Twitter’s march through Japan’s business landscape continues as PR News launches Social Release, a service that uses Twitter streams and Facebook pages to distribute press releases.
While companies pay to have their press releases pushed out onto the service, Twitter users spread the word for free by signing up for a separate service called Social Post. By doing so, these users allow PR News to distribute press release links via their Twitter streams. Users can choose the genres they’ll shill for and the ratio of their tweets that they will allow to be PR. The default setting is to send out ads for all topics, frequently. The tweets come up with “[Social Post]” tagged at the beginning or end, lest followers wonder why you’ve suddenly started speaking PR-ese and spouting random links.
The service is included in the price of putting out a conventional release on PR News, or, as a separate package, starts at ¥38,000 for a single blast. Monthly rates are around ¥70,000.
PR News says that more than 65,000 Twitter and Facebook users have already signed up to be part of Social Post. This must sound attractive to companies needing exposure, but initial reaction is mixed. One user who experimented with it complained that the system was “uzai” (annoying); another said he wanted to disconnect his account from it, though at least a few more PR blurbs went out after his WTF tweet.
The potential benefits on the company side, however, are clear: Their messages will be coming out in semi-natural sound bytes, from the virtual mouths of thousands of users at once. It will be interesting to see who is willing to give a portion of their content over to spontaneously posted, luck-of-the-draw links, though we can see this as perhaps appealing to understaffed corporate Twitter accounts or niche news accounts as a way to bulk up their chatter. PR News says it’s aiming to have 1 million accounts spreading the word by March of 2011.
It strikes us as a bit like giving people a pile of flyers and asking them to hand them out to their friends, again and again. For free. To sweeten the so-called deal, for a limited time, PR News is offering registered social posters the chance to win a book voucher worth ¥500. Would this be enough for you to carry a sandwich board? If so, you’ve got until July 26 to sign up.
The beta virtual version of Asagaya went live last week
Virtual versions of Asagaya and Ogikubo in Tokyo’s Suginami Ward went on line last week as local information service Lococom launched beta versions of its newest project, Jimotonow. An extension of the service Lococom already provides, visitors can view tweets from local shops, get coupons for local stores and read shop blogs. Whereas in Locomo you chose the particular area and service you are searching for from drop down menu’s, Jimotonow gives the user more of a feeling of browsing the bohemian streets of these towns and is great way for people who live in the area or are planning to visit, to uncover an interesting little shop or find out about a local festival. The addition of tweets also means that the personalities of local shopkeepers come through.
Waribikiken (discount coupons) are very popular in Japan, and Jimotonow will be going up against already popular websites like Coupon Land and FooMoo. Tokyo-based FooMoo (also known as Hot Pepper) is usually the destination of choice for people looking to dine out; dedicated to restaurants, the site and sister print magazine offers a mind-boggling array of area-specific offers. Similarly, Coupon Land also has a magazine as well as a website and offers not only coupons on dining but also services aimed at women, such as beauty treatments, cosmetic surgery and evening classes.
Jimotonow definitely has the edge of FooMoo and Coupon Land in terms of the range of services on offer. We also like the fact that it has a friendly feel, offering a local flavor that its rivals lack. Many bargain hunters in Japan, however, still favor the old school system of clipping out coupons from a physical magazine and this is where FooMoo and Coupon Land stay ahead of the game by giving out free site-specific magazines at train stations.
Of course many towns already have their own physical guides to the area. In Koenji, for example, the local shopkeepers association distribute a small pamphlet that provides local news and discounts. However, it might make more sense in the future both for the environment and in terms of cost-cutting for local businesses to get on board with websites like Jimotonow.
From a marketer’s point of view, that’s a lot of potential consumers. How to grab their attention and keep it? The first wave of Japanese corporate Twitter accounts to play with the medium mostly chatted a bit aimlessly and offered Twitter-only discounts. Many of the accounts replied automatically to messages about the company’s product or shop that were posted in the common format “I’m at FamilyMart/eating udon/drinking coffee now.”
And new moms who had the presence of mind to get on Twitter and announce their delivery on the microblogging site are rewarded not only with a bunch of 140-character congratulations, but with an iPhone app, too. BabyBlog will send a free copy of its photo cataloging app to the first 100 parents each month to tweet 「出産なう！」(shussan nau), Japanese Twitter-speak for “I’m delivering a baby now.”
And hope the iPhone is still nearby when the tweets become a repeated string of “the baby is crying now.” Not surprisingly, some of the top-ranking paid apps in the “medical” section of Japan’s iPhone App store are baby soothers, including Stop Cry Baby Sound, Baby Smile and Baby Sleep.
