Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

2011 trends: Social media in Japan comes of age

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

2011 was the year that social media came into its own in Japan. When phones went down on March 11, Japan connected with Twitter, mixi and Facebook in record numbers. Social media went from being a curiosity to a lifeline. Connecting online wasn’t just for the users, either; in 2011, the social media sites started friending each other.

Mixi and Twitter announced a partnership in November, possibly to shore up against a rapidly growing Facebook. With growth spurred by the movie “The Social Network,” Facebook was named the no. 2 “hit product” of 2011 by Nikkei Trendy magazine. While earlier in the year it looked like Facebook was getting left behind by Japan’s own social media sites, a November Nielsen report showed Facebook pulling ahead in the last quarter to surpass Mixi for the first time with some 11 million users. However, Mixi quickly issued a statement saying it actually had about double the 8.4 million active users that Nielsen had reported, since many people access the site from their cellphones, which the Nielsen report didn’t track.

As before, mobile remains a major access mode for online content in Japan. Whether or not Mixi actually feels threatened by Facebook, the tie-up with Twitter suggests it’s watching its back.

In another partnership, Google+ partnered with pop idol juggernaut AKB48 and its regional versions, for a total of almost 90 individual accounts. The performers have swamped the top 100 most popular users list in Japan, leaving only a handful of spots for other idols and Japanese tech gurus.

Two of the largest social networks in Japan are mobile gaming sites. GREE and Mobage Town have over 20 million users each. Mobage Town’s parent company DeNA has been making acquisitions in international markets including China, the U.S. and Chile, again showing the importance of collaboration for social sites.

Continue reading about social media in Japan →

Japan Inc. puts on its social game face

Friday, November 4th, 2011

While companies have been advertising within social networking games like Farmville for awhile now, it seems the next evolutionary step for companies is to create their own games for SNS. Indeed, in recent weeks we’ve witnessed three big Japanese corporations launch their own games free of charge on Facebook, indicating that this area might see some significant development in the months to come.

Win a free car with Honda's "Janken Survival"

Probably the most impressive of the three new game releases was Toyota’s Social Network Racer, a pro racing game in which users compete against each other on a virtual track. You can soup up your ride by racking up points, but the ultimate goal is to win a ticket to the Tokyo Motor Show. Made to promote Toyota’s FT-86 II Concept model, which is due to be unveiled at the show in December, a billboard above the track advertises the new model. The graphics for the game are pretty impressive, but unfortunately it takes awhile to load and you’ll need a high spec computer to run it.

Though Toyota’s game is probably more engaging over a longer period of time, games such as  Toshiba’s Smart Community Game are more immediately gratifying. Linking to your Facebook page via Toshiba’s Smart Community YouTube channel, the game simply involves dragging and dropping necessary resources onto photos of your friends. Launched on Oct. 20, the game aims to advertise the fact that the company have their finger in many pies and these industries are represented by the different resources players supply to friends. Its fresh futuristic look is uncluttered by excessive amounts of overly technical information, but allows interested users to easily go deeper and discover more about the company. Unfortunately game play, though simple, is not really that engaging and we found ourselves bored after a couple of tries.

Which brings us to Honda’s new Insight Battle Janken Survival. Combining the simple game of janken (rock, scissors, paper) with impressive looking graphics, players are pitted against other Facebook users for real-time matches. We really loved that though it looked really sleek, it didn’t take ages to download, and we liked the way the game transformed us into a cool character utilizing our Facebook profile photo. The more you win, the higher your ranking, and the highest ranking player gets to win a Honda Insight Exclusive car. Even if you get bored of playing janken, the carrot of a free car alone is enough to get players totally hooked.

Is Facebook’s ‘Check-in Coupon’ a good deal in Japan?

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Japan recently became the first country in Asia to get a local version of Facebook Deals, called “Check-in Coupon” here, and Facebook announced the move with an event in Shibuya. (No one who covered the outdoor event could resist giggling at the irony of the local PR staff asking  the audience not to take or share pictures.)

Check in for chicken

The location-based coupons work the same here as in other cities where the service has been implemented. On a smartphone running the Facebook app, the Places feature shows nearby sports where the users can “check in” (i.e., announce to Facebook friends where they are). Shops offering coupons have a yellow icon next to the name. Click on a place with a coupon, and the coupon details appear. If you click again on the shop’s details to check in, you will simultaneously get the coupon displayed on your screen (which you can later show at the register to get your discount) and send a message alerting all your Facebook friends about the coupon. The idea is that it’s a win-win-win: You’ve saved money, the store has gotten a little advertising, and all your friends can congratulate you on your savvy shopping.

That last bit could be where it gets tricky. How many of your coupon acquisitions will your friends comment on before they get annoyed and hide your activity or even defriend you? While anonymous group buying through PomPare and Groupon have proven popular in Japan (though not without great big stumbles), will the Japanese preference for online privacy thwart the extroversion on which the check-in coupon thrives? Of the initial deals offered by the roll-out partners, none is anything we’d risk alienating friends for.

