Episode 2: Tyler Jarman – A Look at Social Media in Japan

September 5, 2018

Tyler Jarman is the Director of Creative and Marketing at DogaTV.

Born and raised in a small town in Kansas, Tyler was always interested in Japanese culture. That interest turned into much more when he started learning the language and the history of Japan at the University of Kansas. After a year abroad in Tokyo, Tyler returned to the States to complete his BA in East Asian Language and History. With nothing but $2000 and a couple of suitcases, Tyler moved back to Tokyo to find a job. After “paying his dues” as an English teacher and student, he found a job at a communications company doing translation, and media marketing. For the past three years, Tyler has taught himself the ways of Social Media Marketing and in doing so, helped his company grow their Facebook page traffic to over 10 million views per month. On top of that, he also hosts DogaTV, a small Youtube channel that creates videos for foreigners interested in coming to Japan.

The DogaTV project that Tyler works on is owned by Vision Inc. a Global Communications Company that also offers Portable WiFi Router Rentals to travels in and outside of Japan through Global Wifi, and Ninja WiFi.

What’s covered in this episode:

  • Getting an understanding of how social media can fit into your overall marketing strategy in Japan. Are you looking for reach? Monetization?
  • Don’t stick to the same old social platforms: new social media channels like Tiktok are ubiquitous, inexpensive and can be greatly leveraged for their network effects.
  • If you’re new to a social media platform, learn the best way to create content on it. It’s easier than you think; for example, YouTubers are constantly creating video guides on YouTube on how to create branded content every day – take advantage of the free lessons.
  • Authentic content is key on YouTube
  • The social platforms that are big in Japan and why live streaming will be the next big thing VERY soon.

Podcast Transcription:

(This transcription has been redacted for readability.)

Alexander: Hi Everyone, thanks for tuning into the Fullstack Marketing Ninja Podcast. I’m here with Tyler from DogaTV. He’s the Creative and Marketing Director there. Thanks for being here with us Tyler.

Tyler: No problem, it’s great to be here.

A: So I just want to start off I guess by getting maybe a quick intro from you about what you do, just understanding bit more about your background before we move forward with some questions.

T: Alright sounds good. Basically, I work in Japan at a communications company and I am currently the Creative Director slash person in charge of doing most of the marketing for a project that’s kind of positioned to make content and kind of reach out to foreigners that are coming into the country as well also connect with Japanese businesses that want to do more business with foreigners that are coming into the country. The project is called DogaTV we usually make videos on both YouTube which are a little bit more… kind of fun and almost vlog-esque while a lot of videos we make on Facebook are typically shorter, condensed, mostly information-based videos, so we usually go to different sightseeing places, different restaurants as well as businesses in Japan and showcase what Japan has to offer for tourists and people actually living in the country as expats as well.

A: Right, I think the reason why I wanted to have this discussion with you is that I think that I definitely see the difference between the marketing you guys do on your Facebook page and I’m a very big fan of also the Youtube vlogger style-esque content that you guys create on your YouTube. I think a lot of people can learn a lot from in terms of content creation.

A: I wanted to know, what kind of companies do you see really moving towards video or YouTube as a viable channel or opportunity in Japan. I know that in terms of video advertising or paid advertising it’s been something that’s been slow to uptake in Japan. In your opinion, what are the kinds of companies making splashes in Japan and how have you seen that progress?

T: Well one thing that I’ve noticed is that [social media] is still pretty much in its infant stage in Japan. A lot of companies still don’t understand how to utilize Facebook and YouTube, it’s something that I think is going to take some time especially since a lot of Japanese companies tend to think only in the immediate return of investment. Like, “oh we’re going to put this content out and it’s going to immediately bring in funds. Reach can be a different form of currency in the market of Facebook and YouTube. I think the companies that are going to do a really good job are the ones that are kind of very different and forward thinking about how they look at just social marketing in general. Typically I think the biggest companies that will succeed are tourist agencies, places that already have some experience with doing online – not even online but television marketing – at the end of the day, it’s not that different than your basic commercials on TV, it’s just a little bit more honest and straightforward, kind of in bite-sized pieces that you would see on television. So I think the ones that have had experience in that will do a very really good job in this field as long as they’re open to learning and getting their hands dirty and really looking into what works and what doesn’t work on these platforms.

