Social Media In Japan With Robin Sakai

SEASON 1 EPISODE 46

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In this episode of Tokyo podcast, Anthony Joh talks about Social Media Marketing in Japan and its slow but progressing evolution. His experience attending Tokyo Game Show in 2012 as press gave him a surprising revelation on how media is treated in Japan. How baffling it was to him that companies whom they were there to cover and feature did not allow them to take photos or videos. In some companies they even required a special press pass for those who want the scoop on upcoming games. Wasn’t the point of inviting the press to show case the products and services?

The interesting thing about how differently people use the internet in Japan might be due to the fact that social media grew on mobile devices and not the desktop computer. While America was using the internet for mostly informational things, Japan focused on the social aspect. Some big companies in Japan have very outdated websites as if they were coded in the 90s and they have kept them this way up to now. There are some companies who do not even have a website or social media at all.

A returning guest in the show, Ashley Thompson from Surviving in Japan, shares her insight as well as her new venture Gotabi. This is a hotel booking service which helps travelers curate hotel options from selections that are usually outside of reach for foreigners who cannot read Japanese. She helps them find accommodation that usually doesn’t cater to foreign guests and break the language barrier with translation services from her end. It is meant to be very personal and an in depth assistance to those who want a hassle free trip. Her expertise can definitely change the way visitors experience Japan since the country is one of the hardest places to get information about what’s off the beaten path.

We are also joined by Robin Sakai of Social500. He talks about the social media landscape of Japan and how it is opening new opportunities.  The internet for the United States stemmed from Universities while Japan had no academic background but instead had media companies back it up as it was growing. So naturally, they filled it with those kinds of services that would get people involved and have more social platform users interact. Japan used the internet more for entertainment while in the United States, people began using it as a source of data. Due to its social beginnings, Japan has been more accustomed to using it more casually than a necessity since most of the interaction was largely done on the mobile phone.

Docomo, one of the largest networks in Japan, had its own RMD divisions and own technologies invested in 3G. People had access to news and e-commerce as well as original programming well before iPhones came out.

They had an inbuilt feature in the phone from the mobile carrier and it was pretty much a universal experience for everybody who enjoyed the fast and efficient service. However, when the iPhone entered the scene, it greatly affected the landscape and revolutionized social media in Japan. Docomo network first refused to have iPhones because they were doing well independently. They were able to set up the technology which enabled commuters to do things via their phones, as well as access vending machines, and have shared data for families even before iPhone was introduced in Japan. The iPhone replaced so many things Docomo did and it somewhat posed a problem for carriers. They were use to controlling the consumers but now Apple has disrupted the model. Softbank which embraced the iPhone company soon had the fastest growing number of subscribers.

Social Media also has a huge influence on large markets. For example, a website called 2-chan (ni-chan) which is basically a BBS forum that was populated by Japan’s otaku users, really demonstrated free speech. It was always filled with controversy and counter balance, and it helped the people explore different cultural memes. It was always at the heart of what was happening in Japan. This really influenced corporations how they market
in fear of being attacked by 2-chan.

Advertising in the West usually go directly to the internet but in Japan slightly less so. Most still go to TV and print despite the statistic falling each year. Mixi, which was a social network that mirrored facebook use to be more popular in Japan but companies never had their profiles on them. It stayed the same for years and is used for personal updates while facebook evolved and over taken Mixi after more Japanese companies started working in Facebook. Social500 do a lot with Facebook when helping out their clients as well. Robin also discusses why he thinks Facebook didn’t catch on as fast in Japan. It was mostly due to the fact that user have to reveal themselves when interacting and can no longer hide behind handles. Most Japanese were afraid that information could be used against them. But once they were over that initial barrier, it continued to grow rapidly. Mobile social gaming has also caught on but some people see it as a gambling platform which means that they might face government regulations soon. Another popular app in Japan is Twitter. Japan has broken the most tweets per second records twice during several sporting events.

Social500 goes into Japanese companies and create social content for them and other networks. For example. Japanhaveit promotes Japanese products overseas for artisans that practice traditional craft. Companies with a long history of manufacturing goods are now able to reach the world. For objects like, fans, bags, or kimono, which the market has gone down, but the craftsmanship stayed the same, they are looking for new ways to survive and thrive. Social500 helps them find a modern audience. The kimono company which has been around for hundreds of years are now making iPad cases and so forth. They use the same techniques and make their art available to the modern world. The item you get lets you know that it has an interesting history. It gives you a unique connection to the origin while giving it a modern continuation of the the tradition.

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