Top Brands’ Facebook Use in Japan and the USA
FacebookJapanUSA (click on this link to view the graphs)
About three months ago we started a project aimed to systematically assess the differences between American and Japanese companies based on social media usage. The idea was comparing the activity of major brands on Twitter and Facebook and then pinpointing significant differences between Japan and the USA. We suspected that the impact of culture would be observed in top brands’ social media posts on both sides of the Atlantic. After all, hard selling “push marketing” dominance in the West vs. soft selling “pull marketing” in Japan were widely known but no one ever has investigated whether the same pattern existed in social media.
As a first step, we analyzed the twitter activity in both countries and the differences were huge. Overall American companies were way more communicative than Japanese companies: they posted more messages, mentioned users directly, actively used hash tags and more frequently engaged with their followers. We then looked at the Facebook pages of the top 100 American and Japanese companies to see if the same result holds true. These are the findings
1- Not there yet… Still, the majority of the top 100 Japanese brands are not on Facebook yet. Most of the famous Japanese brands, such as Hitachi, Daikin, Isuzu had several Facebook pages in different countries, but none in Japan.
2- I don’t have any question… While half of the US brands asked a question (in the past 7 days) to their fans, this ratio was 13% in Japan. In other words, 9 out of 10 Japanese brands did not ask a question to engage their fans during the week where we analyzed the data. This was the most interesting finding by far.
3- Hold it there… Another interesting finding we found was the difference in user restrictions in Japan and the USA. The majority of the US brands (about 80%) allowed their users to post on the walls of their pages whereas only one third of Japanese brands had a wall open for user comments.
4- Shhhh, Be quiet! Although the difference was rather small, we observed that Japanese companies post fewer messages compared to their US counterparts, a pattern we also saw on twitter. A quarter of Japanese companies did not post anything in the past 7 days and there was no Japanese brand in the sample that posted more than 20 messages in a week. However, it seems like there’s consensus in both countries that 4~7 posts a week is ideal (See the graph below).
Our analysis showed that, the most active American brands were Youtube, WalMart, CNN, MTV and Forbes. Users should note that four of these companies are media institutions whose frequent posts might be tolerated. There was only 1 American non-media brand that posted more than 20 messages a week: Wal Mart. The most active Japanese brands were Shiseido (14 posts/wk), Nomura Shoken (15 posts/wk) and JVC (15 posts/wk). We realized that there was no media company made it to the Japanese top 100 brands listed by MPP.
5- You don’t have to contact with me. In this study, we also looked at the amount of information provided in the info section of Facebook brand pages to determine whether “self-disclosure” differences in Eastern and Western cultures are reflected in the commercial use of Facebook. We saw that American companies had more links on their info pages (links to different campaigns, company contact page, HR, PR, etc.). Thus, we concluded, the US companies tend to provide more information and spend more efforts to connect with their fans through different channels.
Conclusion: It seems like Japanese companies are not as communicative as their American counterparts on Facebook. We think, culture, local lifestyles, communication styles and media usage habits play a significant role in this difference. For instance, the reason most companies don’t allow their fans to post on the walls might be stemming from high “risk avoidance” in Japanese culture. The reason why companies have fewer links on the info sections might have something to do with low “self-disclosure “ in the culture. However, it should be also noted that Facebook has a low penetration rate in Japan. The fact that companies don’t post or don’t ask questions frequently on Facebook can be tied to low response rate because of a smaller number of fans, a natural result of a smaller percentage of Facebook users in Japan.
The data was coded by 3 bilingual Japanese students 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 83%. There was no API or software used in the process, it was just manual coding and taking percentages. 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. Please note that the sample size for the sns activity graphs above is not 200 because not all companies in the selected sample had a Facebook account.
PS: The only 8 US brands that didn’t have a Facebook account were : Aetna, AIG, Colgate, Esso, Goodyear, Marlboro, Miller and Viagra.
Please contact with the author to obtain the full data set.