Group Order Managers (GOM) and fan accounts for K-pop idols are a common sight on social media. A quick check on Twitter, where K-pop fans are most active, will bring you to countless posts filled with photos, videos and group orders for K-pop albums.
One of these fan accounts belongs to 18-year-old Joy Quek. She started her VICTON fan account, @victonary, in 2019 as an outlet to showcase her love for her favourite seven-member South Korean boy band.
Joy also works as GOM, handling group orders for VICTON fan goods in Singapore.
Youth.SG spoke to Joy and two other youths about their experiences running their own K-pop fan accounts and collating group orders for K-pop merchandise.
Creating an outlet to express themselves freely
GOMs manage group orders for albums and merchandise from fan sites and fan accounts and distribute these orders to interested fans.
Surprisingly, these GOMs gain zero profit for their efforts – it's all done voluntarily.
"VICTON has a small fan base in Singapore, so there is no other GOM for them. I've always wanted to get goods from Korea, but no one opened any group orders," shared Joy, who has been a GOM since late 2019.
Simply put, a fan account posts content dedicated to a particular celebrity, usually as a form of adoration or support.
Fan accounts post a variety of creative content, such as video edits and memes of idols.
PHOTO CREDIT: SCREENSHOT FROM GOT7.SG'S INSTAGRAM
Having been an ALICE (the name for VICTON fans) since 2018, Joy also uses her fan account @victonary as a platform to share her love for the band and interact with fellow fans.
Rather than adapting designs or drawing inspiration from other fan accounts, Joy opts to craft her own content for her account.
"I usually come up with my own designs from scratch, depending on how I feel. I prefer to create an account using my own style or theme, not by copying others," said Joy, who is studying arts and business management at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
These photo cards with VICTON's pictures were designed by Joy and shared on Twitter.
PHOTO CREDIT: VICTONARY'S TWITTER
Fuelled by the same passion to share her love for her favourite K-pop idols, Pamela Chong started her GOT7 fan account on Instagram in 2015.
The 18-year-old said: "When I started my fan account, I took inspiration from other fan accounts like @youngjaesupreme, @pepivids, @marksohmygoodness, @jaebeomsfluffy and @yugyeomlegs.
"I created [my own] fan account because I wanted to share nice pictures and videos of GOT7 and other K-pop artists. I also wanted to know more about them through their fans around the world."
Seeing people around the world follow her fan account fills Pamela with happiness.
PHOTO CREDIT: PAMELA CHONG
Meanwhile, Nicole Song owns three K-pop fan accounts, with the latest created for recently debuted boy group CRAVITY.
Nicole feels that her fan account is a form of stress reliever and motivation for her to press on in life.
PHOTO CREDIT: NICOLE SONG
She used to handle group orders for Wanna One and AB6IX, but has been on a temporary hiatus since December 2019 to focus on her internship.
The 18-year-old beauty and wellness student said: "I think it's more about the thought of wanting to help fellow fans pay less for shipping and also doing it out of a love for the idols."
The unseen struggles of fan accounts and group managers
Handling group orders and managing fan accounts might sound easy, but it requires plenty of time, effort and motivation.
"It's tough managing a fan account. Somehow, you will feel pressured to tweet or interact with friends on Twitter to keep the mutual relationship," said Nicole.
Joy shared the same sentiments: "Having a fan account requires a lot of time and commitment.
"I felt the pressure of having to tweet something daily or needing to be the first to know when idols post a tweet, photo or news about them."
Managing group orders can be a long and arduous process, especially if you are doing it alone. Joy once lugged three bags of items to the post office by herself and suffered body aches the next day.
"You have to contact the fansite, post the order form [on your own account], consolidate orders, calculate the total cost, and ensure the items are delivered safely to Singapore. This usually takes about one to two months of preparation."
"I also have to pack and ensure the item is well-packaged so it won't be damaged during the delivery process," added Joy.
PHOTO CREDIT: JOY QUEK
And that is not all – her work also involves a bit of customer service.
Joy shared: "You also need to set aside a day to conduct a mass meetup, which is the most tiring process. For mass meetups, I lug all the items down to the meeting location, usually in the Central area such as Orchard, so that it is more convenient for my buyers.
"As the main GOM for VICTON in Singapore, I'd say that VICTON fans have become reliant on me. Every time they receive their goods, they thank me for the hard work, which makes me really happy. Their encouragement keeps me going to be a GOM."
Joy usually sacrifices her weekends to organise meetups to distribute group orders to fans.
PHOTO CREDIT: JOY QUEK
When their passion is misunderstood as an obsession
Although these youths have pure intentions, their passions may be misunderstood by other non K-pop fans.
Pamela, whose fan account has over 83,000 followers, said: "Some people think handling fan accounts is a waste of time or that we are obsessed with our idols. Some even find fan accounts weird and think that we should spend our time on something more productive.
"Although there are many misconceptions about fan accounts, this experience helps us learn how to handle our accounts on social media. We also get to know our weaknesses and what we are lacking from other people's perspectives."
K-pop fans usually look up to their idols for support during hard times.
PHOTO CREDIT: SCREENSHOT FROM HEARTS WOOBIN'S TWITTER
Joy, who is friends with about 13 other fan account owners of the same age group, including working adults, hopes that people will see K-pop fans in a more positive light and not just as obsessive fans.
"People think we are just a bunch of kids or xiao mei mei (xmm)… But we are not kids who spend our parents' money. We use our hard earned money [to run these accounts]."
Making friends with other fans around the world
With so many fans around the globe fighting to express their love for these K-pop idols, it is no wonder that the community continues to grow steadily.
Within this huge community, however, squabbles between fans are inevitable.
While Joy and Nicole disregard such arguments, Pamela prefers to take action, especially if her followers are being threatened.
Pamela said: "To keep the situation calm, normally I will try not to comment much and just let the matters rest by itself. However, if someone is hurting any of my followers, I will consider blocking and removing them from my account."
Displaying banners of their favourite KPOP bands is a form of support for K-pop fans.
PHOTO CREDIT: JOY QUEK
Squabbles aside, the three youths we spoke to agreed that one thing they love about K-pop fan culture is being able to befriend fellow fans from around the world.
Joy enjoys using Twitter to communicate with the friends she has made through K-pop, who live in different countries.
Meanwhile, Nicole is inspired by her friends' talents: "You tend to discover or realise that a lot of fans are really talented in designing goods or drawing cartoons."
On the other hand, Pamela's looks forward to working together with other fans and forming friendships through concerts or fan events.
"We bond with each other through inside jokes about our favourite artists or groups. In the K-pop fan culture, we can relate with each other as we share similar mind-sets.
"When we work together and share our common interests, we create a connection with other people, even though they may be from another country."
BANNER AND TEASER PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/ESTHER LAM AND PAMELA CHONG