Looking Back on My New Challenge: Writing Blogs in English

"Earthrise" taken from the moon by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

As I wrote in my About page, this is my first personal blog for NYU professor Laurel Hart‘s class on social media. Writing in English is tough for international students like me (I’m from Tokyo). And unlike ordinary writing assignments, blogs are supposed to be open to the public. However, the openness has taught me many lessons, broadening my horizons.

Fraser Seitel says in his book, The Practice of Public Relations:

・1.5 million blog posts are created every day–in other words, 17 posts per second.
・Nearly 1.5 new blog sites are launched every second.
・The No.1 blogging language is Japanese (37% of all blogs), followed by English
(33%).

Moreover, as Charlene Li and Josh Bernhoff write in their book, Groundswell, blog reading is more popular in Japan than the U.S.–57% of Japanese adult Internet users read blogs at least monthly, compared to 31% of their American counterparts. According to the authors, “Blog reading is one of the most popular activities in the groundswell.”

Though I am from the most blog-loving country, I hadn’t created a blog before I came to NYU. Nevertheless, through blog assignments and feedback from Professor Hart, I was exposed to the blog world in all its democratic verbosity. Furthermore, comments and advice from my classmates and readers outside the class have been encouraging for me. Their words of wisdom–insightful and thought-provoking–have given me energy to write.

Blogs promote dialogue, not only between writers and the public but also among the public. The interaction creates relationships and forms the blogosphere, enabling us to speak in our own voices and to share issues and concerns. As Alicia Eler writes in her blog post, people can speak more freely on social networks. She says, “When we do not look at each other in the eye, we are more honest with each other.”

The Internet and social media are important tools in the public relations business. But, as Seitel warns, “It is important to remember, they are ‘tools’ nonetheless.” Even if technologies change, the basic conversational nature of those technologies will, as expressed in Groundswell, remain central. As Dominique Ellis points out in her blog, P2P–People to People relations–is the core of communication.

I’ll keep posting new entries to my blog, engaging with people, and exploring the social media world in the future.

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Bright Light and Dark Shadow: Current Topics about Social Media in Japan

Takeo city--a role model for the introduction of social media into Japanese government offices ((C)The Sankei Shimbun & Sankei Digital)

As I wrote previously, the number of social media users in Japan has been dramatically expanding since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. However, anywhere there is a bright light, there has to be a dark shadow. This blog post is about current topics about social media in my country, Japan, to show the brightness and darkness of the new communication tools.

Social Media Enhances the Visibility and Transparency of a Local Government

Takeo city—a small town in western Japan famous for its hot springs—is a role model for the proactive and successful introduction of social media into government offices. Under the mayor’s initiative, the city migrated its official website to Facebook (Japanese language only) last August. Since then, the number of monthly hits to the city‘s  home page has steeply risen from 50,000 to 3.3 million. The city has received positive reactions from citizens. After the city posted a picture of a swollen river taken with a mobile phone, a citizen commented that the timely post was helpful to understand the situation. In addition, the mayor required all 390 city workers to create their own Facebook accounts and to use them for their work starting from April this year. The mayor, Keisuke Watanabe, says in an interview (Japanese only) that the use of Facebook has made the interaction with citizens more visible, and cuts red tape.

Social Media and Criminal Investigation

Social media is rivaling 911 services in crisis response and reporting. As the Rutger University student’s case shows, social media’s role in police investigations is growing. Like the U.S., the new communication platform has become a mainstay in police work in Japan.

The Yomiuri Shimbun–the largest Japanese newspaper and among the world’s most dominant (it sells 14 million copies daily1)–reported (Japanese only) that, using a YouTube video posted by a suspect, the local police in Hyogo prefecture were investigating a crime. The video shows a driver–the suspect–chasing a school boy on a bicycle along a river and shouting to the boy in a threatening tone, “I’m hitting and pushing you into the river!” Reports to the police from viewers of the video helped reveal the identity of the suspect , according to the news.

ISP Steals Users’ Information

On April 4, connectFree k.k. (Japanese only), a Japanese Internet service provider (ISP) led by an American CEO, was reported (Japanese only) to have collected users’ information without their approval, and to have invaded privacy of communication stipulated in the Telecommunications Business Act. The ISP provides users with wireless access to the Internet at convenience stores. The company admits to secretly gathering users’ data, including their Facebook and Twitter user IDs. According to the company, it collected the information to identify suspects in case its network was used for crimes

According to a report on TED 2012, a new browser enables us to know who is tracking us online. The report says, “We are being watched. It’s now time for us to watch the watchers.” Social media’s role is growing in many areas. We must monitor the use of the new communication tools by both public and private sectors, so that they do not go beyond public safety limits or invade individual privacy.

Privacy invasion is not an acceptable price to pay for access to the Internet.

