Started on Instagram as part of a class project, The Polynesian Effect shares the stories of business owners, artists and illustrators, genealogists, editors-in-chief, educators and more, who all have one thing in common: ties to Polynesia.
Spring 2022 graduate Jay Reid from Laie, Hawaii, who started the account, said he is a mix of Hawaiian, Maori and Samoan heritage and realized there are probably a lot of people who are in his same shoes.
“I just felt that we’re [Polynesians] doing more than sports and hospitality and dancing. We have a bigger effect on the world.” He explained this idea, that Polynesians have a wider and more diverse impact on the world than is usually represented, is where he got the name for his group, The Polynesian Effect.
Motivated by family
Although The Polynesian Effect began as a project for his marketing class, the motivation behind it all began with his grandmother, Napua Baker, Reid said. Most people know her as the first woman vice president at any of the Church schools, and some also know there is an administrative award in her name given out each year at the BYU–Hawaii employee appreciation night, Reid shared. But there’s more to her story than that, he said.
He explained early on in his grandparents’ marriage, his grandfather developed schizophrenia. Eventually, his condition progressed to a point where he could no longer stay with his family, and he was sent to New Zealand, leaving Reid’s grandmother to raise her three children on her own.
“When I thought about it, like how my grandma went through all of that, and yet she still got her bachelor’s degree and then got her master’s and then became the first woman VP here at BYUH, I thought about how that could affect other people than just me. It doesn’t have to be just our family that benefits from this [his grandmother’s story].”
Reid’s wife, Amanda Reid, a BYUH alumna of 2020 from Idaho, said her husband’s main motivator is family. She said he always talks about his grandmother Napua Baker,and agreed he wants everyone to know about her accomplishments.
She added his family calls him “Mr. Aloha” because he is always the first one to greet everyone and has a great memory when it comes to people. “He knows how to make people feel comfortable when he talks to them, and I think he’s a good person to do this [The Polynesian Effect] because when he interviews people, they’re really willing to chat, and he just puts you at ease and makes you feel like you’re friends.”
Additionally, Amanda Reid said her husband’s other big influence is his Hawaiian, Maori and Samoan heritages. “That he’s connected to all three different [heritages] I think is very impactful to him, and so he tries to learn about all the different islands that he comes from.” In addition to growing up in Hawaii and attending Kamehameha Schools Kapālama, Jay Reid said he also served a full-time mission in Samoa.
Assistant Professor Ann Springer from the Faculty of Business & Government, who teaches the course that required Jay Reid to start an Instagram account from nothing, agreed his main motivation behind The Polynesian Effect is his love of family, his community and his heritage. She explained, “He understands how that [family, community and heritage] gives him an identity, and he wants to kindly, gently educate everybody in a way that's approachable to everyone.”
She shared the example of a reel he made that reminds viewers Polynesians are more than the one or two things they might be known for. “But he [Jay Reid] does it in a way that doesn't make you feel called out,” Springer explained, adding it helps that he is generally a kind and approachable person. She continued, “That kind of goes with his nature of who he is, [and] sort of how he approaches life. I've seen him in group projects, [with] students who have struggled, and he has a great ability to metaphorically put his arm around somebody and just kind of say, ‘I can see you're struggling. Let me help,’ without a way that makes anybody feel bad about struggling.”
The purpose [of The Polynesian Effect] is to inspire the upcoming generations of Polynesians, but the ultimate goal of this whole thing was always to actually do something about it.
Not just sports
With The Polynesian Effect, Jay Reid is breaking down stereotypes, shared Amanda Reid. “Most people when they think of Polynesians, they think of football, or rugby or the Rock [Dwayne Johnson].” She said she grew up in Idaho where there isn’t a huge Polynesian population, and the closest reference point for her peers was usually Hawaii or “Lilo and Stitch.” Amanda Reid, who is herself half-Samoan, described how she would have to nod when people connected her to either reference point, knowing they didn’t fully grasp the whole picture.
She said Polynesia is “just not as well known in a lot of places, but I think it’s cool that he [Jay Reid] is trying to expand everyone’s knowledge and ideas of like, here’s all these Polynesians in other places, not just in the islands and also not just in sports, but doing things all over in all different fields. … Even though we’re small, we’re very mighty.”
