Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Japanese People Like Privacy So Facebook Will Always Be an Also-Ran

As I wrote long ago, I seriously doubt Facebook can surpass Mixi or Gree in Japan. The Japanese like their privacy and Facebook doesn't address these concerns nearly enough. 

I suspect that if Facebook cannot dethroned either, it will be a failure in this country.

Actually, with how much of a problem hacking and stealing identities is these days, I am amazed at just how many people in the west put up so much personal information on Facebook.

Once again, I have found a recent article that supports my beliefs about Facebook not becoming number one in Japan and how the can't do so as the cultural differences are too great.

Let's face it, Mixi and Gree were made in Japan, they completely understand the Japanese psyche. Facebook doesn't. Also, one of Facebook's biggest sales points is that it let's you connect with people overseas. That is not a big point of appeal to the Japanese. 

Bloomberg reports:

Facebook Inc. may not overtake Mixi Inc. in Japan as the lure of connecting with friends overseas isn’t enough for users to switch services, according to the U.S. social-networking site’s biggest games developer.
Japan “is one place where Facebook may not end up being dominant,” Robert Goldberg, head of Zynga Game Network Inc.’s operations in the country, said in an interview in Tokyo. 
According to Nikkeisha research, only 3% of the Japanese public can converse in English. This is a huge reason why reconnecting with people in foreign countries doesn't really appeal to the Japanese; they can't communicate.
I think it is possible that Facebook could actually be a failure in Japan much like Pepsi-cola or Universal Studios. The article continues:
Mixi is better suited for Japanese users because it gives subscribers more control over who sees their content and personal data is more secure, President Kenji Kasahara said in an interview on Dec. 15. Users can also send Twitter-like messages limited to 150 characters, a service that began in September 2009 and isn’t available on Facebook, Kasahara said at the time.
Masashi Tokuda, a Tokyo-based spokesman at Mixi, said the company’s stance hasn’t changed since Kasahara made the comments.
Shares of Mixi declined 5.6 percent to 428,500 yen as of 1:25 p.m. on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, compared with a 0.7 percent gain in the benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average. Zynga is a closely held company.
Mixi’s monthly active users, subscribers who log in at least once a month, have reached 14.5 million as of Dec. 31, the Tokyo-based company said earlier this month. That compares with Facebook’s more than 500 million users worldwide and 24.5 million for DeNA Co., Japan’s biggest developer of social games for mobile phones.
"Japan is a unique marketplace and it is necessary to take care when bringing a global product and localizing it to the Japanese culture."
Mixi and Gree allow people to use pen-names and to hide their true identities. This is important to the Japanese. 
Facebook isn't going to change 2,700 years of culture in five years. It's crazy to think that they could. Facebook doesn't protect people's privacy enough and, recently, there has been lots of junk mail and people's account's being hijacked to send junk mail out.
Like I said, they might fail here. Many big guns have in the past failed. Of the companies successful in the west that have failed in the Japanese market, the list is long; Pepsi, Universal Studio Theme Park, eBay, Vodaphone, Carrefour, Burger King and many more. The most surprising thing about this list is that, even after the failures of big players with multi-million dollar budgets, the list grows longer everyday. 
Will it include Facebook someday?
The companies who failed in Japan, failed because they couldn't comprehend just how different Japan is from the west. On the other hand, the companies who succeeded like; Disney, Coca Cola, Goldman Sachs, Yahoo and Amazon, all hired Japanese companies to handle their product/service PR for the Japanese market. 
Facebook blew it at the start in Japan by not correctly localizing their service and they also lost 2 years by not having their service ready for cell phones. This allowed Mixi and Gree to completely capture the youth market.
I think you would hard-pressed to find a high school kid in Japan who uses Facebook... I know a few college kids who do (they all speak English).

I have a Facebook account too. I am thinking about quitting it. But I haven't. Why? I connect with many foreign musicians through Facebook. It is useful for that. Facebook is great for foreigners. But for connecting to the Japanese? No. Don't need Facebook.
I certainly do not put any personal information on my Facebook account. I don't even have my correct birth date on it. I'd recommend that you eliminate all personal information on yours too.
So, like I said, I have been serious about quitting Facebook recently. Any readers in Japan who feel the same way?

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Cindy said...

That's what I was trying to remember - Mixi! Brigitte of the Dark Shadows says it's larger than facebook, myspace and youtube combined. WOW! without all the hassle too! Hate FB and have no idea why i am on it! ??? Thanks always for your insightful articles!

Jimbo said...

I have been using Facebook less and less over the past few years. My account being hacked about a year ago really made me tighten up how much info I put online. The only reason I haven't completely shut it down is to keep in touch with far away friends and family easily, but I could just as easily accomplish that with e-mail...

Sachiko Kawamura said...

I'm Japnaese and recently I felt the same for Facebook...I completed agree to your opinion.
Now many Japanese people who does not speak English have started to use Facebook and it seems like a merrymaking! But I've started to doubt how many people understand Facebook collecet their personal information to sell as their products. There's a saying in Japan as "Tada yori kowai mono ha nai.(There is nothing that is scarier than for free. )"

When I've started to use Facebook I thought it was really useful for me to keep in touch and find my old friends in abroad. I could actually found an Australian boy who was 5 years old when I stayed his house as the exchange student...He was there on Facebook as 35 years old man! And I found another friend I lost contact for 20 years. So Facebook has worked for me to let them know I'm still alive in Japan. Then around November of last year, many of my Japanese friends or unknown Japanese suddenly sent me the friend request. Since then they are in a merrymaking. I feel it's because of the business depression in Japan and they seems to find exit for this long business depression tunnel. But you know what behind this party in Japan on Facebook, big enterprises scrimp and save their personal information. Many Japanese magazine issues feature article how to use Facebook though there isn't mentioned about the gimmick for them. Some Japanese have started to realize it.. so it will to be toned down soon.

Guy Jean said...

Survey results on top SNS in Japan here
but note the author's caveat, "results from this recent survey from goo Research and reported on by japan.internet.com into online services may not be too reliable for SNS as number two and number three in the list, GREE and Mobage Town, are both mobile phone-based social gaming sites and I feel that the demographic they appeal to differs significantly from the more PC-oriented goo monitor group."

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