The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Diversity | Networking

October 2013
BUILDING BUSINESS
Social networking sites are important career and communication tools

By John Ghanotakis, Amir Khan, and Timothy Trahan

In Japan, social networking is used for business by people in a variety of organizations and industries. As a communication tool, its use goes beyond viewing of photographs and gaming.

Although not used as commonly as email, social networking websites and mobile applications—such as LinkedIn, Line, Facebook, Skype, and iMessage—serve as communication tools and provide information.

Many businesses see these websites and services as distractions or potential risks, and often ban them from company networks. This may be necessary in industries where the flow of information must be closely guarded. In some companies, however, social networking sites are a tool for making money.

Providing information about products and services is a vital step in the sales cycle, and both LinkedIn and Facebook have devoted parts of their sites to company profiles, sales presentations, and information on company events.

Some firms put their businesses on LinkedIn so they show up in Google search results. Both LinkedIn and Facebook allow employees to create pages about companies, including their products and services. However, the two sites are considerably different when it comes to evaluating their usefulness in business.

When one views a company page, LinkedIn automatically provides a list of current and past employees. Thus, by following a few links, a savvy user can find, for example, a contact name, and identify a country head of human resources or the chief executive officer of an organization.

Such an online company directory is highly useful for potential clients, who can make inquiries about a specific company representative who they believe has information about relevant products and/or services. Organizing the appropriate company information takes only a few minutes per month.

Conversely, on Facebook, company pages are secondary to lists of friends. Promoting a company or product usually involves placing paid advertisements.

LinkedIn hosts business-focused discussion groups. The groups of Business in Japan, GoodPeople, and the ACCJ host discussions among business professionals in their respective fields on specific business-related issues that pertain to Japan.

Business professionals will often chip in their opinions, as a result of which conversations will cover a broad range of topics, such as the upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations to the new visa regulations.

The discussion groups often have content on interesting events or seminars, covering business topics other than those touched on by the ACCJ, where professionals can meet and interact potentially to build business relationships.

Many social networks provide communication tools to facilitate the building of business relationships. At times, one finds important customers among their friends on Line, Facebook, and iMessage.

Such sites are better than email, because of the immediacy they lend to communication, and their less formal style. It can even be more convenient, when people are away from their desks, to send a quick message to propose something.

The sites and applications that allow text messages to be sent and received are sometimes more robust in an emergency than other communication networks. For example, at a crowded fireworks display or concert, mobile phones may not work. Thus, during the Great East Japan Earthquake, only public telephones were working. In such situations, social networks are sometimes the only way to reach people.

Meanwhile, it is worth noting that one division of a foreign bank unofficially has designated Line’s group chat feature as plan B, should another emergency occur.

Of course, there also are other ways to network. Attending ACCJ events is a great way to meet new people, interact, enjoy conversations, and meet potential clients. We’ve seen social networking sites used by businesses for advertising, to boost employee relations, to conduct damage control, and as a business continuity tool.

Much like telegrams, telephones, fax machines, and email, social networking services have changed the speed with which business is conducted.

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John Ghanotakis (chair), Amir Khan, and Timothy Trahan (vice chairs) are members of the ACCJ Young Professionals Group Subcommittee.

John Ghanotakis (chair), Amir Khan, and Timothy Trahan (vice chairs) are members of the ACCJ Young Professionals Group Subcommittee.