Twitter has been on a fine run in Japan over the last year or so. It overtook Indonesia to hold Asia’s largest userbase, smashed its own record for the volume of tweets per second and has been branded a ‘model’ market for growth by Twitter CEO Dick Costello…but is it Japan’s number one social network?
Given Japan’s (comparatively) long history of social networking, a phenomenon that the country – like most things web and mobile – has been doing longer than the rest of the world, the likelihood that such a new entrant like Twitter, youthful in Japan compared to the established competition, could reach the summit is low.
Those who read Penn Olson could be forgiven for thinking Twitter is Japan’s top dog after the Singapore-based social media blog published research from comScore in a recent post headlined ‘Twitter is Now The Top Social Network in Japan’.
Twitter is, however, very much not the number one social network in Japan as widely respected, Japan digital expert Dr Serkan Toto explained in the comments section of the post where he described the suggestion that it might be true as “pure speculation at best”.
In the comments which followed, Toto outlined just how Penn Olson, which has fast become one of Asia’s most popular digital-focused blogs, could have got this story so so wrong.
Of Toto’s comments, the most pertinent points – where the claim of Twitter’s dominance falls down – lies in how comScore generates its data as below:
3) Comscore isn’t a reliable source to measure the traffic on sites, especially outside the US. This is a well-documented fact.
4) Mixi’s traffic is overwhelmingly mobile. To be more specific: In July 2010 (latest data available), Mixi had 30 billion page views, and just 5.23 billion of these came from PCs.
And this isn’t reflected in Comscore’s data. (You could argue that Twitter’s Japanese traffic is largely mobile-based, too, but again, Twitter isn’t revealing data).
The situation is interesting and worthy of highlighting for a number of reasons.
The post from Penn Olson demonstrates one of the dangers of blogging about Asia’s diverse and varied digital landscape from one country. Without a strong perspective of Japan, and perhaps with a desire to break an exclusive to reap lucrative traffics numbers, news and data can be misinterpreted and incorrect assumptions can be made, and subsequently broadcast to thousands or millions.
As a social media blogger with (regrettably) limited opportunities to travel and experience digital across the continent, I have a list of noted digital experts I know and can contact in markets should I need to verify the context or reliability of items. Of course, I like to feel, and believe, that I known digital in Asia well but a second opinion never hurts and as a well-read blog you have a responsibility to get things right before publishing them.
Then there is a slight issue with Penn Olson’s reference of data, the link goes to a bar chart when a link to a press release or overview of research may be more informative for readers seeking more details and greater context.
As for the data itself, most bloggers stress the limitations of referencing data from comScore data, depending on the situation the absence of mobile internet statistics can severely limit the validity of any conclusions drawn. I’m really quite surprised that Willis at Penn Olson didn’t do this.
But arguably the more pertinent question is why comScore continues to release half baked data devoid of mobile figures?
Smartphone ownership growth and the increase in mobile internet usage have revolutionised the way the web is used today. Browser habits are hugely different when compared to a small screen of limited size with limited multi-tasking/browsing. Furthermore, social network usages makes up a huge part of mobile internet activity, after all they were one catalyst that helped mobile users find a need and desire to use the internet on their mobile phone.
Though it appears to lack the resources to pull together more comprehensive data, releasing any kind of data on social networks without considering its heartland – the mobile web – is misleading and not worth the research time, in this case at least.
Penn Olson has kept the article online with a short update at the beginning of the post with no correcting and follow-up clarification post or tweet published as yet.
This post isn’t aimed at knocking Penn Olson, it remains one of my regular reads for digital in Asia, mistakes can be made after all, but the reaction to the mistake and handling of the correction it is something I’m watching with interest.