1. Seitel, F. (2011). The Practice of Public Relations. NJ: Prentice Hall

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Suntory Highball: Social Media Helps Boost Japan’s Whisky Industry

Suntory highball

Suntory highball (C)ITmedia

Do you know a highball? It’s a cocktail mixing whisky with seltzer in a glass with a lemon slice and ice. Though whisky was not my preferred drink, it has been my favorite since a highball campaign by a Japanese whisky company.

In 2008, Suntory, a leading Japanese beverage company, launched a highball campaign that included social media. This is regarded as one of the most successful cross-media campaigns in Japan, boosting my country’s flagging whisky industry.

As Charlene Li and Josh Bernhoff say in the book, Groundswell, there are four key elements to raise public awareness and change their behavior–viral videos, social networks, blogs and communities. Using these elements, Suntory has created a highball boom and saved Japan’s whisky industry.

YouTube Videos

As Li and Bernhoff state in Groundswell, “Viral videos are best for punching through the noise.” Suntory has uploaded a series of highball commercials on TV featuring popular Japanese models and actresses on YouTube since 2008 (here is an example). In the meantime, the company has launched its official YouTube site showing how to make a delicious highball (Japanese language only). This cross-media strategy has successfully expanded viewership,  raising public awareness.

Highball Map

Suntory has launched its own website–Highball map (Japanese only)–to enable highball fans to introduce their favorite izakayas, Japanese-style restaurants and pubs, where people can enjoy the whisky-soda mix, and to share their experiences. On the webpage, users can respond to questionnaires from Suntory, helping the company monitor customers’ voices.

Social media

In addition to Facebook and Twitter (Japanese only), the whisky company created a blog (Japanese only) to connect and directly talk with customers. Blog posts featuring such topics as manufacturing processes and distiller tours allow whisky fans not only to understand the complicated processes but also to see inside distillers without actually being there. The website helps foster brand loyalty among the audience, using the groundswell to spread positive messages.

The cross-media campaign has brought great success as follows:

・Within one year after the launch of the campaign, the number of izakayas serving
Suntory highball increased tenfold (from 6,200 to 58,000).
・In the meantime, sales of Suntory whisky increased by 24%.
・Similarly, the entire whiskey market in Japan expanded by 9%. The campaign
triggered a significant rebound in the industry that had been shrinking for 25 years.

(The data is from IT media (Japanese only).)

The combination of online (viral videos, Highball map and social media) and offline (customers’ experiences in izakayas) interaction has successfully created the image that the highball is cool. As Brian Solis says, “Brands are no longer created, they’re co-created.” Two-way communication, based on cross-media strategies using customers’ experiences, shows positive impact on impressions and decisions among the public.

So, how about enjoying a cool highball tonight? (I surely will!)

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March 11, 2011: We Found the Power of Social Media (Part 1)

(C) calgaryherald

Social media has dramatically changed the landscape of our communication. But the new communication tools allow for something more: the possibility to save our lives.

At 14:46 on March 11th, 2011, I was working on the sixth floor of a building in Tokyo. The quake struck the building without warning. I thought I would die, because I had not experienced such a huge quake before. I picked up my mobile phone and tried to call my wife. But I could not get through to her. The phone networks were down.

Some people around me began communicating on Twitter and Facebook. The Internet was relatively unaffected, so they were able to use data services and text. These communication venues helped them connect with their families and friends unsure of their whereabouts, and let their loved ones know they were okay. At this moment, I found the immense power of these communication tools: social media saves people.

This blog post is about the implication of social media I saw during the crisis. Especially, I will focus on four tools: Twitter, Facebook, Google, and YouTube.

Twitter

Twitter was one of the most valuable methods for us, the people in Japan, to connect with our families and friends. Within one hour after the quake, the number of tweets from Tokyo topped 1,200 per minute, according to Tweet-o-Meter (also, the site shows the current number of tweets from your area). For users in Japan, Twitter posted a guide in Japanese and English to help us communicate with our loved ones. The guide also included earthquake-related hashtags to lead us to special sections where we could get updated information on the crisis. Additionally, one of the most used hashtags globally in the first half of 2011 was #prayforjapan.

The number of Tweets from Tokyo on March 11th, 2011. (C) Tweet-o-Meter

Facebook

Facebook also played a vital role in connecting people. Before March 11th, Facebook was suffering from flagging adoption in Japan, because Japanese people were allegedly reluctant to use their real names online. However, since March 11th, Japanese Facebook visitors have been dramatically increasing. According to NetRatings Japan Inc., the research firm affiliated with the Nielsen Company, the number of visitors per month surged up to 10.83 million in August 2011, from 1.93 million in August 2010. This is because we have found the benefits of real names during the crisis. Real names helped us identify our families and friends. If we had used pseudonym, we could not have found and communicated with each other. This experience has shown us the huge advantages of real names. You can read stories about how the platform saved us on the Facebook stories page. Also, Facebook provided its visitors with digital ways to donate to victims such as facebook.com/redcross.

(I will continue this topic after my next post)

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