Linda Hoang is all over social media. Not only is it her job as a Social Media Specialist for NAIT, but between her blog, her work as a freelance social media consultant and time spent promoting the International Cat Festival, it’s hard to get too immersed in the #YEG feed on Twitter and not see Linda’s handle (@lindork) pop up. Between all of this, she’s often found mentoring students and staff on NAIT’s campus about how to use social media to harness their potential in their fields.
What Linda’s online presence doesn’t always show is the woman behind the cute cat tweets, the fundraisers for various local pet charities and the hilarity that is #LindasOfficeMate. Not only is Linda always willing to reach out and share advice, an interview or a bit of friendly chatter, she’s a role model for young Edmontonians who are hitting their stride and finding success by being true to themselves. With an impressive resume and an even more impressive list of community accomplishments, Linda has loaned her support to organizations countless organizations in the Edmonton area.
Linda’s parents showed her from a young age the importance of hard work and service to community. That guidance stayed with her, and she says their hard work and advice played a huge role in her becoming who she is today. “They work very hard- they immigrated here from Vietnam almost 30 years ago and they still work very hard to this day. They’re in the restaurant business and they work, they have worked, I would say 16-17 hour days. Long, long hours to try and support me and my two brothers. And we used to be very low income, we used Santas Anonymous when we were growing up so that’s why I like to volunteer with them every year, too. But just seeing how hard they work, how hard they still work, has been very inspiring. “
“I have wanted to do something for the community for a very, very long time. I’m active in the local twitter community, and I see lots of people doing amazing things to help others. I wanted to do the same. I needed to find something I was very passionate about, otherwise it wouldn’t be successful.” Linda’s event, the Edmonton International CatFest was born out of that kind of passion. “I really care about animals… I’ve always cared about animals, seeing homeless or needy animals, it really breaks my heart. If I hear a story about an animal being injured or being left, I get very, very emotional.”
Linda saw that there were festivals in the states celebrating cats and cat lovers, and thought, ‘Why not in Edmonton?’ But planning an event for cats and their fans wasn’t enough- Linda set out to make it a fundraiser that could help change the lives of animals in our community through cat rescue organizations including the Edmonton Humane Society, Little Cats Lost, and SAFE Team Rescue. In it’s inaugural year, the festival raised $9,000 for the Edmonton Humane Society and approximately 600 people attended, way more people than Linda thought would come out. “You kind of get people saying, “Okay… are you sure that’s a thing that people would go to?’ (laughs) But I thought that they would.”
“They really are (in need). They’re helpless. They can’t talk, they don’t have jobs,” joked Linda. “You know, they can’t put a roof over their heads… If someone wants to be cruel to them, they can be. They can’t help themselves.” Situations such as these arise right in our area- Linda shared a story about how attendees at the 2014 Edmonton International CatFest were able to raise money to help an elderly woman whose cat was viciously attacked by young people in the community and needed life-saving veterinary assistance following the attack. “She was just blown away by the community support. She was just amazed that people had heard her story and were going to help her (cat).”
Linda credits a lot of her mindset and courage in planning events to make a difference with the culture she feels exists in Edmonton. “I have lived in Edmonton all my life, born and raised. So for a long time growing up, I wanted to leave and I think that’s probably a common story for a lot of people. I hear that a lot… you’re always itching to get out. ‘The winters are too cold’ and ‘there’s nothing to do here’ and over the past several years I’ve just really seen the city transform and as I’ve gotten older I’ve met so many people in the community and through the internet (it sounds weird but I think it’s less weird now). When you start surrounding yourself with these sorts of people who are like- minded or community oriented who are trying to make where they live a better place, that rubs off on you.”
Linda jokingly calls herself an “F-List Celebrity”, saying: “I don’t consider myself a celebrity. But I do have a following on social media and when you have a following I think there’s a little bit of responsibility there… If you have a captive audience, don’t just talk about useless things, make something better or more impactful come out of it.”
“There’s kind of that stereotype that people are online or behind their screens, they don’t do much, they’re just clicking things not really making an impact. But it’s huge when you see someone say something, and then someone shares that message and it snowballs. You take it offline from the internet but it starts there, and it’s amazing that it can start there, just from a message that’s less than 140 characters.”
“If you want to make a difference, just log on and see. “