively and successfully used social media for entrepreneurship and to gain mainstream attention, as seen in the Chinese American trio, Wong Fu Productions.
Since the group formed while attending UC San Diego in 2006, Wong Fu Productions has gone from remaking hit music videos on a college campus to producing feature-length films screened at popular film festivals such as the Cannes Film Festival. Last year, the group partnered with multi-platinum Taiwanese pop singer, Wang Leehom, to direct his music video. Wong Fu Productions’ rise from a college amateur production crew to full-scale independent filmmaking company has resulted from hard work and creative talent. Equally important, social media has opened a virtual screening room for millions of viewers across the globe, helping Wong Fu Productions increase visibility and fan base. Its YouTube page has over one million subscribers, and their videos have received over 150 million views.
In an interview with CNN, the members of Wong Fu Productions indicated their primary audience as “young Asian Americans who often can’t find accurate depictions of themselves in mainstream media.”(3) A lot of improvements need to be made, and it starts with groups like Wong Fu Productions who have empowered themselves, at the same time inspiring others to showcase their talents which otherwise may not be seen through traditional media.
This case study will further examine the rise of independent filmmakers, singer/songwriters, artists, etc. and show how social media has enabled them to break into a dominantly white industry. Mass media theories, such as agenda setting, will be discussed to illustrate the influence mainstream media has over social economics.
The success of Wong Fu Productions has turned their passion for filmmaking into a business venture. The group has formed partnerships with national brands such as Subaru, AT&T, and JCPenny. They’ve developed their own t-shirt line, Nice Guy Design, and a plush toy line, Awkward Animals, which are sold on their branded e-commerce website. The group travels across the country on speaking tours, and also founded a concert series aimed to empower and showcase up-and-coming Asian American artists to a diverse, international audience. These are some of the many examples of how social media has empowered Wong Fu Productions to become entrepreneurs.
It can be argued that a program that supports entrepreneurs and promotes entrepreneurship using social media can empower a marginalized group like Asian Americans. Our proposed program is “The Asian American Center for Entrepreneurship.” This program can be established by a new organization with the center as its sole purpose, or under an existing organization or coalition. The center will provide a virtual community for Asian American entrepreneurs. A large emphasis will be placed on social media channels to facilitate the success of the center. In addition, office sites in cities with large Asian American populations like New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle will serve as bases for the national network.
This program can recruit successful Asian American social media bloggers and producers who can provide inspiration, training, and opportunities for publicity expansion. The program will seek out existing Asian American business entrepreneurs to establish connections with social media experts. Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity using the available resources in a given situation, emphasizing integration and creativity. Connections are vital and should be established with Asian American community organizations, corporations, and investors for financial support. These connections can be used to create several events under this program. Some examples include: an annual conference, a contest for entrepreneurial ideas, and an ongoing educational web series for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Why entrepreneurship for empowerment? There are three main components that this model brings to the Asian American community: finances, representation, and networking. Entrepreneurs create financial opportunities for themselves and others. This money will be put back into the community to expand the representation of Asian American businesses throughout the nation, and supporting the creation of others. Asian American entrepreneurs will be able to connect, exchange, and collaborate on entrepreneurial ideas through social media. This center does more than use these platforms, it actually turns social media into entrepreneurship making this model ideal for use by other marginalized groups with limited resources.
1 Nakamura, Lisa. Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet. New York and London: Routledge, 2002. Print.
2 Pew Research Center. “The Rise of Asian Americans.” Pew Social and Demographic Trends. Jun 2012. 29 Jun 2012. <http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/asianamericans-graphics/>.
3 Rowlands, Ted. Wong Fu Productions. CNN. 2 Jul 2012 <http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/showbiz/2009/08/15/rowlands.wong.fu.productions.cnn.>.