Are Japanese and Indians Effectively Using Twitter for Personal Branding?

For our February post Dr. Amit and I chose to discuss the role of Twitter in India and Japan as well as tips on how to successfully manage your brand using Twitter.

 

View from Japan: Is Japan the Twitter Nation?  

Last year I read an article calling Japan “The Twitter Nation”. Recent data clearly supports this. The number of Japanese internet users who tweet is close to 17% surpassing Americans at about 10%. Twitter also estimates that Japanese write nearly 8 million tweets a day, which is close to 14% of the global total!  Twitter really gained credibility in the country after the massive earthquake and tsunami devastated the Tohoku region on 3/11/11.  New users flocked to the network for real-time information about the nuclear crisis, blackouts, and aftershocks.  Now with the huge number of users in Japan, workshops are cropping up helping individuals to learn the tricks of the tweet as well as companies to use the platform to reach consumers and get feedback.

Clearly the personal and corporate branding potential for Twitter is huge in Japan.  Here are 5 quick Twitter tips I share with my clients in Japan.

1. Use your real name

Japanese originally gravitated toward Twitter as it does not require the use of a real name.  For personal branding however, Japanese need to break away from their preference for anonymity and proudly use their real names.  Twitter is highly optimized and using your real name ensures you show up on Google searches. When using your real name you can link your Twitter profile to LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+, all of which have a real name policy, and maintain a consistent and constant presence across all social media channels.

2. Create your 160-character story

On Twitter you only have 160 characters to work with on your profile.  For those who write their profiles in the Japanese language, this is actually a lot of real estate as much more meaning can be conveyed with Japanese characters than with English. For example, the 11-character word “information” only requires two characters in Japanese. However, the trap people fall into is not capturing their brand in their profile. Your profile needs to engage people to want to follow you.  I recommend a 3-part equation: Tell people what you do, show some personality, and reveal something personal (but not too personal!).  Your profile also allows you to add a URL that is not part of the 160-character limit so make sure to use this for your website, blog, YouTube channel, about.me page, videoBIO, etc.

3. Do not be an “egg head” or pet or cartoon character!

Your actual photo and preferably a professionally done head-shot is the ideal way to portray your brand on twitter!  Twitter is all about human connection. People want to engage with an actual person and not the infamous “egg” when you do not upload a photo.  Japanese tend to like “cute” images and often use a pet or anime (animation) character as their profile photo.  If you want to be remembered then be yourself!  Also, try to avoid changing your profile photo frequently as people remember a consistent image more easily. Remember, a picture says a thousand words!

4.  Give credit where credit is due

Nowadays, blogs, eBooks, and social media have enabled any one of us to be ‘published’. For 2012 William Arruda believes personal publishing is an important trend for demonstrating thought leadership and extending your personal brand. With this increasing trend, it is now more important than ever to share the resources where you have gained your insight, tools, and knowledge.  When tweeting and retweeting content always remember to credit the source with ‘@twittername’.  By doing this you are helping to build both your visibility as well as the source you are crediting.

5. Avoid “mumbling” and add to thought leadership

Interestingly, ‘tweet’ has been translated as ”mumble” in Japanese.  This seems to be appropriate for the often soft-spoken Japanese.  However, one of the greatest values of Twitter is learning from thought leaders and sharing your thought leadership as well.  Nobody really cares if you mumble about just having a cup of coffee at Starbucks, but tweeting a link to a great article that helps others will build your influence and engagement. Also, avoid retweeting something without reading it first yourself!  Just because the title sounds good you may run risk of damaging your thought leadership by tweeting something at face value.  The objective is not to tweet just to get out ‘x’ number of tweets per day. Quality will always trump quantity!

View from India: Have Indians become Tweeps?

Twitter still remains more of a celebrity tool in India. Few people use it (mostly to gather news) and out of those, very few use it  in the real sense of the term. Facebook has become extremely popular among all age groups, Linkedin is becoming very popular among all professionals but Twitter still faces a question mark. If you ask Indians using social networks, the typical answer would be, “Who is going to follow me and read my tweets? What advantage will I get by tweeting, after all I am not a celebrity?”

Probable Reasons why Twitter is not as popular as Facebook

Many people wonder if the second largest Facebook users are in India (after US) why does India rank 6 on Twitter? Why does Twitter remain a mystery to most of the net savvy Indians? Here is a list of probable reasons:-
  • Indians don’t like to broadcast where we are and what we are doing and in fact use Twitter more as a news gathering tool.
  • Tweets are being monitored by employers, hence the risk is higher. Facebook is safe for outburst of emotions since it is not public and is restricted to friends.
  • Language barrier exists as Facebook posts can be done in Hindi also, while not on Twitter.
  • You can find a Facebook app on every other phone sold in India but twitter apps are not there.
  • Twitter is more of a broadcast network and doesn’t work well with how Indians perceive social.
  • Facebook allows you to connect to your friends’ friends a much longer drawn out process using Twitter.
  • On Twitter where you are exposed to people as individuals – not like groups of people with common interests – or with a feed that is rich in media content.
  • Most active twitter accounts in India are by mainstream journalists, Filmstars and Cricketers only.
  • Indians don’t find Twitter appealing also because 140 character limits is not suitable for Indians who like to talk for hours on end together.

Let us understand Twitter

Here are some interesting features of Twitter which very few people use:
  • Marking Favourites-You can mark tweets as the favourite tweets, so that they are easily searchable in future.
  • Direct message-A direct message can also be sent to your followers.
  • Texting to Twitter via mobile-With Airtel, you can tweet via mobile and also get notifications (mentions and direct messages)
  • Hashtags- Hashtags (#) serve two purposes viz they categorise your tweet and also become links. They can also help you in participating in Twitterchats.
  • Follow Friday (FF)It means you are recommending others to follow the person (or tweets of the person).
  • Twitter Lists-The more popular you become on Twitter, the more you are included in reputed or Tweeple’s lists (of categories).
  • Mention-It means someone has mentioned your Twitter ID (also called handle). The mention can come in the form of RT (Retweet), FF or someone messaging/replying to you.
  • Trending-Trending means the popular topics (or hashtags) which are currently being tweeted in a region/country or across the globe.

Final word

Here are some more suggestions to have an exciting experience on Twitter:
  • With practice, you will learn to communicate and attract attention in 140 characters, though initially it may be difficult for some.
  • Twitter is highly sophisticated and attracts the cream of social media users including the international and national media. You can search for the best stories and make your story reach the best.
  • To get Retweeted, you must understand the pulse of the tweeple and generate excellent content or provide excellent links to your followers. Those who do not follow you can also retweet you if they find your tweet through hashtags/search (and like it of course).
  • You need to learn the twitter culture and manners. For example it is a good practice to thank people for the RT of your tweet.
Best of tweeting.

 

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About the author

Peter Sterlacci Peter Sterlacci is known as “Japan’s personal branding pioneer.” In a country where fitting-in is the norm, Peter’s mission is to pioneer a ‘cultural shift’ by helping Japanese to stand out in a global environment. An avid cyclist, he combines cycling imagery with personal branding strategy to empower his clients to shift gears and sprint to career success. Follow Peter on Google+