Social Networks; the global communities versus the locals

Sized at an estimated $5.6 billion in 2007, Japan boasts one of the biggest online advertising markets in the world – a huge potential just waiting to be tapped by foreign social networks.

The world’s two largest social networks, MySpace and Facebook, barely register in Japan. As the Google Trends for Websites chart above shows, local social network Mixi is outpacing both in Japan. On Alexa, Mixi is ranked the No. 6 most popular site in Japan, compared to No. 95 for MySpace (Facebook doesn’t even make it into the top 100). MySpace and Facebook are trying – but why are they failing?

Social networks have become integrative elements of modern American youth culture over the last years, shaping social patterns and changing the ways that people communicate. When taken abroad, these services have to deal with a large number of cross-cultural peculiarities by their very nature.

Societal and cultural gaps are particularly evident in the case of Japan. Market entry in this country with a “What works in the US must also work over there”-attitude is going awry for both Facebook and MySpace. It’s not a stereotype that communication tends to be nonverbal in Japan. The society generally puts more emphasis on the community rather than on the individual. Also, security plays a major role in many aspects of Japanese life.

These cultural distinctions largely explain why social networks from abroad have a hard time winning over Japan’s 90 million web users. Mixi, the country’s biggest social network, positioned itself as a tool for communicating at a distance through diaries and communities to meet like-minded members. It doesn’t primarily exist to make new friends (poking is restricted) or as a platform for public self-presentation.

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Published by Reinout te Brake

Reinout is a games investor and strategic business consultant specializing in the games industry. Reinout established his credentials through his own successful investments, start-ups, consulting and (advisory) board positions that led through time to strong bonds with key stakeholders in this fast paced industry. He is known for his outstanding results in the gaming industry. He has worked with many game studios around the globe and is therefore well known in the international gaming industry. Check out his games podcast; https://www.game-consultant.com

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