A: That’s a great point and I think that one of the things that keep people from taking these new initiatives you know, we always talk about testing new channels. What kind of benefits or potential pitfalls that you can let people know about that if you’re trying to explore something within video content that maybe just from your experience you’ve seen as a potential issue, something that they can avoid right away if they’re going to be like, “hey we’re a company and we want to try video content, we don’t want to make the same 100 mistakes going forward. Are there a couple benefits or potential pitfalls you can lt our views know about if they’re trying to take this direction?

T: I think one of the things that people need to realize when they jump onto projects like this is that they really have to think, “okay, what are we going to do?” Why are we going to do it and what’s our end goal for monetisation, how are we going to make profit off of this social marketing – a lot of social marketing is just getting eyes on the product and a lot of it is if you don’t have a good brand idea and a good plan jumping out of the gate, it can kind of make it really difficult to go forward it takes a lot more time to kind of fix things going along, so one of my biggest tips would be just plan, have A/B testing, talk to people, do target marketing, figuring out what your market is, figure out what their interests are and I think that’s probably one of the biggest pitfalls, however one of the biggest benefits of this is just the fact it’s something that’s quite easy and especially in Asia, not a lot of people are doing right now and because of that, even if you’re not amazing at it, you’re going to see pretty good results because no one else is doing it.

A: Are there, just as someone that’s thinking about expanding to Japan, I think even if you’re an APAC company you’ll find it very difficult sometimes – they say Asia’s a very fragmented market, which, if you’ve worked here before is an actual experience, that I used to think it was just conference speak but it really is. You can’t take learnings most of the time from one country and kind of implant them to the next. What are some of the, if we’re talking about online channels, what are some of the Japan-only platforms maybe you know a little more about them like Nico or Line, maybe you can give some insight into? I think that obviously you want to go and like you said understand your audience, and if you’re looking at maybe doing some marketing or working with these types platforms, are there any tips or any kind of interesting insights you might have on these new content channels and are there any new ones that you see upcoming that people should have on their radar?

T: Oh, 100%, 100%. One thing I would say is, again, we mostly focus on foreigners coming to Japan but because I’m constantly trying to find new channels, I do look at what Japan’s into and right now, it’s been this way for a while, Twitter is usually a big thing for Japan, Instagram is getting bigger, but one of the ones I think is really interesting that may sound funny from a business standpoint but still I think is totally usable is TikTok, which is a kind of a music video-type – you basically get on camera and you’re just like singing songs which I know sounds very – like how would you use that in a business setting but there are different commercials and different viral campaigns that you could probably pull off in TikTok that would be extremely successful because I don’t think anyone’s doing it yet. I’ve actually been thinking about starting getting into TikTok because I’m a big music fan myself just to see what the atmosphere of it is.

One of the biggest issues people have is they only stick to platforms they know and they kind of write off the new platforms. [They say] “well Facebook is where it’s at, these new platforms aren’t going to do anything” and I think that’s a big mistake. I think you should always be looking for new platforms, always be looking at platforms that are especially big with young people. TikTok has a huge, huge market, for I think, something like the ten year-old to thirty year-olds that are using it. I think the average age is something from early teens to young adults but I mean, that’s a market there and if you have a product to push to these people and you want to push to these people and have the right mindset of how to do it, like if you have some sort of product you wanting to sell making some little music video in TikTok and then having that link to your product in the video, you can see huge numbers, just because people are like, “oh that’s entertaining but also what’s this product?” and it gets eyes on it. One of the things that people don’t understand is these platforms are still really cheap to put ads on, I mean, Facebook is dirt cheap compared to any other platform when it comes to putting advertisements up. You can spend very little and reach a large number of people. I think that’s something that people really need to keep an eye on.

