Facebook has become popular in Japan in January 2011 after Twitter became popular in Japan in July 2010, which is the reason why 2011 is often said to be “the first year of SNS in Japan” as explained in the previous article Vol.48 – 2011 Japan’s First Year of Social Media / SNS. Indeed Facebook has been started to be used in marketing by some innovative Japanese companies such as Fast Retailing (famous for UniQlo brand) and in recruiting as explained in the previous article Vol.63 – Social Recruiting: Cases and Future of Recruiting in Japan.
Now Facebook seems to be used by more business owners and companies in Japan that are not necessarily innovators in Internet marketing.
1. What kinds of people in Japan used to use Facebook until 2010?
It was mostly people in IT/Internet industry and/or people with international background that used Facebook until 2010.
The former, i.e. people in IT/Internet industry, are the early adaptors of new social media, and very often those who are to use social media in business and/or to do business on social media, such as web marketer, and social media/web marketing consultant.
But since Facebook had not been popular in Japan until January 2011, it seems that they had not been truly using Facebook in business and/or doing business about Facebook, and such people had been using mostly Japan local social media such as Mixi, blogs, YouTube, and Twitter.
The latter, i.e. people with international background, are mostly those people who have started using Facebook to keep in touch with friends outside Japan. Thus this was mostly for private use.
2. How has the Facebook users changed in Japan?
Today it is quite evident that the Facebook users cover early adopters who are not necessarily IT/Internet savvy nor of international background, just by looking at how the author’s new Facebook friends have changed in the few years.
1) Spread from English to Japanese online community
The author’s Facebook friends used to be mostly of English speaking people. She first started to use Facebook in 2009 mostly used to use Facebook to keep in touch with her friends around the world from her childhood and university, and to share information with worldwide online friends she met on LinedIn and Twitter. That is to say, her online network was mostly of English community.
In 2010 she connected with a Japanese independent Internet marketing consultant on Twitter then on Facebook, from which her online network started to spread to Japanese community as well. The consultant had been looking for a Japanese marketer with high English proficiency to connect online because he believed that it would be a marketer with English proficiency that would be successful in the future. Therefore when he found the author he immediately started to follow her (and advised some of his friend in the Internet industry to connect with her), and she followed him back.
It was then she started to connect first with the consultant’s Japanese online friends including Internet marketer at Japan IBM and founder/CEO of a Japanese social media consulting company who used to fork for Japan IBM, and her Japanese friends from her university years when she was a member of AIESEC, the world’s largest global student’s organization. Such of her friends are mostly bilingual with international background, who were (and still are) using Facebook mostly to keep in touch with friends around the globe.
2) Spread to early adopters of the general public
From around autumn of 2010 the author started to receive friend requests from Japanese people not necessarily of international background nor from Internet industry. This is when the author’s wall started to become bilingual (English and Japanese).
And in 2011, her interactions in Japanese on Facebook surpassed those in English so when she started Google+ in July she changed her Facebook strategy to use it mostly for local interaction although she still uses for global interaction. She positioned LinkedIn and Google+ as the media for worldwide interaction. (She has 2 twitter accounts, one for English and the other for Japanese).
3. How is Facebook used in Japan today?
Today in Japan Facerbook is used both in business and private.
1) Business Use
(1) Internet/web/online marketers
Internet/web/online marketers use Facebook mostly for business. They use Facebook (including Facebook page) mainly to share online articles of their expertise and/or their blogs which showcase their expertise and/or their business.
They also use it to announce the seminars and other events, and share how it was successful after the seminars and events.
They also use it to share that they are to publish a book etc. In fact, there have been quite a few “how-to” Facebook books and seminars lately.
(2) Companies and other organizations
Some innovative companies have set up their Facebook pages for marketing and recruiting, as the author introduced in some of her previous articles.
Now, more companies started to set up their Facebook pages. Such companies seem to be mostly of Japanese companies strong in marketing, engaged in BtoC business, or non-Japanese global companies operating in Japan strong in Internet marketing companies especially in BtoC business. Examples of industries/businesses that such companies are engaged in are IT, retailing, automobile, and cosmetics.
In the case of Fast Retaining, their main objective of being the innovator in Facebook use in marketing is to raise their global brand awareness and expand their business globally.
In the case of marketing of other Japanese companies, it seems that they already had been executing their web marketing and they wanted to make it social and interactive by adding social media.
And in the case of recruiting of companies in Japan, whether Japanese or non-Japanese operating in Japan, they seem to want to make a paradigm shift in recruiting from mass-recruiting to one-on-one recruiting, to find unique talent from around the globe who are compassionate to their philosophy and values, in line with their management/corporate strategy and Diversity initiative.
2) Private Use
Many Japanese Facebook users, regardless of their background, use for private in sharing their status about their family and themselves. They post where they (and their family) are, what they are doing, what they feel lately etc. They also use Facebook to share online articles and other URLs that they find interesting.
Facebook is also often used to say seasonal greetings such as to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and to say Happy Birthday. One thing the author realized is that lately photos of foods are frequently posted (similar trend in Googld+ as well).
Facebook allows their users to keep in touch with online friends regardless of change in location (home address) work etc., and therefore it is often used to send private messages to friends similarly to sending messages by e-mails.
4. What are the author’s final thoughts?
With segments (types/kinds) of Facebook users continuously expanding and diversifying together with how Facebook is used, it is critical that each Facebook user need to be clear of their objectives of using Facebook, from which their Facebook strategy is developed and executed.
This would define who to connect on Facebook and what kind of information to post.
Otherwise, Facebook users would find too much “noise” and, not being able to benefit fully from Facebook. This applies to all other social media as well.
This may well be the very reason why a few of the author’s Japanese Facebook friends recently said that they reviewed their Facebook friends and un-friended quite a few. They said they un-friended “inactive users, those whose conversation and posts do not match with them, and whom they cannot understand”.
2011 being said as “the first Year of SNS/social media” in Japan, Facebook has become popular in Japan in the past one year. Variety of people regardless of their background and work experience started to use Facebook both in business and private. More companies are starting to use Facebook in business, marketing and recruiting. This means that each Facebook user need to be clear about their objectives of using Facebook and be brave to un-friend who do not match with their objectives; otherwise they would have too much “noise” and they would not benefit fully from Facebook. Its essence is applicable to all other social media.