It was only a matter of time before it happened, but overwhelmed with the sudden and sometimes overwhelming impact that their tweets had on society, some Japanese celebrities are now calling on other celebrities to stop using Twitter.
As social networking websites penetrate every society around the world, every country will at some point be dealing with a variety of issues regarding invasion of privacy, employees getting fired because of their use (or perceived misuse) of social media, and even defamation lawsuits from a tweet. In Japan, Twitter has become the rage and even Facebook is still challenged in its competition with Mixi to make deeper inroads. From my own interviews with social media influencers in the Land of the Rising Sun, the use of Twitter seems to be split between professionals who see it as a business tool as well as teens and twenty-somethings who want to follow the latest tweets of the famous celebrities that are so ubiquitous in Japanese society – almost every television, radio, or print ad for a consumer brand seems to feature a famous celebrity. In fact, similar to the United States, many of the passionate adopters of Twitter have been these same celebrities.
But then something happened – public demonstrations organically started from the act of one tweet from a celebrity.
Sosuke Takaoka, a 29-year old Japanese actor with more than 140,000 Twitter followers, posted a tweet on July 23 that read,
Honestly, I’ve been treated well by Channel 8 (Fuji TV), but I really don’t watch them anymore. I often think it’s a Korean television station. We Japanese want to see traditional Japanese shows. Whenever I see a Korean show on the air I turn off the TV. ^^ Goodbye.
The tweet was in reference to the popularity of Korean television drama shows on Japanese TV, but Takaoka centered his attention on one of the most popular TV networks in Japan, Fuji TV. Furthermore, there is obvious historic tension between the two countries. Either way, because Twitter has become the place where the news breaks in Japan as much as it does globally now, the tweet started to gain attention on what could be considered Japan’s first and still very popular social media website: the 2 Channel message board forum. This forum is still the 21st most visited website in Japan according to Alexa.com.
The above started a chain reaction where Fuji TV began to be flooded by phone call complaints, and even new complaints from consumers were mentioned in social media because of what was perceived as poor customer service by Fuji TV who didn’t have enough operators to deal with the sudden upsurge in phone inquiries. Some consumers called out for a boycott of companies that were advertising on Fuji TV. Finally, on August 7th, a demonstration against Fuji TV at their headquarters was held that attracted 2,500 people. Although that number might sound small, through the power of social media, the videos that were uploaded to the Japanese version of YouTube, Nico Nico Douga, as well as uStream have had cumulative views of more than 100,000. The demo organizers are calling for another one on August 21 which could attract far more people than the first.
While the above is an excellent case study of how social media and our present connectivity can lead to social disorder, as we have seen recently in many parts of the world, some celebrities are calling for a boycott against Twitter.
The problem is that you tweet. If you don’t want to see the TV programs, don’t watch them. Why do you have to tell everyone? The cost of watching TV is only in the electricity that you consume, so why do you need to tweet about it?
Since the original tweet, Takaoka has had his contract cancelled by his talent agency and recently issued a public apology. Unfortunately with the power of Twitter, many learn their lesson until it is after the fact and the damage is done. In fact, there is a Japanese Wikipedia page that has already been created and documents the above facts called Fuji TV’s Korean Broadcasting Issue.
As I have mentioned in many Twitter blog posts, the world is watching you on Twitter. The combination of the public nature of Twitter, the fact that most media outlets (and many companies) have their antennas tuned to our tweets, and the fact that social media has greatly accelerated the speed of communication means that no one’s tweets are safe.
The lesson to be learned, whether you are a celebrity, a business, or a professional, is that you need to create a new “public persona” and stick to it when you say anything on any social media website. I actually speak about this in my new LinkedIn marketing book where I give the following advice:
It’s easy to say that in creating your public persona you should avoid putting certain things in your profile, but because social media is, well, social, we’re frequently tempted to say things that may catch us off our public brand. Before you post something in any social media channel that may be controversial and therefore affect your future business prospects, ask yourself the following four questions:
- Would my family approve of this?
- Would my boss approve of this?
- Would all of my customers approve of this?
- Would a court of law approve of this?
Unless you can answer “yes” to all four of these questions, keep your public persona intact by simply not posting your opinions on the Internet.
If only I had a chance to have met Takaoka-san before that tweet.
Have you had, or heard of, an instance where you or someone that you know regretted saying something in social media and are now paying the price for it? Please share your experiences in the comments section below!