Now in 2021, social media is considered as important as websites in Japan that every single company must have. From startups, enterprises to even local government have accounts on each social media platform and are desperate to get as many followers as possible. Instagram full operation service we can find on the internet in Japanese costs $2,000 per month. Hence, the budget for entire social media operation will cost more than that. I’d like to share what I learned from operating social media marketing for Japanese companies and working with Japanese agencies.
Big players: web development and printing
In many Japanese companies, web marketing including social media marketing is often outsourced to not only marketing agencies, but also to web development companies or even printing companies. The main reason for this is, when the internet even didn’t exist, corporates used flyers, newspapers or etc. to do their marketing activities. Since Japanese companies love to have longer term connection with one agency, printing companies have been operating marketing activities since then.
So are the web development companies. When the internet was introduced to the world, it wasn’t widely used and everything related to it was regarded as “tech”. In many Japanese companies, web marketing still lies on development devision rather than marketing devision. As web marketing becomes necessary for every industry, this is changing and covid-19 definitely accelerated it. However, this tendency still seems to remain for other several decades.
In-house vs. Outsource in Japan
One of the most unique things to Japanese corporations is to hire their employees to expand their spirits and philosophy. In this culture, employees are not required to be professional in a particular devision such as marketing or human resources, but rather expected to be responsible for the company and the service they are involved in (which often causes of the Japanese overworking problem). Because of that, many of a company’s actual tasks are commonly outsourced, especially marketing and development.
What it takes to create a single post.
What happens when outsourcing the social media marketing is that the procedure needed to make just one post gets too complicated, which takes more cost than benefit to get from it.
For example, let’s say an outsourced web develop company is operating Instagram for a restaurant chain. When the dev. company would like to create a post, first they have to get a picture in season or if anything good is unavailable, to designate time and a place to take a good quality picture. Second, they have to photoshop the picture and come up with a caption for the photo.
After that, a marketing representative of the restaurant chain who outsource the work to the dev. company has to check if the information on the photo and the caption is correct and does not cause any misleading. If it’s all okay, the dev. company can finally post the content on Instagram but, if a customer or someone in a higher position than the marketing representative complain something about the post, it often has to be deleted after all the work it took.
Social media vs. Japanese working culture
Creating good quality of content with insightful content and beautifully photoshopped pictures while spending a lot of time for it may work with content marketing / SEO or other platforms which keeps the content to be seen for a long time. However, social media posts are only shown to their followers once except when it go viral. People love to share drastic discount, scandals, something funny or relatable as they gossip, rather than well-photoshopped pictures with uncontroversial content. Social media might not go well with Japanese working culture that puts emphasis on perfection.
The simpler campaigns may work better.
Social media campaign is another common way to operate social media as well as making original contents. Before social media, many Japanese companies used to do campaigns by asking customers to buy their products and collect stickers attached on them in exchange for giving presents to some of them randomly chosen. Now they do the same on social media. Companies ask customers to follow their social media account and post their product in exchange for giving them presents.
Campaigns may not work effectively sometimes, but when it was about collecting stickers, they at least directly contribute to the increase in sales. However, current focus is to increase the number of followers on social media by spending a lot of budget for it. Companies are consuming money for something that possibly generates money. Campaigns seem to be making less sense. Instead of asking them to follow the official account, simply asking them to post a picture with the product they sell might create a better result. These pictures can be also used as UGC and reviews on their website, or other platforms.
Weakness or a big potential?
In conclusion, I think the problem is many Japanese companies try to apply their successful strategy on other platform to social media marketing. Some Japanese companies successful on social media are even operated by one or a few people who have deep insight and sense of humor which can their contents go viral.
However, the situation that the Japanese traditional companies struggle with social media marketing gives a chance for a new businesses and agencies thrive. Also, the fact that Japanese company’s budget for social media marketing is increasing gives a big potential to a social media related SaaS services.