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Online Social Networking in Japan – Mixi, Facebook, and LinkedIn

November 21, 2011

Some of my friends posted an interesting flowchart to tell you which social networking service you should use in which occasion. What do you think? If you think it’s pretty good, you have a problem in Japan. The landscape of social networking in Japan is quite different from the other part of the world.

Mixi = Facebook

The online social networking in Japan started with Mixi, a made-in-Japan Facebook. It boasts 20 million users and is the number one online network in Japan. While the basic features of Mixi are as same as Facebook’s, one distinction is that your identity in the real world is not disclosed. Almost all the users use a nickname and a picture that doesn’t reveal themselves. Of course, if you know that person well, you can recognize who he is in Mixi, but not in the reverse way. When you get to know with someone online, there is not enough information for you to find that person in the real world. Many people feel ‘secure’ by not revealing his identity in the online world. In that way, your online conversation is shared only by the people you befriend with and you can freely talk about your personal life, often including the workplace gossips.

Facebook = LinkedIn

Then in 2010 Facebook came. As facebook requires the user to reveal his identity, many Japanese were intimidated and decided not to reveal the personal aspect of his life at all. Instead, they decided to go formal. They put their job title, company name, education, and their opinion on current social and economic trend. Moreover, instead of using a funny picture they used for Mixi, they had their profile picture taken by the professional photographer, wearing a suit and a tie. This is how Facebook in Japan became LinkedIn in the other countries. Professional networking groups were established and companies built a page for recruiting online users. Now I am invited to a company alumni group and get a friend request from my former boss (which I have not accepted yet.)

LinkedIn = Monster.com

Lastly, LinkedIn set on foot to Japan. Until it was localized into the Japanese language on October 2011, not many Japanese professionals were using this service. It is being marketed more as a tool for job hunting than for professional networking. Companies are looking into LinkedIn as an option to replace or supplement its conventional online recruiting method, which is to use an expensive online service provided by the dominant placement agency called Recruit. They have monopolized the job market since before the Internet era, providing a cheap job board ad magazine to the job seekers while getting a good profit from the company for the ad space. They continue the same business model on the Internet, similar to Monster.com and CareerBuilder. Now the HR department has started to see if LinkedIn can eliminate this costly middleman and bring back the control to reach out the labor market directly. A challenge for LinkedIn in Japan is how to compete with Facebook, wrongly labeled as a job seekers tool, the same category with LinkedIn.

Today’s Lesson

If you want to work in Japan, copy your LinkedIn profile to your Facebook account including the picture.

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