Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

Making new connections over lunch

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

The Social Lunch app hooks up like-minded business people

A new way of networking is catching on with the twenty- to thirtysomething crowd in Japan. Social lunches arranged over the web, where those in similar industries get together for an informal chat have been growing in popularity lately. At the forefront of this trend is the Facebook app Social Lunch which matches up pairs of professionals for friendly lunches. The idea is that going with a friend you already know takes a lot of the stress out of occasion. According to J-Cast, since the app launched in October last year, 20,000 people have registered for the service and around 900 social lunch dates have taken place as a result.

The app, produced by SyncLunch Inc., is simple to use: Team up with a friend in a similar profession, type in preferred location and time and it will match you up with another pair who may be useful for you to network with for a lunch date. J-Cast’s writer signed up with a former colleague who was a graphic designer and was paired up with a couple of guys, one of whom was looking for design tips for his new website. The lunch was a success and seemed a possible opening to future collaborations.

A similar option is the Twitter-based Hirukai service from Digital Garage Inc. Instead of meeting at a restaurant, though, the meet-up organizer offers a space in their office for others to gather in. Bringing along their own bento lunches, those attending can swap ideas, or sandwiches, in an informal atmosphere.

The model for Social Lunch borrows something from gokon (group dating), in which  the presence of friends takes much of the stress out of an initial encounter with a potential partner. As marriage rates fall, gokon, konkatsu (marriage hunting) and now machikon events have been on the rise and this has been accompanied by a slew of  new apps to help young Japanese find Mr. or Ms. Right. As young Japanese are increasingly willing to try out group dating, it seems that the next logical step is for go-getters to find business partners by using similar methods.

Guys can get greedy and girly on Valentine’s

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

According to the folks at Chocokure, the era of men patiently waiting for Valentine’s chocolates is over. Now they can stand up and be counted by demanding chocolates from the woman they love. If something seems a bit skewed about this picture, it’s important to remember that in Japan it’s customary for men to receive chocolates from their sweethearts or colleagues, not vice versa. (The favor is returned on White Day, March 14.) The idea of demanding chocolates via social networking platforms, however, is brand new.

Valentine's chocolate could be yours for the tweeting ... if you're lucky.

A witty little one-off service for Valentine’s Day, men type in the Twitter username of the lady they wish to demand chocolates from, then enter their address and telephone number. A cheeky tweet is then sent that roughly translates as, “Choco please. Pretty pretty please.” A link on the tweet takes the lady to a page where she can click on either the “Present” button, or “Sorry.” If she is obliging she can then pay ¥500 by credit card and, presto, the requested chocolates will be sent.

The ¥500 “one coin” choco is a pretty popular price range with women purchasing giri (obligitary gift) chocolates for co-workers, but when it comes to really satisfying the man you love, nothing beats posh chocs from a department store. So unless you’re sure your girlfriend is in danger of forgetting this important occasion, it might be wise to hold out and drop some heavy hints instead.

This year chocolate on a stick is trending as a Valentine’s Day gift for lovers. According to Nikkei Woman,  the modern man is apparently not adverse to receiving a chocolate lollypop like Savarin’s bitter chocolate or caramel flavoured numbers, available at Isetan Shinjuku. An interesting variation on this trend is the Chocolat-o-Lait milk drink by patisserie Aoki Sadaharu. Sadaharu, who has a shop in Paris no less, has developed this choco lollypop to melt once placed inside hot milk, producing a delicious drink, available in matcha, yuzu or noir flavors.

If lollypops seem a little too girly, how about the Mechasaurus, a chocolate mechanoid dinosaur to melt the heart of the most hardcore of otaku? Only available at L’eclat, Osaka, this incredible creation comes with the equally incredible price tag of ¥52,500. If your girlfriend presents you with this on Valentine’s Day, you’ll know it’s for real.

For more Valentine’s ideas, JT has some sweet somethings.

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 →

‘Support angels’ are always there, thanks to AR and AKB48

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Ever get the feeling your computer support techs are playing around in their futuristic offices? No? Not even just a little? Hewlett Packard’s summer “Support Angels” campaign features TV commercials with members of all-girl pop group AKB48 enacting that fantasy.

Yes, there is an interactive experience, powered by augmented reality, embedded in this promotional fan. Pretty cool, no?

