The author had said that LinkedIn is not yet so popular in Japan and one of the requirements for LinkedIn to become popular is localization in the previous article Vol.64 – Facebook and Twitter vs. LinkedIn and Google+ in Japan. The rumour that Japanese version will be rolled out in June immediately after a small office in Tokyo was set up had spread among Japanese online users but it did not come to reality then.
Earlier this month the author happened to start a LinkedIn discussion asking group members what they think are possible requirements for LinkedIn to become popular in Japan. There were quite a number of interesting comments including localization, i.e. implementing Japanese version.
And then on October 20, the announcement was made that LinkedIn is to enter Japan market, providing Japanese version, committing to engage in business in Japan in the long-term.
Japan is now LinkedIN
Now the Japanese version is available, the author would like to present some possible requirements for it to become popular in Japan.
1. Further localization
Language localization is the basic but not the only localization. Content and services also need to be localized, meeting local needs based on such things as manners and customs, job market, and work environment.
Such possible examples include content and services collaborating with “Hello Work”, the employment bureau initiated and managed by the Japanese government. This is a nationwide network of offices where people without jobs go and seek support in finding a job. The staff members consult and make utmost efforts to introduce a suitable job opportunity.
This might be what non-Japanese companies operating in Japan that post job opportunities in LinkedIn (and executive search agencies) would not like. However, Hello Work cannot be neglected in any discussions and/or initiatives in Japan’s job market, and the author feels that the job seekers who gain support from Hello Work and who leverage executive search firms are of different segments in the job market so both Hello Work and non-Japanese companies operating in Japan could co-exist.
2. Mobility of human resources
One primary characteristics of Japan’s job market is little mobility and limited people seeking job opportunities after they have joined a company. This mostly attributes to lifetime employment system, one of the main characteristics of traditional companies in Japan along with seniority system.
Under such systems, job hopping used to be extremely rare in Japan and for example even the author, who currently works for her second employer, never thought of changing her employer/career when she joined her first employer, a typical Japanese company that represents Japanese consumer electronics industry, in 1990s. It was the burst of the bubble economy around 1993 that such systems started to collapse to trigger growth of career-change market in Japan. This was further driven by some examples of success people working in non-Japanese companies operating in Japan who once started their career in Japanese traditional companies.
Having said that, career change is still the minority in Japan and mobility of human resources is still limited and therefore changing this situation is another critical requirement for LinkedIn to become popular in Japan. This is because one of the main uses of LinkedIn is discovering target human resources and opportunities, and first and upmost of such use is in recruiting. Of course, others include job seeking and finding business partners.
The author would like to add that although human resource mobility is still far behind in Japan, there are quite a few Japanese people working for Japanese companies who work globally and at least for such people LinkedIn could be an optimum online community for business networking.
3. More Japanese companies leverage social media in business
In general, work environment in many Japanese traditional companies does not encourage using social media compared to many western companies so changing this is another requirement for LinkedIn to become popular.
As mentioned in the previous article Vol.48 – 2011 Japan’s First Year of Social Media / SNS, 2011 is the first era of SNS (social media) in Japan so first Japanese companies need to start leveraging social media in their business.
It is only as recent as this year that some innovative Japanese companies such as Honda started leveraging Facebook in recruiting new graduates, as introduced in the previous article Vol.63 – Social Recruiting: Cases and Future of Recruiting in Japan. Also it is only from 2010 that some companies such as Fast Retailing (famous for UniQlo brand) started leveraging Facebook in their marketing.
Such companies are still minority in Japan, and even such companies still have not started using LinkedIn. Such companies first need to start using LinkedIn as innovators in this realm and more Japanese companies need to start leveraging social media in business.
4. Change in mindset of companies and individuals
#2 and #3 mentioned above cannot be fulfilled unless companies and individuals change their mindset.
They would need to be fully aware the power and benefit of effective use of social media. Companies need to set rules regarding privacy and use of social media and in work environment with such rules companies need to be comfortable disclosing their information online and be open to potential employees, business partners and customers.
And in the same work environment, individuals also need to be comfortable disclosing their information (work experience, education etc.) while securing their company information. This means individuals moving out from general preference of anonymity, which is critical in being a member of an online community of professionals.
What encourages companies and individuals change their mindset include introducing successful case studies. This could be of western countries but those of Japanese companies are far more convincing in Japan where lock-step mentality strongly prevails. Also, similarly to how (traditional) media played an important role making Facebook and Twitter to outbreak, exposure to (traditional) media is extremely effective in attracting awareness of the majority of the Japanese.
5. The author’s final thoughts
It is not only about LinkedIn that are the main possible requirements for LinkedIn to become popular in Japan and for that reason it is likely to take time and much efforts for LinkedIn to take root in Japan. The author feels that the change in the mindset of the companies and individuals is the biggest factor.
When localization in all aspects is complete, the key would be “promotions”. This requires LinkedIn evangelists, who are to strategically plan and implement such promotions similarly to any other marketing communication strategy. In doing so, benefits and points that differentiates LinkedIn from other social media for business use needs to be delivered.
Last but not least, social media is a tool or means to achieve something and LinkedIn is of effective business and marketing and to the author LinkedIn provides the best solution to solve business issues. For this reason, if the author were one of the evangelist, she would stress such things in core message and introduce ROI and outcome of leveraging LinkedIn when introducing successful cases.
After an office was set up in Tokyo in May, LinkedIn officially announced on October 20 that they will start providing Japanese version and to enter Japan market. Language localization is one but not only requirements for LinkedIn to become popular. Other possible requirements include localization of content and services, mobilization of human resources in job market and more Japanese companies leveraging social media, all of which require change in mindset of the companies and the individuals.