I had a very enjoyable evening yesterday at the Bloggers' Dinner in Tokyo. It was great to speak with the group of about 30 Japanese and non-Japanese bloggers who had so many interesting perspectives to share. We met at Fujimama's near Omotesando – an ideal venue for this kind of open networking evening.

Jeremiah Owyang introduced the evening with his observations that Japanese consumers are ahead of Japanese companies in their adoption of Social media – Whereas consumers are eagerly leveraging new media to express themselves and interact with each other, Japan's corporate world seems rather hesitant.

Forrester's Technographics data shows that Japanese consumers are eagerly participating in social media as creators, critics, collectors, joiners and spectators…. so why aren't Japanese firms putting more effort into engaging with customers via social media? Here are three thoughts or recommendations that came to my mind. If you disagree, or if you have better recommendations, please post a comment.

With regard to Social Computing – what aren't Japanese companies doing that they should be doing?

  • Let go of the "command and control" Public Relations mentality
    • The PR and corporate communications departments in Japanese companies want to have complete control over the message
    • Japanese companies see Social Media as frightening, threatening places where irresponsible writers make libellous comments with impunity
    • Even when large Japanese companies make an outreach to bloggers – as Nissan does by inviting automotive bloggers to vehicle launch events – the companies still want to have a one way flow of information (official communications go out) rather than allowing a dialogue to arise freely.
  • Focus on PEOPLE not on technology
    • The last thing firms should do in their social media strategy is choose a technology
    • Companies first need to understand who their customers are and how they use social media in their lives. Do your target customers want to interact with each other in social networks? or share ideas through some kind of Wiki? When you can see what they're doing, it becomes possible to understand where you need to be to reach them.
    • If your target audience is heavily into social networking, then the place to meet with them and interact with them may be in Mixi or Gree. For younger and more "game oriented" audience then the place to find them may be Mobage Town.
  • Empower young Japanese employees as innovators
    • Kenichi Ohmae has railed against the seniority-based hierarchies in Japanese firms for many years. Simply put, the young employees are the ones who "get" social media. They are the ones who should be empowered to start up new ventures with innovative ideas.
    • Japanese corporate culture is such that one person may "veto" the good ideas of the rest of a team. As a result, new business models get stifled and progress takes a long time.

Those are the ideas that came to my mind during my discussions yesterday evening. What do you think?

If you're interested in seeing who the "movers and shakers" are in Tokyo (at least, the ones who came to our gathering), please check out the blogs in the list below. They represent some of the brightest commentators across a variety of fields – culture, business, food, fashion, technology, politics – just about everything:

Bloggers who attended the Oct 22 Bloggers’ Dinner



























If you attended the event but not on this list, please let me know and I'll add you in here

I will admit, there's a serious gender bias in the list – It's mostly men.

Finally – We made an important announcement last night:

GROUNDSWELL — The best selling business book by Josh Bernoff (Forrester analyst) and Charlene Li (former Forrester analyst) will be published in Japanese by Shoeisha. I'm really delighted that this book will help us to introduce more Japanese executives to Forrester's ideas and data on Social Computing.