Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

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 →

Daily deal sites tap into buying power in numbers

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Q:Pod is Japan's most popular daily deal site

Q:Pod, Japan’s most popular daily deal site

The idea of flash marketing websites, imported from the States in spring this year, has quickly proven to be a big hit with Japanese consumers looking to snag significant discounts on goods and services. Localized discounts are offered for a limited period and often in excess of 50 percent, for things such as meals in restaurants, hotel accommodations, beauty treatments and so forth. The key to the concept’s success is the use-it-or-lose-it approach to campaigns. An offer is withdrawn if the target number of takers isn’t met, thus guaranteeing a positive response to businesses, large and small.

Q:Pod, according to J-Cast, have already taken the lead in sales compared to their competitors, despite the fact they’ve only been operating for several months. According to Asiajin, their success spurred Chicago-based Groupon to buy a majority stake in the company, meaning that the company now dominate the daily deal market in Japan as well as in the United States.

A recent Q:Pod offer shows just how sweet the deals can be: 80 percent off the price of a ¥1,500  iTunes download card. The offer triggered a stampede of consumers applying to get their mitts on one of the ¥300 cards, whose numbers were limited to 10,000.

Other businesses have been jumping on the bandwagon. Recruit, for example, who already run Hot Pepper, a successful free magazine and website that offers discounts on restaurants, launched Pom Parade in July. The site offers daily deals on golf weekends, yoga, spa visits and meals out. In addition to Q:Pod clones, sites that specialize in particular products and services, such as Yaki Niku Pon, for fans of Korean barbecue, or Wotapon, for otaku (fancy a discount on a massage at a Akihabara maid cafe?), have begun to pop up.

Deals are announced to subscribers via e-mail newsletters, Tweets or Facebook updates, making it hard for consumers to keep pace with the vast number of offers available. Those who really want to stay ahead of the game can visit All Coupon, a website that aggregates information on daily deals across the board, saving you time searching out deals yourself.

Tachiyomi: Do it on your device

Friday, August 13th, 2010

Browse the latest magazine with Seven Net Shopping's tachi-yomi app.

Browse the latest magazine with Seven Net Shopping’s tachi-yomi app.

Japan came a little late to the Twitter party, but it has quickly made up for lost time.  And it’s not just individual users that have been fueling the Twitter boom.  Forward-thinking Japanese companies have also embraced the micro-blogging revolution in a big way, by developing Twitter marketing campaigns, offering Twi-wari discounts, incorporating Twitter into social games, and mining Twitter for valuable customer feedback.

The latest Japanese practice to be Twitterized is the fine art of tachiyomi (立ち読み) – browsing comics and magazines for free before you purchase them.

Tachiyomi, which literally means “stand and read,” can be observed 24/7 at one of the over 40,000 convenience stores or many of the bookstores in Japan. Most stores will allow customers to stand in front of the magazine rack and read through the comics with impunity.

Yamasa Shoyu, a soy sauce company, has taken the term and applied it to the manga-based marketing campaign for their new disposable 200-ml packs of soy sauce. The series is titled “Soy Sauce Magician” and is written by the manga team Masayuki Izumi, which consists of writer Haruki Izumi and artist Masayuki Kusumi, who have released several food-themed manga. By scanning a barcode on the product with their mobile phones, customers can finish reading a comic, the beginning of which has been posted on Twitpic.

Seven Elevens will start selling the packs of soy sauce on Aug. 9, and they will be available at other convenience store chains from Aug. 23. Beyond Twitpic, the two-comic series is being promoted on  Twitter and YouTube. While the comic is mostly just a silly ode to shoyu, highlighting the various uses of the miracle sauce, Yamasa Shoyu gets points for spirit.

Yamasa Shoyu has released a mini-comic they've termed

Yamasa Shoyu has released a mini-comic they’ve termed “tachi-yomi.” It highlights various uses of soy sauce.

Seven Net Shopping, the online arm of Seven and iHoldings that runs the Seven Eleven convenience stores, offers a more realistic digital version of tachiyomi for iPad and iPhone with their new app “Seven de Tachiyomi.” The free app is a digital bookshelf where you can browse popular magazines (such as Brutus, Pia, Real Design and Pen) and even a few books. The number of preview pages varies by magazines from three to 20 or so. Unfortunately that’s as far as the digitalization goes – customers looking for more will have to order a paper version of the magazine from the Seven Net Shopping site or, ironically, be forced to get up and haul themselves to the closest brick-and-mortar konbini to buy a copy

Pulsations (7.22.10)

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Here are the latest Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order, they are . . .

PR News wants you to tweet the news

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Let us boost your retweets!

Let us boost your retweets!

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.

Pulsations (06.23.10)

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Pulsations? Glad you asked. They’re links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order, they are …

Virtual versions map out real benefits of Tokyo localities

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

The beta virtual version of Asagaya went live last week

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.

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