Amanda Reid also shared the shock people could not contain when they found out she was Samoan because of her size. “A lot of people would look at me and they were like, ‘Oh you’re Samoan? Like, you’re so small!’” She laughed and added, “That’s not everything. That’s not the most important part. And I think it’s important to highlight that yes, Polynesians are strong and are good at sports, but there’s also other really important things. There’s the art. There’s the dance. There’s the food. There’s just a lot to it not everyone notices at first.”
Jay Reid added growing up in Laie there is a huge influence to pursue sports as a way to provide a stable future. “It has been a dream come true for many of our community members, but I know it is not the only way for us to provide a good future.” He said with the example of his grandmother, he realized there are other fields out there where Polynesians are also succeeding.
On The Polynesian Effect, which is also a Facebook group under the same name, Jay Reid posts weekly features of Polynesian people from a variety of backgrounds and fields, and he includes popular Polynesian sayings, food and music throughout the account.
Creating a community
Amanda Reid said she noticed a direct impact from The Polynesian Effect on her family and the community. Aunts, uncles, members of the community and even Amanda Reid herself were surprised to learn of Polynesians doing different things around the globe, she said. “It’s cool seeing what knowledge can do and how many people can learn from others. So yeah, I’ve seen it impact us the most, I guess, just being more aware of all these stories, and all these people, and all their accomplishments. It’s inspiring.”
Jay Reid added, “The purpose [of The Polynesian Effect] is to inspire the upcoming generations of Polynesians, but the ultimate goal of this whole thing was always to actually do something about it.” He explained he had designed merchandise with popular Polynesian proverbs and sayings, the proceeds of which he said he intends to put toward a scholarship fund for Polynesian youth. He added he hopes to eventually create a fund for Polynesian families to put toward a down payment on a house as well.
Although he hasn’t worked out all the details yet and still occasionally has his doubts as to whether it will all work out the way he plans, Jay Reid said what keeps him going is the reason he started in the first place: “to help Polynesian people to reach their potential.”
I love doing it. I love hearing about everyone else, and other people are asking for it.
Springer explained the course, Strategic Marketing Management, is the capstone class for the marketing concentration, and toward the end of their time working on the Instagram project together, she usually discusses with her class how to add a monetary aspect to the account while still keeping the authenticity of the brand. “I think his [Jay Reid’s account] is a good example because people want to support it but don’t want to feel like they’re being sold to … [and] he’s done it in a way that works to go with the mission and vision that he has for the account and its purpose.”
She explained he asked his followers if they would be interested if he were to offer merchandise, the proceeds of which would go toward scholarships. “And that's part of the idea of you're creating a community on social media,” Springer added, emphasizing the word “community.”
She continued, “You're not just creating a business, because anybody can create a business. But if you create a community and they're invested in your vision and your mission, then they're going to support the things you do. Especially because it feels like they're growing that community together, they’re part of the community, [and] they have a say in the community.”
Springer added Jay Reid has done a really great job of drawing out the natural caring, love and investment of the Polynesian and Laie community. “It's a small community we live in to begin with, but also very vocal and very proud. … It sort of gets a natural following because it's things that we're all interested in, you know, seeing others who have done so much to contribute to the community being highlighted in a positive way.”
More than an assignment
Although The Polynesian Effect started out as a school project, Amanda Reid said her husband received a much longer list of people to feature than was needed for the assignment, which motivated him to continue running the account. “He was like, ‘Why stop? Why not keep going? I love doing it. I love hearing about everyone else, and other people are asking for it.’ … So it’s been cool because there are some people he wouldn’t have been able to find without others’ suggestions.”
According to Springer, Jay Reid’s account The Polynesian Effect is one of the first of its kind. “Others have definitely done cultural accounts about their culture, but it's … cool because it's part of our community here too.”
Amanda Reid said she remembers talking with her husband as he tried to think of an idea for his marketing project. He knew from the start that he wanted to do something with Polynesians, she explained, but he struggled to figure out the details. She said she remembers showing him the Humans of New York Instagram page, which is an account that highlights random strangers’ stories from all around the streets of New York City.
Amanda Reid said this approach interested her husband, but it wasn’t until about a day later that he came to her to excitedly tell her he had figured it out: His account would be called The Polynesian Effect, and he would highlight different Polynesians’ stories from all around the world.