Continue reading about Facebook's Check-in Coupons →

Privacy not an issue for geolocation apps

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Facebook have announced that Japan is the second country in the world to receive Facebook Places

Facebook announced that Japan is the second country in the world to receive Facebook Places

This week’s news that Japan is the first country outside the U.S. to to get Facebook Places might have come as a surprise to many. While social networks abound here, online privacy kerfuffles are common and the average Japanese prefers avatars and pseudonyms to real names and identities. Would this nation really embrace an application that broadcasts their movement in the real world?

In case you haven’t heard, Facebook Places is a geolocation app that allows users with GPS-friendly cellphones to “check in” whenever they arrive at a location  – and “check out” when they leave. This effectively makes your movements transparent to your social network online, so you can meet up with nearby friends, if you wish. But Facebook aren’t exactly foisting this app on a hostile market: Similar platforms such as  Livedoor’s Roketacchi (Location Touch), BrightKite and Foursquare have already proved popular here.

However, it seems odd that geolocation software is such a hit, seeing as traditionally personal privacy online is closely guarded in Japan. Google came under a barrage of criticism when they launched Google Street View, with many complaining that private moments and dirty laundry had been unnecessarily displayed online. The upshot was that the company were forced to reshoot its footage at a lower angle – at considerable expense. Privacy is a big issue even among users of social networking services such as Mixi, where many users veil their identity and avoid posting pictures of themselves.

So why the popularity? A recent article in TNW Asia points to the rise in popularity in Western apps, following on from the runaway success of the iPhone, which is now almost as ubiquitous on the streets as Louis Vuitton handbags. If this is the case, does this mean that a Western laissez-faire attitude to online privacy will follow suit?

Perhaps. Or maybe it will be more of an adopt-and-adapt model: Though Japanese are signing up to Facebook in droves, many users are still loathe to use real head shots for their profile picture.  (Many of my Japanese Facebook friends prefer to obscure their faces or put up a photo of an inanimate object instead.)

Those who chose to embrace geolocation services might feel that the benefits outweigh the negatives. This year, for example, DJ Naka_tei made dubious history when he revealed his location in an Akihabara toilet and made a public appeal on Twitter for toilet paper; he was rescued within 20 minutes.  It’s times like these when sacrificing your online privacy is not such a pressing issue.

Mixi helps users socialize with new apps

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

pants

“Underwear Calendar” is one of many new Mixi apps. It lets users design their own underpants and keep a log of what they wear.

The development of social networking sites over the past decade has been one of evolution. Sites have boomed and busted, battling for number of users by adding features and functions or marketing to different audiences. Despite recent outrage about privacy settings, the clear winner has been Facebook, with over 400 million users, and the success of outside applications on the platform has pushed Mixi, a Japanese social networking site, to create its own set of applications.

Mixi is an invitation-only networking site where users can create profiles. While Facebook and other sites like LinkedIn rely on users creating a more or less accurate online representation of themselves, Mixi users often obscure their identity and avoid posting pictures of themselves. They then participate in Communities and Groups, having discussions about interests (such as fashion trends like “Forest Girls” and “Witch Girls,” as discussed previously) and interacting with friends.

In May 2009, web journal Neojaponisme suggested that the anonymity reflects a uniquely Japanese fear of the Internet (a fear that may have become more understandable to Americans in the past few months), but the recent boom in Facebook-like applications suggests that Japanese users were just using the site for different reasons, most of which didn’t (and still don’t) require complete transparency.

Altogether, applications are divided into five major categories – Entertainment, Communication, Studying, Useful Tools and Classmates. While some of the most popular applications are Farmville clones, like the game Sunshain bokujo (Sunshine Farm), other applications are providing basic feature extentions. Mixi Calendar debuted on May 11 and in three days topped over 1 million users. Although not as robust as the Facebook Event feature, the calendar application lets you create simple event notifications for friends or for everyone. It also takes comments from others. Applications in the final category, such as Dosokai (Class Reunion) and Dokyusei keijiban (Classmate Bulletin Board), allow users to track down classmates on the service.

“Useful Tools” include many apps that are probably familiar to Facebook users. These include Social Library, an app that lets you manage a digital bookshelf and keep track your friends’ reading lists; My Mixi Youtube, an application to share YouTube clips; and Tsunagari mappu (Connection Map), which draws a graphical representation of your friends.

While not an application, Mixi also recently incorporated Twitter-like status updates into its basic template, even taking the same translation of “tweet” as the official version – tsubuyaku, or “to whisper” in Japanese.

And this wouldn’t be a proper blog post about a Japanese trend if we didn’t somehow incorporate underwear, right? Well, Pantsu karenda (Underwear Calendar) offers female users the ability to create digital versions of their underwear and then note the days on which they wear them. The ultimate goal? Become an “underpants princess” and charm the men who “in actuality pay attention to underwear quite closely, strange though it may be.”

Naturally, there is a commercial tie-in. Image, one of the companies that created the app, runs a mail order catalog that sells – surprise, surprise – women’s clothes, and at the bottom of the application there are links to “recommended items” from the catalog. Unfortunately for panty fetishists, all of the underwear on the site appears to be brand new.

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