Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Twitter, and the Inspiration of Iconic88

This is the fourth post in our 12-part series, TwitterPowerhouses, which focuses on the contributions of people who've helped to expand, influence, and redefine how we view social networking. I co-wrote it with fellow Huffingtonpost blogger Yasamin Beitollahi. This is cross-posted in the Huffingtonpost Living Section.

The world has always had a thirst, and a yearning for positive engagement. The more we connect, the more we become committed to bridging cultural divides; to evolving solutions to centuries old conflicts; and to moving the conversation forward about what it means to be a global citizen.

Twitter has become a powerful medium to achieve this vision, and Mahei Foliaki, who tweets under the name Iconic88, has come to represent its unmistakable substance. Affectionately known as the 'Chief Happiness Officer', Foliaki is one of the most dynamic personalities in social media today.

His Twitter page is a great mix of quotes, affirmations, and fantastic tips and info. We tell all of our friends that only surgery could remove the smiles generated by his content. This is true. Both substantively and stylistically, his page a great experience, and a huge platform for the big ideas that keep his followers informed, and empowered.

Pulitzer Prize winning writer Edith Wharton once said, "There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it." It's easy to see how Mahei Foliaki embodies this statement. We guarantee that you'll be enlightened by the positive words, and impressed with the vision, of this true Twitter powerhouse.

How have you used Twitter to connect with your audience?

Twitter has been an amazing force in my life. I've made so many meaning connections on continent after continent. Words are powerful, so I am careful about what I put out in the universe. Yes, there are people on Twitter who've try to be divisive and self-centered, but they've not had success. And this is a key point. I don't define "success" in terms of followers and massive self-promoting tweets. I define it in terms of the people I've connected with. And if you want to connect and grow in Twitter's 140 character format, I have two pieces of advice, especially for new tweeters: (1) "Twitter Success = sharing, caring, listening, humor and being yourself"; (2) The Power of Twitter is in your sharing, not your selling". If you follow these tips, you can't go wrong. The bottom line is: "be real". It pays to tweet a nicer version of yourself. Are you tweeting or retweeting something that will make a difference in your life, or in the lives of others? Elevate the medium. You need to develop a WOW experience or else you'll just be apart of the "noise". WOW is a signal and a frequency. It's the fuel for stimulating meaningful conversation. You're going to meet some amazing people on Twitter, so enjoy the experience.

What inspires you?

For me, this is a question of who inspires me and where it all started. My parents and my extended family inspire me. Both my parents moved from a small country in the South Pacific called the Kingdom of Tonga, to New Zealand many years ago. You can imagine the challenges they had to overcome: new language, new traditions, and new people. They adapted to survive in a new country. My parents taught me something powerful: in an environment of unconditional love and support, and with an unshakable belief in achieving your dreams, we are all capable of overcoming the challenges that life throws our way.

My family, friends, and countless others have helped shape me into the person I am today. We Tongans lead with love ('Ofa' in our language) and humility. So my objective is to always ensure that someone leaves me more enriched than we met. I am only a reflection of the foundation of these rich cultural values. This is what I try to transmit through Twitter. I am grateful for every day that I live, and I am inspired by the sense of humanity I learned at an early age.

What is the story behind the name Iconic88?

It's a name I've been using B.T. (Before Twitter). To me, it's about the people, architecture, words, and events that mean so much to us. You know, those moments that are timeless, and yes, iconic. Stay with me on this for a second. Years ago I was in India standing in front of the Taj Mahal, and it really hit home for me. It was a childhood dream come true. See, my family has an orphanage we support in Fiji, and some of the children there are Indian. This is where my affection for India and desire to see the world grew. I spent a lot of time there growing up. It made me appreciate my family, and the very basic things. In fact, my aunt, who started the home, is known as the "Mother Teresa of the South Pacific". She gives the very best of herself to children have no family, no home, and most of all, no love. She's an amazing woman. My time at the orphanage was an iconic moment in my life. The number 88 in my name stems from my love for the number 8. Not only is it my favourite number, but it also represents infinity and timelessness, and represents two 'kava circles'. In Tonga, we have a traditional ceremonial drink called 'kava', which is an integral part of our cultural heritage. This is a drink that is shared within a circle, a circle of 'talanoa' or conversation. So 88 represents 4 kava circles to double the power. Thus, the name Iconic88 was born.

Tell us about your unique Twitter avatar. It has to be among of the most instantly recognizable.

My first avatar was a picture of myself standing in front of the Taj_Mahal. That evolved into a picture of the ice cream. One day, I was out with Bridget Davis near the famous Opera House here in Sydney (Australia). I am happy we took a picture because when I made it my avatar, people loved it. Since that day, its grown into its own brand, so to speak. So I kept it. I think it reinforces the positive, fun vibe I like to foster on my Twitter feed. The world needs to feel good. Hopefully I'm doing my part.

How would you define yourself in 140 characters?

Thankful for everyone who has helped shape my presence on Twitter.

To read more about Mahei Foliaki's awesome approach to social media, follow him on his Twitter feed.

Authors' Note: In case you missed it, here's Part 3 of the series: Jazz Baker: Social Media Visionary.

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