Lessons Learned from Twitter’s Success in Japan
Twitter enjoys massive popularity in Japan, and this was evident from the recent tweets per second record set in Japan during the airing of Castle in the Sky. What explains the significant rise of Twitter in Japan?
In the article "Why The Japanese Love Twitter But Not Facebook,” Taylor Beck provides one perspective, briefly summarized below.
Users can convey more in 140 Japanese characters than they can with Roman letters.
Interestingly, Japanese Twitter users tweet more to socialize than to broadcast news. According to a study cited in the article, only 4 percent of Japanese tweets use hashtags; hyperlinks are included in only 11 percent of tweets; and 50 percent of tweets are mentions. It is evident that narcissism is looked down upon in the Japanese culture.
It’s not uncommon for commuters in Japan to travel more than an hour each way to and from work on crowded, public transportation. Even though the public transport is crowded, it is not surprising to see silence in trains as people prefer not to talk loudly. Twitter serves this setup well by allowing people to silently converse.
These facts and many more like them suggest that Japan is a unique market. To generalize further, every country has its unique cultural preferences, but there are some key lessons here from the software product perspective.
In today's scenario, designing software for just one market will simply put severe limitations on business growth. There are broadly two facets that help ensure a successful global product. The first is to build world-readiness into the core product design. The second is to ensure that software adapts to local needs—such as translating the text in local language—among many other things.
Twitter was probably lucky that it got accepted as a preferred social medium in Japan during the early days despite the user interface not being translated in Japanese and its having a usability issue while composing tweets in Japanese. In many cases, such limitations have proven to be a no-show in the international market.
In his book, Conquering the Chaos: Win in India, Win Everywhere, Ravi Venkatesan quite often stresses that if an organization is not winning in an emerging market, it is likely because of a product adaptation problem rather than a problem with the market.
Apple CEO Tim Cook once remarked that he loved India but not its multilayer distribution system that eventually adds to its product's cost. As a result, Apple preferred to wait for local market dynamics to change for a long time while Samsung seized the opportunity.
Twitter was recently in the news for working toward offering its services to customers without Internet access to win the untapped market. This is another example of an attempt to ensure product adaptation to the market rather than indefinitely waiting for the market to change to suit your product.
Indra Nooyi, the CEO of Pepsico, remarked in the book Reverse Innovation, “(successful companies) combine global vision and mission with an intense focus on local needs and preferences.”
Do you agree?