It’s very difficult to measure the adoption of new communication channels by commercial entities because it’s almost impossible to control for industry, category and user-specific characteristics. When a new marketing platform becomes mainstream, researchers tend to asses the use of that particular medium among Fortune 500 or Fortune 200 companies because it’s believed that the Fortune list is the best representative of different industries. However, the Fortune lists only include companies but not brands which poses a problem when brand level analysis needed. So, in order to better understand how Japanese and American brands utilize Twitter, we checked the activities of top 100 brands from both countries on Twitter.
If you think Japanese brands are better represented on Twittter because there’s a higher level of Twitter activity in Japan (Source), think again. Seemingly Japanese companies have a lot of catching up to do as they’re way behind their American counterparts. To begin with, there are fewer Top 100 Japanese brands on Twitter compared to the U.S. (60% versus 95%). Furthermore only 41% of the Top 100 Japanese companies posted a tweet during the coding procedure which analyzed a week-long activities of the top companies.
When it comes to communicativeness and interaction, American companies seem to be doing a better job.As it can be seen in figure 2, most American companies mention other users in their tweets, ask questions, retweet other users’ messages and initiate conversations by utilizing hash-tags. Japanese companies, on the other hand just tweet basic informative messages without engaging consumers, similar to one-way communication in traditional media.
The average number of tweets posted in 7 days is way higher in the US than Japan. Coca-cola, Walgreens, MTV, General Electric and Playboy stood out in our American sample as all these brands posted more than 150 messages a week. There was only 1 brand from Japan which posted more than 150 tweets in a week: Ajinomoto. You can also read about this particular brand’s twitter policy in detail on its informative corporate site here.
Although American brands give an impression that they are better at engaging consumers in social media, we should also remember that Japan is a culture of reservation, formality, harmony and risk avoidance. Japanese companies are known for their soft selling practices and some marketing executives in Japan might just think it is very intrusive to send out many personal messages or ask questions on Twitter. Another cultural factor we should take into account is the high risk avoidance in Japan. Since operating a Twitter account requires constant supervision to make sure that no risky messages are sent out, for the time being Japanese companies might just be testing the waters before they shift their focus to social media.
The data was coded by 3 bilingual Japanese student who were trained in content analysis. The coding took place during January 2012. A small subset of the data was coded by all three coders and inter-coder reliability was about 90%. For big brands which usually have more than 1 twitter account, as a rule, the most popular account (account with the largest number of followers) was coded. When searching for brands on Twitter, coders also checked for sub-brands (e.g. Wrigley:Starburst, Kellogg’s:Pop-Tarts). Here are the lists of Japanese top 100 Brands and US Top 100 brands.
PS: The only 5 US brands that didn’t have a Twitter account were : Goldman Sachs, Viagra, Mobil, Esso and Max Factor.
Please contact with the author to obtain the full data set.