Why Japan finally fell for Facebook
July 26, 2012 | Category :Social Media



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TOMOYUKI TANAKA is happy to share why he and his friends love their new favourite social network. "If one of us meets a cute girl, it goes up on Facebook," says the 16-year-old. "If there's a photo as well, then the 'ii ne' ['like'] button gains added significance."


Tanaka is one of a growing number in Japan who are ditching homegrown social networks such as Mixi, on which most users are anonymous, in favour of their foreign counterparts, where personal information is shared freely. Kenji Shinozaki, a 19-year-old hair stylist from Shizuoka, is another who has swapped Mixi for Facebook.


"Exchanging personal information such as phone numbers was a no-go and anyone who did risked having their account erased. We wanted a bit more freedom and openness and Facebook offered that," he says.


The pair are not alone. According to a Nielsen/NetRatings survey there were 17.2 million unique Facebook users in Japan in May - more than double that a year ago. Should this rate of expansion continue, Facebook Japan estimates it will claim number one spot from Mixi - which has 20 million active users a month - by the end of the year. "We think that Japanese internet users have started to realise the fun and merit of real-name communication on the web," says Wakaba Takemura, spokesman for Facebook Japan.


Facebook's insistence on using a real identity and openness is certainly catching on, especially among those who have become weary of unsolicited messages from people they don't know on sites like Mixi, says Atsushi Kametsu, an analyst at the Nomura Research Institute in Yokohama.


Surprisingly, Facebook gained a boost following the release in Japan of the film The Social Network in January 2011. "Until then, few Japanese had heard of Facebook," says Kametsu.


Another trigger was last year's earthquake and tsunami. While cellphone masts and telephone lines were affected by the disasters, data channels remained open and became the most effective way to stay in touch. Facebook's policy of using real names also came into its own. "People were looking for accurate information they could trust. Real-name systems like Facebook are much more suited to this," says Kametsu.


In the weeks that followed, Facebook gained a number of users, especially volunteer organisations who wanted to set up reliable online communities where they could pass on information and gain quick feedback on anything from missing persons to local food and water supplies.


Japanese businesses are also seeing Facebook's allure, using it to recruit net-savvy graduates, while jobseekers can use their Facebook page to showcase their talents.


"I heard that companies not only seek out potential recruits through Facebook but even advertise jobs," says Ayumi Matsuda, who is in her first year at university and joined Facebook three months ago. A feature called Connection Search helps students locate alumni working in companies in which the students have an interest. "The employment situation for graduates is getting harsher so this kind of feature gives Facebook users a bit of a headstart," she says.


In some cases, it is Facebook's simplicity that is winning converts. "The 'like' button is simple, but very clever," says Matsuda. "It doesn't require a lot of thought but has a certain emotional meaning attached to it. If someone 'likes' one of my photos, it puts a spring in my step."


Source: NewScientist

 

 
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