Archive for October, 2008


Cultural and Social Media Observations From Japan

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I’m in Dallas Texas right now, perhaps the most opposite place thank Toyko where I’ve been the last week, and have been avidly sharing my observations via Twitter, the following are some of these observations, as well as a bit more context beyond 140 characters. These observations are more of a personal and cultural note, rather than my field report that focuses on the business aspect of social media in Japan.

Internet Adoption high in Japan: I met the top executive of a marketing company in Japan and he told me that 2/3 of Japan’s 120 million residents are on the web.

Yet most Japanese corporations do not invest heavily in web: This executive also told me that only half of Japan’s 4000 companies spend more than $100k on the internet at all.

Credit crunch discussed: This is a global issue, I heard it in a few meetings with clients, it’s cascaded beyond US.

Facebook’s Japanese Translation Poor: I asked my Japanese clients what they thought of Facebook’s translation, they looked away, grimaced, and gave very clear body reactions that it needs improvement. I promised to pass the word on, as I speak to Facebook on a frequent basis.

Tokyo’s adoption of Twitter highest in globe: Given the heavy mobile adoption, I’m not surprised by these stats.

New Social Media Technology: Learned about “Nico Nico Douga” from Jonathan Browne, he says its a video sharing site where the users can ‘write’ on top of others’ vids

Developer and Enterpreneurs not fully gelled: There’s a gap (cultural and language) between business entrepreneurs in web scene and the web engineers and developers, mentioned one web entrepreneur now based in Tokyo. In silicon valley, it feels like one family.

Anonymous trolls hurt in real life: It was mentioned in conversations a few times that comments –esp anon ones –can really damage someone’s reputation, honor. This south Korean actress was pushed over the edge and committed suicide.

Police light handed with foreigners: A UK tourist decided to swim in the moat of Tokyo’s Imperial Palace –naked. This is considered taboo, insulting, and just humiliating. Apparently, if a native did this, they would be severely punished.

Hotel Life: My room is equipped with a plasma screen, cordless iron, toilet with a bidet, and a futon like firm mattress.

Pride in workmanship: Everyone takes pride in their work and the customers they serve. Many taxi drivers have white glove service, and I noticed idling taxi drivers polishing their vehicle while waiting for next fare. A far cry from NY cabbies. Also, they will open and close the door for you using a remote lever –so dont open or close taxi doors, it’s frowned upon.

Tipping not required yet service high: Tipping isn’t part of Asian culture, in fact, it could be seen as insulting. Despite this, service was extremely high from taxis fast food, to hotel staff. If the weather was bad, expect apologies from Japanese, a most polite and considerate culture. I question why I feel forced to tip at American restaurants for mediocre or even sub-standard service.

Pandora: It works in Japan, I’m pleasantly surprised as I thought it was North American only.

Corporate Responsibility motto a current trend: Like “Green computing” in US, many Japanese corporations are on the sustainable and giving back to the community bandwagon, in fact, this makes a ripe opportunity for social media efforts to help tell this story.

Salary Men: Are Japan’s corporate worker, in the area I stayed, there were many dressed in black or gray suits, often with a skinny tie. Work life takes priority over anything else, and long days can extend to 12 hours, then not including after work eating, drinking, and festivities. Apparently, it’s not unheard of many salarymen to stay the night in small hotels, or even utilize showers at work… I thought I worked a lot.

Fresh Sushi: I had ‘real’ sushi near the fish market. It was more like FRUIT, than fish. Firm, burst in your mouth and sweet, I don’t think it was frozen.

Vending Machines: Dispense not only drinks and smokes, but also you can pay for food before you enter noodle houses, this increase effeciency, and reduced need to fumble with money and change. Salary Men hung out near vending machines where beer was dispensed in late evening –I wanted to join them.

Crime rate low: I noticed cops have batons, but not guns. Crime rate here is significantly lower than US. Upon closer look some had smaller guns, 22s? Much different than larger guns US cops carry.

Tokyo Travels: Went to Roppongi which has many ex-pats, as well as a somewhat nefarious hidden underground.

Mobile Medium: No SMS, yet all phones are 3G, most phones have built in digital TV tuners, so you can watch TV in crystal clear quality.

