Although Facebook got off to a slow start in Japan it has recently been experiencing a spurt in user memberships. In the the 12 months to September, 2010 Facebook users increased by 78% to 5.3 million unique visitors. This still places them some distance behind Mixi and the phenomenally growing Twitter (on track to become Japan’s #1 social network by year end). However three things look like a “perfect storm” scenario in favor of Mark Zuckerberg’s company.
1) Facebook Places – This feature allows users to register Facebook pages linked to physical locations in the real world. Japan is the first country outside the USA to have access to this feature. On it’s own this is hardly revolutionary. Similar platforms such as Roketacchi (Location Touch), BrightKite and Foursquare have already proved popular here.
2) Facebook Smart Phone Apps – Initially the iPhone also made a slow beginning in this country but with the release of the 3GS model, these handsets started popping up like shitake mushrooms around the country. The Apple smartphone has around 70% of the Japanese smart handset market. Downloadable apps including Facebook’s own iPhone app are very popular.
3) Facebook Deals – The recently announced feature will let users locate and take advantage of discounts, loyalty rewards and other goodies from participating bricks and mortar outlets. Online coupons have been around for years in Japan in the form of Q-code discounts but what makes Facebook Deals different is that when a user redeems a discount offer, this action is automatically broadcast on the Facebook news stream to all the user’s “friends”. Marketers everywhere these days are tuning in to the power of word of mouth advertising or “social commerce” as it has been dubbed. Facebook Deals taps into this marketing trend.
Facebook Deals is only available in certain locations in the USA currently. Japan is sure to be one of the first nations in line when it is released internationally and conditions look right for it to strike a popular vein here.