Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Social Networking Systems in Japan

Despite the challenging travel conditions around Baltimore yesterday, we had the pleasure of meeting with Daisuke Ishii and Yukihisa Hode, two Senior Researchers from The Center for Financial Industry Information Systems (Japan). The FISC is a Japanese nonprofit research organization founded in 1984 and supported by some 700 Japanese financial services organizations and vendors marketing to that industry. The meeting was coordinated by Michael Parentice, an independent consultant based in the United States.
FISC's current research project relates to new media and social networking in Japan's financial services industry. As input, they are seeking best practice examples from leading U.S. financial institutions that are leaders in the use of social media. Based on Mr. Prentice's research, he felt that 1st Mariner Bank was one of the organizations that they should meet. This was the first visit on their five day trip across the country that includes meetings with
Bank of America, Umpqua Bank, and Wells Fargo. We are honored to be included in this short list of U.S. financial institutions.
There are over 700 banks and credit unions in Japan, ranging from four mega-banks to over 600 smaller community institutions under $2 billion. Adoption rates have lagged behind other industries, where 10.5% of all businesses are active in social networks while FI's are at 6.9%. Mixi, the largest social network in Japan, has over 17.9 million users, so there is plenty of opportunity to connect with these consumers.
As we discussed the evolution of our efforts, it became clear that there are significant challenges to their FI's involvement in social networks. Here are just a few of the points articulated by our guests:

  • Given the conservative nature of the banking industry in Japan, it has been very difficult to get consensus across the organization to engage their customers through the social networks.

  • The Japanese culture is one of collaboration. So many of the initial social media efforts have focused on internal corporate use for information sharing and communication.

  • Selecting and agreeing on the target markets. Again, by working through a consensus management style, it takes time to make these decisions and take action.

The challenge they face is that social media is messy, always changing, and an uncontrollable space. Sometimes you just have to have an initial plan, make the leap, and learn on the fly.

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