A: Are there 3 top tips you could distill from the experience you had, what are the top 3 things people should do when they want to start on YouTube as a company.

T: YouTube is honestly I would say one of the harder platforms to jump into just because of how rocky the atmosphere is of YouTube is right now. Especially with things like the Logan Paul situation, that did not help YouTube in Japan, it was not of benefit. It kind of put a bad taste in everybody’s mouth and it’s something you kind of have to take kind of carefully. And also YouTube is probably one of the tougher ones to jump into because even though you can put ads up on YouTube, the returns for ads on YouTube versus the returns for ads on Facebook is just day and night, the returns for ads on YouTube are kind of low. If you make a channel and put ads on your YouTube videos, the return you’re going to see is extremely low because people aren’t fans of getting their videos interrupted by YouTube ads. Facebook, it’s a lot more native and it’s in the platform, so it’s a lot easier to do.

T: The biggest thing for YouTube though, in terms of starting a channel is again the same thing as Facebook or in general for these platforms, is branding. You have to have a solid brand and an understanding of, “why am I doing this?” What is the purpose of making this YouTube channel, what is our end goal like what are we going to with it, because yes, you can monetize on YouTube, but that’s constantly going down the drain in terms of money you can make from it. Another thing is that consistency is key on YouTube. That’s something we actually struggled with, trying to find content that is consistent and that people will enjoy because you’re going to want to try things at the beginning and that’s all fine and dandy, but you have to have a consistent brand throughout or your subscribers will just become dead subscribers from not watching your content. You’ll have to say, 100k subscribers and only 10 percent of them will watch because you’ve been all over the place with your content, so consistency, branding and also authenticity, authenticity, authenticity.

I can’t stress how important it is to not do what TV sometimes does and make these kinds of commercials like, you know, “please try this product, YEAH!” You have to genuinely like the products you’re promoting, you have to be genuine on YouTube, because people do not like this kind of corporatism – they don’t want to feel like they’re being sold to, which I guess you can say for anything, but specifically on YouTube they want realness, they want people to be as real as possible, which I think is part of the reason why we’re going the direction we’re going on YouTube, which is more towards nightlife and just, utilizing the personalities we have on staff to kind of just show people a side of Japan they haven’t really seen before in a very honest and real way and I think that’s why people relate to it as much as they do.

A: Are there any differences that are really “Japan-only” in terms of how people are using YouTube? I’m talking about the Japanese market, for Facebook and YouTube.

T: Oh yes, definitely. Youtube, especially in the Japanese market, I tried to watch a lot of the YouTubers who are coming up in Japan and that’s the thing, Japan’s YouTube market just started. You’re just now seeing big YouTubers. They actually had billboards in Shibuya for like, channels that only had 100k subscribers, which I mean for me that’s a lot, but like in America, that’s nothing, a drop in the hat you’ll find someone that has 100k…

A: They start at 1 or 2 million right?

T: Yeah exactly, I think one of the things kind hurting Japan, at least on the viewer side of it, at least, because I’m a viewer as well as a creator – is people they’re just making YouTube Japanese TV. They’re just kind of mimicking what they see on TV and I think a lot of corporations are going into that and I think it’s going to have short-term success but in the long term and the global scale I don’t really see it working with foreigners necessarily or with other people in the world and longterm not working for kids or younger Japanese people. I think they like the kind of funny, silly content, but there’s still a lot of this almost variety show, which is a type of TV show in Japan they’ve kind of mimicked that and I think that’s put issues on the Youtube side. On the Facebook side of it, I think they’re actually doing a lot better job in Japan on the Facebook side of it. You do have a lot of companies starting up trying to do this Facebook marketing, which I keep my eye on because you know, competition. They’re doing a much better job and I do think that they found the usefulness of it of just connecting with these people and utilizing that connection to sell products or have sponsorships, is a big thing. I think that’s one of the biggest things to make money off of is having these companies that you connect with and be like “hey, we have a million reach, we can reach up to a million people with this much engagement. How about we put your product at the end of the video and be ‘hey this video was sponsored by this, if you want to support the channel, be sure to check them out” and typically if you do that the sponsor will see a pretty good return in that investment which I think is something Japan is just now getting into the mindset of I think the issue is there aren’t enough people in Japan talking about these kinds of things and educating people on how to do it right. I think that’s the big issue.