Developer Community still growing, yet not unified: Developers complexities with developing software, as they are a hardware based culture. Shibuya is the technology center –esp high tech and startups in Tokyo. Kris Tate, CTO of zooomr.com a photo sharing site notices an increase from 7-715, then later from 8pm-1am. Both are before and after work, often accessing from home computers before hitting the subways. There’s isn’t a large blogging community in Japan to help be the ‘instant niche media’ that you’d find in the US.

I can’t wait to go back…

Been to Japan? What have you observed?

Your Online Reunion

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Families are our first community, and it’s no surprise that I first starting experimenting with connecting my large family online as my first project. Today, I’m an analyst focused on communities for the largest brands in the world –and to think I start with a group of Owyang’s.

What happens offline happens online, in fact our blood lines are now being found in Yahoo groups, geni.com (online family tree, where I have 291 blood relatives), wikipedia, and personal created communities.

My family was able to connect online, and it eventually resulted in a large family reunion –which we then led a group of us back to our humble village in Zhongshan China two years ago. We had a second reunion yesterday in Oakland, we continue to share online as we did in person.

I’m not the only one, Stephanie Agresta was able to connect with her family members because of one of my blog posts, take a moment to watch this video –it’s heart warming.

I posed a question to my twitter network to find out if their family has connected online BECAUSE of the internet, (hear some of their stories), I’d love to hear your story.

Intel’s Community Marketing: Fishing Where The Fish Are

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Intel is known for trying out a variety of social media efforts, for better or for worse. They experiment, and continue to learn and iterate, I give them continual credit and reference them in presentations. One particular activity of note is what I learned from David Veneski, he tackled the join vs build question and made the call to join.

Earlier this year, I visited Intel up in Seattle (correction: Portland) and spoke to David Veneski, a marketing manager, and spoke to his group about social computing strategies. He had deployed some successful marketing efforts, and reached communities where they existed, he had efforts to reach early tech adopters in Digg, as well as Slashdot. Both of these communities are rabid passionate tech communities that are self-thriving and require little attention from outside sources to be successful.

[Savvy brands join communities where the exist, rather than solely trying to coax customers to the corporate website through disruptive tactics]

In the case of Digg, Intel funded development of new features, and became a sponsor of the creation of “Digg Arc” a visualization feature. This associative play tied the Intel name with early tech adopters, as well as got dugg. Next they brought forth some of Intel’s top engineers to have a conversation with the Slashdot community, and apparently it was so successful that the amount of questions became unwieldy to respond to.

The moment of brilliance was when David said that one of the requirements of his marketing efforts was to not link to Intel.com. Rather than try to join a community then pull them away, the marketing efforts joined the community and stayed there –likely where the trust is highest (see data).

As a result, David fished where the fish were, and avoided trying to suck the members off the community they were part of. Marketers are often measured on the amount of traffic they generate to their corporate website, but in this case, Intel will have to measure using different attributes such as interaction, viral spread, and maybe even a survey.

Rather than coax users to your irrelevant corporate website, savvy brands will fish where the fish are.

Status: Forrester Wave Report for Community Platforms, Analysis Process (Part 3/4)

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Wave report to segment market leaders in a crowded industry
I’m over the hump of this laborious research project to determine which of the 90 community platform vendors are enterprise worthy for Fortune 5000 interactive marketers.

Enterprise brands seek ‘Community Solution Partner’
I firmly believe that technology is a commodity, that’s why there are 90 vendors in this crowded space. Brands have indicated that success is only 20% technology, and the majority is 80% is a combination of internal changes, services, and support.

One thing I heavily stressed in my research, isn’t a focus so much on the technology, but instead how the vendors could truly be ‘community solution partners’ to their clients. A true solution partner understands the business needs of their client, offers strategy, best practices, can assist with implementation, offers ongoing technical –but more importantly, community management, guidance, and recommendations.

The research methodology includes:
I’ve had to make sense of thousands of cells in multiple excel sheets, ensure each line is accurate and will enable our clients to make important decisions.