Meanwhile, in the real world, the company is launching a campaign for new new 24/7 support service in Japan that blurs the line between offline and online advertising. They’ve set up a big interactive display outside the east entrance of Shinjuku Station, a popular night-out meeting spot. A TV screen, the size of a small stage and ringed in neon, plays a slideshow of AKB48 members posing in headsets and the OL-of-the-distant-future costumes from the commercial. People hanging around the area are encouraged to interact digitally and physically: Tweets that are hashtagged “support angel” (#サポートエンジェル)  scroll instantly across the screen. And at smaller monitors nearby, people can win prizes by taking a quiz. (Electronics are the big prize, but everyone who plays will get at least a branded bottle of water.)

You can take the interactive experience home, too. On a recent hot night, they were giving out paper fans. The disks have a silhouette of a woman in a box on them. When you go to the website and aim the fan just so at your computer’s webcam, the silhouette activates an AR version of AKB48 member Yuko Oshima. You can interact with the image and use your webcam to take a photo side by side.

Can she help with your tech troubles? Nah. “It’s called ‘Support Angels’ because it’s like they’re always looking out for you,” said a young man staffing the display outside Shinjuku Station. “The support people aren’t really AKB48,” he clarified. But the AR gadget gives you something to play with while you’re waiting for a real tech to fix your computer.

Pucker up! It’s Kiss Day in Japan

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

The groundbreaking "Hatachi no Seishun"

Check your breath and find a friend (or a kiss transmission device): Today, May 23, is “Kiss Day” (キスの日) in Japan.

The phrase is trending on Japan’s local Twitter ranking, mostly, it seems, due to tweets from people saying they had no idea that it was indeed Kiss Day. The day commemorates the date in 1946 when the first Japanese movie with a kissing scene was shown in Japan. The movie was “Hatachi no Seishun”  (20-Year-Old Youth) directed by Yasushi Sasaki and starring Kaoru Aikawa and Michiko Ikuno. The kissing scene is reportedly brief, and the actors are said to have protected their mouths from each other with gauze. But the moment was daring enough to sell out cinemas at the time. It also is said to have started debates about the meaning and appropriateness of showing kissing in films, including whether or not it was a properly Japanese — or hygienic — activity, according to the book “The Japanese Film: Art and Industry.”

Trends in Japan 2010: Twitter

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Twas the year of Twitter in Japan

Twas the year of Twitter in Japan

While gloomy year-end political and economic round-ups are suggesting that happiness was not abundant in Japan this year, there’s no denying that 2010 turned out pretty good for a certain little blue bird in Japan. Twitter soared in Japan this year, attracting some 1o million users and spawning dozens of new words and ways to use the microblogging service. “Japan is the fastest-growing country in the world,” said Twitter CEO Evan Williams when visiting Tokyo this summer for a Tweetup. And it’s about more than being the country that holds the record for most tweets per second.

English, please

Japanese became the second most-used language on Twitter after English. Japanese Twitter users flocked to books and magazines that promised to show them how to learn colloquial English by following native speakers and practicing the language 140 characters at a time. People appended hashtags like #engtweet and #eigodewa to messages to show that they were practicing their English and to find like-minded students looking for microlessons.

Say what?

Twitter brought new words and compounds into the Japanese language, mostly thanking people for doing the things people do on Twitter: foro-ari (thanks for following), oha-ari (thanks for saying good morning), and otsu-ari (for saying “otsukaresama,” a catch-all commendation for a job well done). Could ari-ari, thanking people for saying thank you, be far behind? One neologism that made the big leap from online niches to mainstream usage in 2010 was nau (なう), which means “now” and is used in tweets to  emphasize what one is doing . . . now. The word is popping up on advertising and posters all over Japan, nau.

Look who’s tweeting

Everyone seemed to be getting in on the Twitter act. From politicians such as ex-Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama (who has Japanese and English accounts) to chatty business tycoons like Masayoshi Son, no one seemed to be too important to dash off the occasional tweet, either formal or friendly. It became a way for them to keep in touch with the masses directly. Hundreds of people who didn’t tweet themselves, whether  because they were too busy or not interested (or long dead), had automated Twitter “bots” tapping out pre-coded versions of their famous quotes and catch-phrases.

More tweeters, more discounts

As the number of people on Twitter grew, so did their collective buying power. People swarmed to flash-marketing sites that offer huge price cuts on specific items or services for limited time periods. Homegrown Groupon clones like Q:Pod and Pom Parade made a strong showing with deeply discounted deals on everything from fancy dinners to spa packages.