A: Right, people that are providing the leadership in terms of understanding these new channels. I think what you said made a lot of sense as well in terms of, if you’re going to be using new channels, don’t just stick to what you know maybe if you’re coming from a TVC of TV advertising background, don’t just take the same thing and replicate really take the time to understand what are the intricacies of that channel and how you can kind of leverage them which is something I feel like a lot of companies could do better at.

T: I think one thing about that particularly is research, you cannot research enough. I’ve been working at this job for three years and I think the first year we were doing this project, it was just me consuming as much content as I possibly could, seeing what was possible as well, looking at the big guys I mean you have like Gary Vee, you have these big dudes that are doing just social marketing guides almost online and it’s all free! Cause he’s a brand himself, he’s not just a marketing giant he’s become his own brand and I think another thing is filming that; he’s been filming his rise to fame and rise to success in this marketing world and then people like to see that. What they like to see is that he’s not only telling you how to do it, he’s showing you how to do it and I think that’s something that’s really really interesting. That’s the great thing about Youtube – you can learn how to do YouTube on YouTube, you can learn how to do Facebook on Youtube and Instagram and all these different platforms. There are guides online that are just free. And I think that’s one thing that people really should just look into because it’s amazing what you can learn in just a short amount of time.

A: Good point and I think that authenticity is something you’ve definitely brought forward in this conversation several times and I think that that’s one of the differences with YouTube versus maybe even a more traditional channel. You kind of have to be positioned in a way where you are a lot more real with the audience so just really understanding your brand is important because you can’t really fake this kind of stuff. Once the script goes out the window you have to have a very good understanding of where you want to be positioned and how you want to create this content as well right? At the same time you were saying too, the channel has its own way – if you’re talking about YouTube, YouTube has its own way of doing things so that’s something that I guess what you’re saying is watch more “tape” and to better understand how the best are doing it, it’s all free there and that’s how they can get better at this thing.

I guess marketing is all about understanding your target audience and it definitely seems like you have a very strong understanding of millennials, I want to go a bit more broad picture. You’ve been in Japan now for about 6 years. How has Japan changed in the last 6 years, we know that the Olympics is happening, there’s an older population – what’s changed?

T: Oh man, the craziest thing to me is how Japan has jumped into these social media, like, areas. I don’t mean companies; how much young people have just… boomed. I think when I first came to Japan a little over 6 years ago when I was studying abroad, no one used Facebook, zero people used Facebook. It was Mixi, which was this terrible social media platform, you had to have a Japanese phone to even join. And so it was impossible to even make friends when I came here because no one had a Facebook, so I was like “how am I supposed to contact anyone?” So I just got phone numbers. But I think with the invention of LINE, Twitter blew up here, Facebook’s blown up here. Just in 6 years, there’s been a massive change in how people look at social media in Japan and how much people look at their phones in Japan. Because I think in Mixi days, you didn’t have people on their phone as much as you do now. I think people now are glued in; Instagram’s another big one. I’m on the train and almost everyone around me is looking at pictures on Instagram, or on Twitter or just messaging people on Facebook, it’s so crazy that it happened in such a flash in Japan and it’s only getting bigger. Tiktok, like I said earlier is blowing up with the young kids, Snapchat I don’t think has as much power here, but it is getting bigger, Instagram is insane, Instagram has just blown up in Japan and I think that’s probably the one place you really want to look at when you’re looking into these platforms. It’s getting crazy how many people I see on a day to day basis just flying through their Instagram feeds. I think Japan is still learning in terms of the corporate world, but there’s such a giant market right now –

A: You can’t or shouldn’t ignore it right?