Getting out of the house might be a welcome idea when the bundle of joy gets a little bigger. The women’s division of Japanese web portal Excite launched a mobile “Mama support” site this week with an “Out with Mama” directory. It lists “mom-oriented” details for about 20,000 entertainment, shopping and health-care venues around the Kanto and Kansai areas where babies are welcome, including vital data like whether there are places to nurse and if strollers can be wheeled in. The site, in Japanese only, is available on on the three main cell phone carriers, and unlimited access costs ¥210 a month.
Could any of these be the elusive population-boosting incentive the graying country’s been waiting for?
Finally, if the kid’s going to cry anyway, might as well make a sport of it. People have been getting a kick out of Asakusa’s relatively new take on the centuries-old tradition of nakizumou, a contest in which young sumo wrestlers compete to see who can make a baby cry the loudest. It’s all for the greater good – the tradition apparently comes from the old proverb “A crying baby grows up strong,” so it’s good luck if your kid cries.
We all know that dogs are more sociable than cats, but recently, our furry friends have taken that to a whole new level by utilizing social networking tools on the Web. Twitter and Mixi are already popular with dog owners keen to share info aobut their pet pooches but, even better, this month saw the launch of the cell phone version of Fur Peace, a Twitter-like site that allows owners to write messages about their days with the doggies. As it’s now available for smart phones, owners don’t have to be tied to their PCs to post and upload messages while they’re out on walkies.
Fur Peace, which was developed by students at Waseda University and launched in February, has stolen the march on doggie-microblogging from Twitter with the addition of canine-friendly extras. Unlike Twitter, pictures can be displayed alongside posts and users can engage in short conversations if they feel like it, upping the awwww factor immensely: “The dandelions are blooming,” barks one dog, accompanied by a picture of said hound with his snout in a patch of dandelions. In addition to uploading cute pictures, owners can use the Fur Peace matchmaking service to arrange amorous assignations for their pedigree hounds.
At the moment, most owners render their dogs barks into intelligible messages, such as: “This is a great place. There’s a river. Perhaps I’ll go for a swim, woof!” But, according to Asiajin, from the summer, owners of iPhones will be able to deliver messages straight from their dog’s mouth with the use of a simultaneous translation app. Bowlingual Voice, which analyzes barks and turns them into written messages such as “lets play,” is available in portable form from Takara Tomy, so some users of Fur Peace, who already have the gadget, may well be already writing in the first person. However, the iPhone app will be designed to allow users to upload messages directly onto Twitter and who knows, perhaps even to Fur Peace too.
While it’s not immediately apparent, the video above is a commercial for Fur Peace and aims to show how the service can strengthen the bond between owner and beloved hound. I love the owner’s final words of love to her dogs, who are cleverly named Obama and Hato (clearly an abbreviated Hatoyama): “Obama and Hato, if you pee, you won’t get any dinner.”
Looking for a bargain on past-life regression or new crystals for your fingernails? Savings could be just a hashtag away. A mashup of the Japanese pronunciation of Twitter and the word for discount gives tsui-wari, anglicized to “twiwari.”
Searching #twiwari on a Twitter page or visiting twiwari.jp is like walking down a restaurant-packed street near a train station in any city in Japan on a Friday night: a non-stop stream of offers for all-you-can eat izekaya, half-price beers or a free dish of nuts to go with a happy hour cocktail.
Places that don’t usually post touts on the streets in sandwich boards are also getting in on the online action. Neighborhood businesses all across Japan are putting up offers on Twitter for services ranging from hair straightening in Hokkaido to pre-summer air conditioner cleaning in Kyushu.
For most of them, getting the discount is as simple as saying “I saw it on Twitter.” Say those magic words to the manager at Higonoya Yakitori, and get an entire ¥2380 bottle of shochu.
Steak House Texas ran a (rather complicated) one-day special where lunch customers could get free extra burgers depending on the number of followers they had. Too much math? They’ve since simplified to a free pint of beer or an extra 100-gram helping of meat to grill.
Dozens of national dry-cleaning chains have joined forces on Twitter to offer a 20% discount for the entire month of April. The name of the promotion – koromogae nau – is pure J-Twitterese, combining an old word for changing one’s wardrobe from one season to another with a snippet of Twitter-only slang that signals what the writer is “doing now.” But in a low-tech twist, the offer is claimed by printing out the coupon and filling it out by hand.