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One of the challenges presented by the joint US/Japan/China debut we are planning for ooi is the necessity of keeping our eye on three rapidly evolving markets. Although its time intensive, it is fascinating to observe the differences in each country. As Scott observed in the
Social Networks, Anonymity, Reputation & Aloha thread, anonymity is clearly more important in countries such as Japan, Korea and China. The reasons for this relate to culture, comfort and, in the case of China, safety. Another interesting trend is the move toward social networks that incorporate a virtual world such as Japan's
Mero Mero Park and Korea's
Cyworld, both of which have seen explosive growth. 90% of South Koreans in their twenties are registered Cyworld users. Recently launched Mero Mero Park, which shot up to half a million users seemingly overnight, provides a rich Flash world in which avatars can interact. Interestingly, 20% of its users are from Taiwan despite the fact the network is not localized to any Chinese locale! Mero Mero's Taiwanese fans are so enthusiastic about the network they distribute Japanese->Chinese cheat sheets to enable navigation of the UI. Cyworld also had a large fan base in Japan shortly after launch. What can we learn from this? Successful CJK networks seem to translate well from country to country. The business SNS space in Asia isn't nearly as far along as it is in the US and Western Europe. Shockingly, LinkedIn still has not localized to Japan, and no serious local competitor has been able to grab significant marketshare. Mixi, which has 80% of the overall Japanese social networking market, is used by some businesspeople, but it is really designed for purely social networkers. Perhaps the importance of "face time" in Japan and Korea will prevent web based business networking from ever taking off the way it has in the US and Europe. Is the same true for China? Thoughts?
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Comment by Scott Murphy on November 3, 2008 at 9:59pm
Found this on asiajin today. Looks like yahoo is starting up.
Comment by Daniel Leuck on August 19, 2008 at 3:26pm
Haken: Need not be anxious, it's not Soapland. :)
Haken: Though, should you have a chance to visit Akihabara, take a peek into one of the "maid cafe." You'd think you walked into an anime.
They are a trip. I used to live in Japan and I make it back three or four times a year to see friends and family. This is not to say I fully understand (or will ever fully understand) the intricacies of Japanese social interactions on or off line :-)
Scott Murphy: I really have too much to say on this subject that I probably shouldn't start but....
I know you do. That was part of the impetus for this post :-)
Yet, it's not that there haven't been attempts to get a successful business social network in Japan going.
True. I was watching the same companies you mentioned. The question is, was the failure due to a flaw in implementation or concept? I'm not sure anyone knows for sure.

Thank you for the link to Lisa's article. It was a good read.

I think your suggestion of exploring corporate intra-SNSs is a great idea.
Comment by Scott Murphy on August 19, 2008 at 12:26am
I really forgot to mention something else. Corporate SNSs.

Internal (intranet) corporate SNS's are incredibly popular in Japan. Many large traditional Japanese corporations have already seen its benefits. It creates a friendlier corporate culture and most importantly improves communication within the company. Here is a list if you want to look into it further. (I'm glad all my delicious bookmarks are thoroughly tagged!)

My point. I think that traditional Japanese companies realize the potential of networking, at least within the company. Yet when it comes to anything beyond that, is it possible that there is a sense of betrayal? That is, networking begins within the company and not from the individual. If there was a linkedin, would traditional companies in Japan become alarmed by headhunting possibilities and discourage employees from participating? (I guess headhunting is always a possibility anyways).

I haven't looked at corporate SNS's enough but really draw any kind of conclusion but if you are considering a business SNS in Japan, I think the corporate SNS boom would be the first place to start.
Comment by Scott Murphy on August 18, 2008 at 11:33pm
I really have too much to say on this subject that I probably shouldn't start but....

In regards to Japan's social web, I think Lisa's (Tokyo Mango) article in Wired a while back really covered some important points. She talks about the web culture of Japan and things that I think anyone trying to do web business in Japan should be aware of (along with that fact to never ever forget to develop a cell phone version of your SNS!).

In regards specifically to a business SNS in Japan, for now Linkedin (along with an equivalent of Craig's List, anyone else notice?), doesn't exist. However last I remember, Linkedin is working with Digital Garage to expand into the Japanese market (wasn't that like last year?).

Yet, it's not that there haven't been attempts to get a successful business social network in Japan going. Look at recruit's Jinsai bank and Both sites failed. I joined Jinzai bank only to see it die pretty quickly. According to this article that I read a month ago, it suggests the failure of these sites has to do with the revenue model.

However, I really think it may have to do with the problem that in an business SNS many Japanese will be reluctant to enter their entire background onto the web.
Comment by Daniel Leuck on August 18, 2008 at 10:36pm
I bow to your otaku-ness. :-)

I believe if one wants to make any inroads all within Asia, the SNS has to be accessible through a cellphone with apps and features geared towards the mobile market and should more or less target women who don't want to be Office Ladies.
This is definitely true. Mixi beat the competition with its mobile features. These days you can't even sign up for Mixi without a ketai.

Set a theme for the network that'll cater to the "princess" crowd.
Mero Mero Park is definitely targeting this demographic, although the age range of their users is much wider than I would have expected.

Imagine a SNS app that'll allow a "princess" who grew up with 'boys love' comics to locate a butler on her phone and the set a meetup with a bunch of her friends at a "boy cafe" in Ikebukuro. That'll sell I'm sure, epecially with if there's a rating system for all the best places.
I feel confused and a little anxious. Should someone be arrested in this scenario? :-)

Would it be fair to say you think business networks are a no go in Japan?
Comment by Mika Leuck on August 18, 2008 at 6:13pm
Update: Mero Mero Park's Taiwanese version was just released today! They kept their very cute image! :-)


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