An interview with Koki Uchiyama, CEO from Hottolink, on social data in Japan.
Japan Is Social Data Rich
Gnip researchers estimate that 10 to 15 % of the Twitter firehouse is in Japanese characters. In addition, Japan is in the top 5 countries for Foursquare content (excluding the US). More than 32 million Japanese users have written blog articles.
Japanese have been engaging on social channels since early 2000. Early platforms included bulletin boards and question and answer sites similar to Ask Yahoo!. Blogs continue to be a popular Japanese social medium. Twitter & Facebook continue to gain traction with Japanese users, but more exciting is the Japanese social media platform Line. Available in over 20 countries, Line originated as a text messaging application and has grown to include features including voice calls, group messaging and the use of stamp based character communications. Many Japanese users choose to leave text communication behind and share their thoughts, emotions and feelings through images the network calls stamps. In January, Line crossed 100 million users. At only 19 months old, this growth trajectory exceeds that of Facebook. A favored platform beyond Japan, Line is also popular in Taiwan, Thailand, East Asia, the Middle East and Mexico.
Japanese Social Media Adoption
The 2011 earthquake can be attributed for fueling adoption for two reasons. First, the robustness of social media as a communication tool. Following the earthquake phone lines were dead, but access to the internet remained available. It became the primary channel to communicate with family and colleagues. In fact, use as a primary communication tool drove adoption by nontraditional, older users. Second is the power of social media to provide localized information. Regional areas utilized social media to publish their specific needs and demands, rather than rely on myopic media focus.
Social Media Informed Elections
The Japanese election cycle is only 2 weeks. This short term precludes politicians from using social media as a push campaign marketing strategy. Instead, social media has emerged as an invaluable political strategy tool.
In 2009, social media analysis predicted 80% of the lower-house elections correctly. Political teams realized they could use the data as a listening tool to understand the political climate and needs of a region, even influencing the selection of candidates.
Listening Tools Make Mass Media a Dialogue
Using social data in tandem with mass media communications provided further campaign insight. If a party holds a press conference in the morning, the feedback from social data can be interpreted by noon and campaign strategy or topic stance can be altered to reflect citizen opinion by the evening television appearance.
Brand Use of Social Media in Japan
Koki was quick to point out that brand use in Japan is very similar to the US. In early 2000 brands began utilizing social media for risk monitoring. This was followed by promotions on blogs, then Twitter and after that Facebook.
Currently, brands use social platforms to publish company information, perform market research through listening to drive product development and for engagement and support of customers, though this is not as prevalent as the US.
Koki diagrams the focus of business into a 5 category pyramid. Listed from top down the categories are mission, strategy, product development, marketing and customer support. Currently many brands are reporting that efficiency of social campaigns as less than expected, something Koki attributes to a failure to engage all parts of the pyramid.
If brands fail to utilize social platforms for engagement and dialogue, they will never influence to the top layer, and hence influence focus. By listening and engaging in dialogue, social media will drive all components of successful business.