Springer said part of the class is designed to teach students how to make genuine, authentic connections in a strategic way while still being sincere, and Jay Reid did a really good job of doing that, she added. “[At first] he didn’t have the wild success that maybe others had, [where] their numbers [of followers] just shot up. But he just stuck with it, and he just kept doing all the things, and he’s had a more steady, consistent success. And it’s [The Polynesian Effect] something that he planned to stick with from the beginning. It was more than just an assignment to him.”
Springer explained there are ways to “trick the system” into getting more followers, but, she said, Jay Reid never had to do any of that. “It [The Polynesian Effect] has had a true, organic growth. … Jay [Reid] has been committed the whole time to really growing real followers who are real people who really care about his subject matter.”
Because each member of the class was working on their own social media account, Springer said she provided multiple opportunities for students to critique each other, give feedback and share successes with the rest of the class. She added there is a natural competition that usually occurs as they compare reports on how different accounts are doing. So, when Jay Reid’s classmates found out he had got University President John S.K. Kauwe to give him a shoutout on social media, they were all a little jealous, Springer said.
“They [Jay Reid’s classmates] were like, ‘That’s cheating!’ and I’m like, ‘Hey, it’s fair game. Go hit President Kauwe up, if you think it matches.’ But like I said, his [Jay Reid’s connection to President Kauwe] is genuine. It matches the mission of the university, but it was funny.”
Marketing on social media can sometimes be unpredictable, Springer said. For example, sometimes an Instagram reel that was published four weeks ago will suddenly become popular without the student having done anything differently, she explained. Because of this, Springer said a lot of the grading is based on effort and completeness. “I want them [the students] to feel like they can have the freedom to truly experiment with the different variables and take a risk and see what happened.”
Springer said the project is essentially an eight-week science project, where different variables are added each week, such as creating reels or befriending other accounts and doing collaborations. She added running a personal account is very different compared to working with it in a professional context.
“It’s not just about getting people to follow you, but getting them to be excited to follow you and making an impact in their lives.” Springer explained Jay Reid was very good at this. “A lot of times students feel like they have a good understanding of how to run social media and they’re familiar with it, but it’s very different to start an account from zero and grow it organically.”
He’s just a genuine soul who excels in all he does, including this account. It’s an example of his commitment to his family and his community and his culture. And that's sort of how he rolls. He does everything with that same level of intensity but in a way that's humble and kind and gracious.
Marketing: a good fit
Jay Reid did not begin as a marketing major, said Amanda Reid. She explained when they first met in a Samoan 101 class in 2016, he was a hospitality and tourism management major, then switched to accounting. But working as the accountant for the marketing department at the Polynesian Cultural Center helped Jay Reid to realize his interest was in marketing and not accounting, she shared.
“It [marketing] fits him. It makes sense now. It took a while to get there, and I was kind of stressed out, but … he figured out exactly where he loves, and it fits him.” She said he loves designing, publishing and brainstorming ways to get more followers.
Springer called Jay Reid a “natural marketer,” and said he has an advanced skill set in marketing. She said she remembers when he came into her office to discuss changing majors. “It’s been really fun to watch somebody come into the program literally at the last possible moment, and then boom! Here he is graduating, right? and he's done so much in a short amount of time, that I'm not sure others would be capable of, but because of his unique gifts he's been given, he's just soared.”
Jay Reid, who graduated in June, said he and his wife are moving to Idaho where he will work with a company that sells motors and wants him to “help them find a deeper cause.” He added he hopes to be able to work in his devotion to the cause of Polynesia in some way. The Reids are also expecting their first baby.
Springer said when Jay Reid’s new employer telephoned her as one of his references, by the end of the call she said she essentially told them, “If you don’t choose him, I don’t know who you’d be choosing. It [would be] your loss because he’s going to end up somewhere great. If you pass on him, you’re going to regret it.”
She added she has no trouble saying nice things about Jay Reid, because “he’s just a genuine soul who excels in all he does, including this account. It’s an example of his commitment to his family and his community and his culture. And that's sort of how he rolls. He does everything with that same level of intensity but in a way that's humble and kind and gracious.”