It’s not only about translating the site. It’s all about understanding cultural differences. Here some points I think they should consider to be fully accepted among Japanese.
- Give the option to use a predefined avatar. Don’t force people to use their photograph. Japanese take a lot of care of privacy and specially women don’t like to show their real picture on a public site. Linkedin is more a business, professional focused social network so, nobody would feel serious uploading the picture of a cat or dog, something really common in Japanese social networking. So giving the option to use some predefined funny avatars that could be chosen from a list or even letting the user to build one himself/herself. These would be really accepted among the Japanese public.
- Don’t do literal translations. Translating a social network site into Japanese means to design the site for Japanese. A translation of the interface is not enough. This means that menus have to be modified, some options dropped and some other added.
- Personal data should be completely configurable. For example, options like “I don’t want to show my profile to people from the following company” should exist and many more. Some people when leave their work don’t want to keep any relationship or contact with previous companies.
- Roles should be adapted, not only translated. Many roles inside the company change and are different compared to the equivalent in US or Europe.
- Also what kind of company, 株式会社 (public company, corporation, KK), 合同会社 (limited company), etc. Here a list. The concept may differ, and company types differ as well. It’s very important to understand this point and provide users the option to pick up the descriptions they feel comfortable with.
- Understand how Japanese use social networking. Checking other successful sites is a must. Instead of trying to change their behavior and make them use SNS as Americans or Europeans do, it’s a better approach to adapt and have an appearance Japanese like.
- Do alliances with many of the popular companies dedicated for job hunting and career opportunities like Pasona, Adeco, Human Resocia and so forth.
These are just few things to take care when creating a Japanese version of a social media site. For example, let’s see how facebook struggled while twitter grew as bamboo. One of the main reasons is because twitter didn’t force people to use their real names, neither their real pictures and also it didn’t force people to share so much personal information. Privacy is a real serious issue in Japan.
Of course Linkedin is not the kind of site to upload as an avatar the picture of a cat took with the mobile phone. Linkedin is for more “serious” talking, anyway dealing with the real face of somebody is not a requirement in Japanese SNS arena.
The most important advice Likedin should follow is: “Listen, listen and listen! First see how others do in Japan, understand the culture, understand how people interact, try to understand what people need and they still don’t find in other platforms. Listen to consultants having a long experience here and don’t try to quickly to convince a mature society as the Japanese to change their habits”
If Linkedin does its homework and walks the right way, it may have a really great success in Japan offering one thing that many other Japanese social network platforms still don’t properly offer: Internationalization.