J: Oh no, you can’t ignore it. I think that’s the issue I’m having a lot of the time, I see a lot of companies that are like, “oh we don’t need that.” We’ve talked to certain businesses and they’re like, “well, we’re not really worried about social media.” Well, you’re going to be a dead company in 2-3 years, there are no ifs ands or buts. If you’re not on social media right now and you’re not utilizing that in your business, your company’s not going to make to that much further, because that’s going to be – everyone wants their information, their products, everything – I think you see the same thing in China with, what is it, WeChat? With how much, everyone is tied to that. And I think that’s where Japan’s headed there with LINE, which has been getting bigger. I think they’re going to start sucking up different companies and making a WeChat of sorts.

A: I think one of the great things – if you talk about WeChat – they’re trying to create this ecosystem, I mean you can basically do everything all off of one app, you can pay your bills, you can pay your friends, you can.. the chat aspect has been taking a backseat through everything. If you go to China right now, there are very few people that are paying with – they’re paying all through WeChat, so that’s the insane thing about it.

A: I think a lot of companies are interested in entering Japan. A lot of the time, when we talk about APAC or anything, whenever we talk about this region, it’s always ex-Japan. Are there any tips that you can provide on companies that are looking to enter, just a quick send off for everybody on, “if I want to enter the Japanese market, what should I be thinking about” and especially for these video platforms?

T: I mean, if we’re talking about other countries wanting to get into Japan’s online market or social media market, to be honest, I honestly think that direction’s extremely easy, just because, a lot of the companies outside of Japan have so much more experience that coming into here, you’re going to make out like gangbusters. It’s going to be amazing because it’s nothing but market and not a lot of competition and the one thing that is going to be a little more difficult is dealing with the Japanese companies and dealing with some of the bureaucracy that takes place in Japan. But also just keep an eye out for what Japan’s current big app is or current big social platform is, like I was saying earlier with Tiktok and you have LINE – people are getting really big into live streaming now, that’s the new “hotness” that I’m kind of looking into is live streaming, people are liking this, what is it called…it’s like HDTV where you used to have these TV shows that would sell you stuff the entire time –

A: Like infommercials.

T: Yeah, basically, they’re like infommercials with personality. You’ll have these big Twitch streamers or big live stream people that will just get on and be wearing like clothes and talking about clothes they’re wearing, basically influencers. I think that’s something that’s going to be really big in Japan because want their information and products kind of hand fed to them by stars or interesting personalities and I think that online influencers are basically our new celebrities and those are going to be the ones who sell us.

A: Even here I’m looking in Hong Kong I was looking at the bus the other day and for e-sports, we have pro gamers doing full ads on buses here, which is incredible.

T: What world are we living in?

A: What would you like the audience to know about DogaTV or what’s upcoming in your career or your life moving forward and where can people catch you?

T: So we have the DogaTV YouTube channel, it’s a lot more lighthearted, sometimes a little more [PG18] because we’re talking about nightlife and drinking and it’s just us hanging out and trying to show people – I think our most recent video we went to a craft beer place and just talked about craft beer in Japan and how it’s kind of making a boom. There’s half information and half comedy and entertainment, while on Facebook which is arguably our bigger platform – our YouTube channel is still quite small, but our Facebook right now is blowing up pretty big with like I think 250K likes and we make a lot of short, minute-long informational videos that are kind of fun to watch and share, they’re easily shareable. So if you guys want to check either of those out, send me a message, I always respond to everybody and if you have any questions, let me know.

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Podcast music by Ikson Music.

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