Let’s play a game
Marketers got innovative with games and “Twitter toys” that explored new social opportunities for interactive marketing. Espresso Blux’s Twitter samurai drama took a storyline that started on TV commercials and subway posters and was continued with a complex and tongue-in-cheek Twitter campaign online. Uniqlo rolled out one interactive Twitter multimedia mash-up after another, and even convinced thousands of people to queue in a virtual “Lucky Line.”

Year of the rabbit, year of the bluebird?

As all signs for 2011 point to the smartphone market continuing to grow in Japan, it remains to be seen what new directions mobile social media will take. Why not keep the Twitter trend going into the new year by tweeting this story nau?

Real New Year’s greetings to virtual addresses

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Last year, people in Japan exchanged some 2 billion New Year’s greeting cards called nengajo (年賀状). As long as they’re marked appropriately and posted in the specially marked mail slots between Dec. 15 and 25, they’ll be delivered to friends, family and business associates nation-wide (by an army of holiday part-timers) on Jan. 1.

WebPO

A middle man between you and your online friends

Technology has taken some of the work out of addressing, writing, stamping and mailing them in the last few years.  Any number of Internet and keitai sites allow exchange of e-greetings by Web mail or mobile phone. Apparently, though, nothing beats flipping through that nice fresh stack of real cards, signed, sealed and delivered on the first day of the year. Now several services are preserving the personal paper touch while taking the work out of addressing them by sending real nengajo via virtual addresses.  Even if you don’t know your online friends’ e-mail addresses — or even their real names — you can send them the cards.

The two main services offering this feature are Japan Post’s WebPO and Net-nengajo. For either one, you select the cards and choose your message online, addressing the card to an e-mail address, social network profile name or Twitter handle.  The service then tells the recipient a card is waiting and asks for a real-world name and address. This goes directly onto the card without ever being revealed to the original sender. Mixi has a similar nengajo system in place for exchanges among its own members.

Continue reading about next-generation nengajou →

They’ve got a Twitter bot for that

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Twitter love is showing no signs of abating in Japan. It’s not just real live people “muttering” their 140-character thoughts, though. As much as a quarter of traffic on the microblogging site is thought to come from automated accounts, or “bots.” Japanese Twitter bots are slightly different than English-language bots. While many of the most popular bots in English do something – remind you of your to-do list, say, or help you calculate a tip – a large portion of the most popular bots in Japan spout quotes from celebrities and anime programs.

Welcome your new bot friends

Meet your new bot friends

And while Japanese engineers are working hard to create real-world robots that will fool us into thinking they’re real, some of the artificial intelligence bots on Twitter have already succeeded. Last year, a Japanese blogger wrote about being surprised to discover that some of his Twitter friends were actually bots. There are scads of AI bots like Robot Secretary. Included in this group of advanced bots is the popular Shuumai, which ”learns” speech by reading what people write and then tries to regurgitate it appropriately.

Who’s who

According to a Goo ranking, the celebrity bot that people most want to follow is Matsuko Deluxe. There are at least three bots tweeting quotes by the zaftig cross-dressing TV personality and columnist, with a total of over 100,000 followers.  The quotes are a bit barbed, whether they’re directed at other TV personalities (“The women on Nippon TV are mostly no good“), at him/herself (“I don’t even know if I’m funny“; “I think I should try a little harder“) or at no one in particular (“Basically, I don’t like you.”)

Two ranks down and a world away is Becky, a singer/comedian/actress who at one point  in her career had officially (er, that’s “officially”) changed her name to include emoticons. Her smiling headshot, backed with Brady Bunch blue, replies to keywords, like “good night,” with upbeat messages peppered with music notes and stars. The person responsible for this bot is also the brains behind behind one that impersonates Softbank’s CEO Masayoshi Son.

Also in the top 10 are the famous words of Beat Takeshi (“I want skill more than money, sensibility more than power.”) and the Seattle Mariners Ichiro Suzuki (“What motivates me is that I like baseball.”)

The Peter Drucker bot translates the American management expert’s wisdom into Japanese tweets. A novel about a high school girls’ baseball team studying his techniques made him a buzzword in Japan this year, perhaps an unexpected posthumous honor.

Continue reading about Twitter bots in Japan →

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