Japanese brands hesitant on Twitter

08 February 2012

TOKYO: Some 40% of Japan's biggest brands are still not active on Twitter, just one indication of the extent to which they lag behind their US counterparts in exploiting the microblog's potential.

Adam Acar, associate professor of communication at Kobe City University of Foreign Studies, analysed the engagement levels of the 100 largest Japanese brands on Twitter.

Uptake among this group, which features the auto marques Toyota and Honda, electronics specialists Sony and Panasonic, beverage maker Suntory and telecoms giant NTT DoCoMo, hit only 60%.

This compared with a 95% reach for the 100 largest intangible assets in the US. Similarly, whereas 86% of active American brands tweeted in the week before the study, this figure stood at 41% for their Japanese peers.

Equally, a modest 3% of Japanese advertisers on Twitter identified who was making posts, versus 13% of US operators. These ratings came in at 28% and 78% in turn for directly mentioning other users.

A fifth of marketers from Japan had retweeted another Twitter member's comments, 17% had used hashtags and 5% asked a question, all considerably behind the US.

Coca-Cola, the soft drinks firm, Walgreen's, the pharma chain, MTV, the music broadcaster, General Electric, the conglomerate, and Playboy, the adult entertainment company, also all logged over 150 tweets in a week.

The sole brand from Japan that did so was Ajinomoto, which trades in the food and chemicals sectors, and has established very clear corporate policies for utilising this channel.

A total of 18 Japanese brands present on Twitter failed to add a Twitter update during the week-long assessment period, as was the case for nine American brands.

While 28% of US brands posted over 50 tweets in this timeframe, just 5% of their Japanese equivalents did the same.

There are an estimated 108m Twitter accounts in the US, falling to 30m in Japan, but the study suggested broader reasons may explain the divergent trends in the two countries.

"We should … remember that Japan is a culture of reservation, formality, harmony and risk avoidance," it said.

"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."

Data sourced from Mediabistro/Emerging Media Lab; additional content by Warc staff