6-hour in person lab days with each of the 9 vendors
During the last few weeks, I spent 5-6 hours with each of the nine vendors, often in a windowless room where powerpoint, screenshots, and live testing of their software took place. Using Forrester’s 5 objectives of listening, talking, energizing, supporting, and embracing, I’ve found some key patterns to the strengths of vendors.

Up to 27 customer interviews
Surprisingly, vendors don’t know their own customers that well, in more than one occasion, customers poorly rated the vendors that suggested they participate as this ideal customer reference. I also cross references with vendors to see how well they could anticipate what their customers said about them –in some cases, vendors were completely unaware of the challenges that clients were having –a very bad sign.

Reviewed data submitted by vendors
Earlier, we issued a survey to vendors in this space, over 50 of them responded, and submitted around 50 or so fields of data. I factored in a great deal of this to perform market sizing and to complete comparative analysis.

Frequent discussion with clients
Perhaps the most important piece of data input is the constant discussion with my clients on inquiry calls. I hear from them what they want (demand side) as well as their experience with vendors (feedback). It’s interesting to find out that many brands are not happy with their platform vendors, and the vendors often don’t even know it!

Next Steps: Final Analysis, Preparing for Publication
Expect to see the published report in the coming weeks. Right now, the spreadsheets are being reviewed by vendors in the fact checking process, and I’ve already started to see some patterns in the data that will help to determine positioning. Thanks for your patience, between client duties and travel, getting all the pieces together for success requires some patience to ensure it will be done correctly.

If you’re a client and need advice now, you can schedule an inquiry call with me and I’ll be happy to discuss with you my current findings. I’ve already made some recommendations to clients based upon their specific needs and objectives.

I hope you find this transparency in the research methodology helpful in understanding our goals to make sure our clients make the right decisions to be successful.

Read more about this Wave Research project:

Part 1: Starting the Wave
Part 2: Data Collection Process
Part 3: The Analysis Process
Part 4: Announcing the Wave, the final report

Field Report: How Culture Impacts Japan’s Adoption of Social Technologies in Business and Life

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Japan's Social Technographics 2008
Above Image: Social Technographics of Japan’s Online Consumers, this data (and more) is accessible from the Groundswell Profile tool.

First of all, this isn’t formal research, it’s just a one week observation from an outsider who spoke to a variety of companies and experts at a blogger dinner. For ongoing commentary and dedicated research from a true expert, meet colleague Jonathan Browne who’s a Forrester analyst focused on Customer Experience and based in Tokyo –he has far more knowledge, experience, and research on Japan than I likely ever will.

I’m here for one week speaking to some of Japan’s top companies about my research on communities and social technologies, as well as keynoting Japan’s ZDnet conference on social technologies and speaking to press and media. I soaked in as much Japanese culture as I could, and make a lot of observations and comparisons on twitter.

[Japan is global technology leader, yet when it comes to social computing, culture is the strongest influence –not technology]

Japan’s high tech industry fuels innovation –and impacts culture
Everywhere I look I see process and technology efficiencies that improve Japan’s environment. Every minute detail has been thought out, in order to ensure the country works well together and is efficient in day to day operations. Riding a 100+ MPH bullet train to Osaka confirms that only a few countries can develop and put into action a transportation system so effective.

Yet despite the high adoption and leadership of technology (esp mobile) in Japan, some locals expressed to me that technology optimism within Japan is actually very low. Some expressed to me that individuals are less social in real life as they tend to communicate via mobile devices.

Japanese Social Technographics (see above graphic)
Yet despite the advances in technology from any country, it’s important to note the impact of culture on social media. In fact, social media marketing is more like psychology or sociology than it is about marketing –in fact, technology is just a trigger point –and not much more.

I’m told that Japan’s group think culture can cause pressure that gives individuals a desire for self-expression. These tools can enable just that, and I’ve learned that many Japanese have multiple profiles to allow them to traverse in public, with friends, or speak their mind anonymously.

Looking at the graph at the top of this post, this confirms my observations. It’s interesting to note that ‘creators’ in United States are 21% compared to 35% in Japan, also, both countries have about equal number of ‘spectators’ both more than 2/3rds. In a culture where mobile usage is extremely high, accessing the web at any time is a fingers’ reach, this may explain why the ‘spectator’ behavior is so high.

