In January of 2008 Twitter announced that the Japanese company Digital Garage had invested in them and would create an official Twitter Japan presence. In October of 2009 Twitter announced the new release of a localized application for the Japanese cell phone market. From January to June of 2009 it was reported that the number of users in Japan grew from about 200,000 to almost 800,000. In March, 2010 that number jumped up to 7.52 million users and it was reported that 14% of global tweets are now originating from Japan. But it’s more than just that: The Japanese are revolutionizing the way they use the platform by beginning to truly integrating it with their society, and in doing so starting to take a global lead on its usage. Don’t believe me? Here are 6 proof points that show that Japan is already leading the US:
Back in late 2009, one of the two leading Japanese political parties, the LDP, announced that all of their elected officials should have Twitter accounts. This is equivalent to Michael Steele of the Republican Party telling all elected Republican officials that they need to have active Twitter accounts! In reality, not every LDP official has signed on, but reading the tweets of active government officials is one reason (another one being the growth of celebrities) that explains the growth of Twitter. It also shows how more ubiquitous the use of Twitter in Japan has become.
What would you think if I told you that a major TV broadcaster liked Fox created a weekly drama based solely around a group of young people who met and created relationships from Twitter. You’d say I was crazy? Well, that show already exists in Japan: “Sunao ni Naranakute,” has been broadcasting on one of the major networks in Japan since April.
Do you think Twitter is an application that should be pre-installed on every cell phone from your major carrier similar to applications like an email client or web browser? Masayoshi Son recently said “If it doesn’t come with Twitter, it’s not a cellphone.” Think he’s some crazy early adopter techie? Nope. He’s the CEO of Softbank, one of Japan’s largest cell phone carriers and exclusive distributor for the iPhone in Japan. Chairman Son recently announced that a Twitter client would be available on all new cell phones distributed by Softbank, not just the iPhone. AT&T and Verizon, are you listening?
In the United States a lot of print ads are appearing with the Facebook or Twitter logos on them asking fans to “follow them.” A few months ago Coca-Cola Japan took this one step further. Traditionally Japanese TV commercials have ended with a “search for us on the Internet” text overlay in lieu of a long URL to promote campaigns or to engage with their viewers on their websites. Coca-Cola Japan replaced the “search for us on the Internet” with “search for us on Twitter” with a keyword to lead its users to a landing page link for its campaign. Sure, there have been targeted Twitter campaigns in the US before, but as part of a TV commercial from a Fortune 500 brand? [It’s actually a funny TV Commercial so watch below if you are interested!]
When a communication platform like Twitter becomes ubiquitous, new services that didn’t exist before arise to the challenge by integrating tweets into their standard service infrastructure. This week the Japan Weather Association (JWA), the public foundation that provides weather-reporting services in Japan, announced that they would integrate tweets with their weather maps. Because of the location-based option of tweeting, the JWA is linking tweets concerning the weather and compiling them for each region where they show the temperature. This gives someone a unique, real-time report on the actual weather conditions in a given city without being there. Clever idea. Unfortunately the tweets are in Japanese, but click here to see the “Everyone’s Feelings Weather Map.”
When Disney announces a Mickey Mouse application for Twitter I’ll be amazed. But until that happens, all of the cutesy people will have to buy the Twitter application branded by that popular icon of Japanese culture, Hello Kitty. Hello Kitty on Tappit was recently released to meet the increased demand from Japan. FYI, yes, an English version is available from iTunes as well!
As a social media consultant who also lived in Japan for 15 years and still speaks Japanese fluently, I am personally and professionally excited about how quickly and revolutionary the trends continue to be for Twitter and Japan. I look forward to reporting back to you periodically on the latest developments from Japan and what both businesses and professional can learn from the Japanese.
Anything here surprise you? Learn something new? Any other country that you know that is a global leader in using Twitter in a unique way? Please share!