In Japan, 2012 will largely be focused around three core developments in the digital space: social, mobile, and video. When I speak with colleagues, partners, and clients alike, they all echo this and will be actively building these disciplines as central themes in how they market and reach consumers this year.
Clearly, one platform that fully enables all of these areas to function and integrate well with each other is Facebook. Currently at around 8 million users in Japan, Facebook would still be considered small in comparison to the historically dominate Mixi, which boasts around 22 million users. But the landscape is quickly changing as indicated by recent comScore stats that clearly show positive growth for both Facebook and Twitter, in contrast to lackluster flat to negative growth for Mixi.
This growth in Facebook was underscored at a recent March 16 event in Tokyo where they held their famous fMC (Facebook Marketing Conference). Interestingly, this was the first fMC conference held outside of the United States. The event focused on a few core themes that I will outline below.
Updates on New Look and Timeline
As we know, existing Facebook brand pages were migrated to the new Timeline look on March 30. This was well emphasized by the FB team. With Timeline, page owners now have the ability to add an event in their timeline that marks a key moment in a brand’s history. Also you can now change dates on posts to populate and manage your timelines better. Brands can also assign a cover photo to show at the top of their Timeline, which can create an immediate visual impact. It’s important first to review the Facebook cover image guidelines that can be found here.
Outside of the Timeline, other new features talked about were Apps, which have effectively replaced tabs. Apps are the four icons that are always on display underneath your cover image. You also have the ability to create custom thumbnails for each icon. Also, fans can now send you private messages, the inclusion of highlighted posts and pinned posts. Some of these updates and more can be found at Facebook’s blog.
Evolution of Its Marketing Products
Three new marketing products were discussed: Reach Generator, Premium on Facebook, and Offers. Reach Generator is a way to increase distribution and visibility by enabling brands to simply take stories they post and feature these on the right side of the home screen. The placement of these stories allows brands to push their reach to around 50 percent, well above the average 16 percent as indicated further below.
The Premium product now offers brands a more advanced level of distribution through four key channels: featured on the right-hand side of the page; sponsored distribution of the news feed; Facebook’s logout screen; and mobile device distribution. Interestingly, 37 million users log out of Facebook every day, and this real estate was never really utilized as an advertising opportunity. Now it will be.
Finally, Offers, simply allows brands to give discounts or other promotional items to their fan base. Offers can be distributed through a story, and users can claim the offer in one click, where it’s sent either to an email address or mobile device.
Rethinking What Facebook Is
Facebook is really emphasizing its position on “stories.” And allowing marketers to return to a time when shop owners had personal connections and conversations with their customers. This is their core. The goal is to have a conversation with a story, rather than an ad. And Facebook is eventually becoming a platform where brands can start mass communicating “stories.” At least this is their view.
Key Facebook Stats From the Event:
- People are 55 percent more likely to remember messages if re-messaged from a friend
- Premium ads have a 10 percent better CTR (click-through rate) compared to Marketplace ads
- Only about 16 percent of what brands post is actually seen by their fans
- Less than three lines of text in a post produce better results in terms of engagement
- Brands that post at least once a day are in a better place to lead their community
- Content that is inquisitive are the most engaging types of content
- Most engaged posts are also “thank you” posts, as it makes the brand more human
Overall, it was a good event and Facebook did well in laying out its plan and commitment to the Japanese market and in showcasing the progressive evolution of its platform and how advertisers can make the best use of it. Later this year, Facebook will be taking a few mobile steps in Japan with its “promoted mobile content” product and Timeline pages for mobile coming out.