Most corporations hesitant to adopt social
I expect social media adoption to continue to increase among citizens, consumers, and the public, yet we’re still a few years off from seeing a mass movement of corporations adopt these tools, unless there are some ‘punkings’ that spur corporations out of hesitation and start to react then be proactive.

I heard case studies of companies like Nissan and Sanyo using social technologies to reach customers, but although I can’t confirm it, some blogging initiatives don’t enable comments. Even with that said, experience shows that successful social media efforts require corporations to truly be transparent resulting in the rich history of Japanese corporate culture to change.

[While consumer adoption of the social and mobile web is high, corporations will be slow to adopt until they experience brand damage and true loss of control]

Corporate and social pressures increase perceived risk of social adoption
I spoke with bloggers, corporations and colleagues and confirmed that Japan’s top down management approach make it difficult for a Groundswell to be accepted within corporations. Furthermore, senior leadership may be removed from being adopters of these new technology –furthering the understanding gap. Although all brands are fearful of failure and risk, within Japanese corporations this resonates even louder. The ‘fail quickly and iterate’ mentality of silicon valley isn’t a virtue shared within Japan’s long time pillars of business.

At my keynote at Tokyo’s Zdnet event, I presented my findings from my recent research report on the “Best and Worst of Social Network Marketing” I could visible see the attendees get uncomfortable as I outlined the many companies who had ‘failed’ my test. Despite the unpleasant feeling, it was important that the attendees see who did it wrong –then right, so their chances of success increase.

Expect to see corporate internal adoption before external
Perhaps the first place to look for corporate adoption isn’t within the marketing and PR departments, but within the internal enterprise. I met with a few companies who expressed that internal usage of communities and social networks are already underway. Given the strength of the Japanese culture that can act collectively (although may be more top down than bottom up) the opportunity for group think collaboration may be high.

[Across the globe, power shifts to the participants of the social web. To reduce risk and become more connected with customers, Japanese corporations should prepare to engage with social technologies. Given this untapped approach, savvy brands who yield the traditional command and control approach can seize an opportunity before their competitors]

To be successful with social marketing corporations should:,
I’m echoing what Johnathan Browne has posted, read his full post to get more context.

  • Let go of the “command and control” Public Relations mentality
  • Focus on PEOPLE not on technology
  • Empower young Japanese employees as innovators

  • Related Reading

  • Q&A: What is the Japanese equivalent of [Western web service]?. Find out which websites are popular in US and they’re counterparts in Japan.
  • Japanese more likely to search for term “wiki” but does it reflect adoption?
  • Cathy shares her observations of some of Japan’s web services: What can you add to this?
  • Terry White attended one of my presentations, and comments on how a focus on people –not technology will prevail.
  • 2007 to 2008 Social Technographic Data Indicates Increase In Adoption

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    Japan's Social Technographics 2008

    Despite’s Wired’s opinion piece that blogging is waning (they cite no data), perhaps some of the most important data for this year is this recently released Social Technographic Data from colleague Josh Bernoff showing an increase in adoption in United States of Social Technographics from 2007-2008.

    He points out that inactives (people that cannot be reached through social technologies) has reduced from 44% to 25%. This means that three fourths of the US online users is touched by social technologies. Also note that more people who consume this content has increased from 48% to 69%.

    Do note that to be accurate in your marketing, like you have specific personas for your marketing efforts, you’ll need the same technographic profiles for those personas. Age, culture, professional, and other factors all play into each technographic ladder.

    There’s so much more to explore here, from specific cultures, regions, age groups, but looking at this bigger picture of a one year trend tells a bigger story –adoption so far, has increased. I also recommend you read Sifry’s state of the global blogosphere as well as access more social technographic data (now including Canada) at the profile tool, at no charge.

    Discussion points

  • Does your marketing efforts match the changes in online consumer behavior?
  • Should we expect this to plateau? if so when?
  • At what point will we see a decrease, if at all?
  • Are you prepared to answer these four questions of social media in an economic downturn?
  • Are you and your company ready to address these social media challenges?