Tere: Hey you, tell me, how do I capture your attention?

Yes, you – the reader, the buyer, the user, the prospect, the audience, the observer, the stalker (may be not you), the spectator, the player, the onlooker. Tell me what’s going to take to stop you from clicking that button and moving away from me. You, heartless run-away. How do I get you to listen to my sob story once and for all? What is it going to take for you to watch my dog running around my home annoying my cat with its adorable friendship? How will I share with you my latest piece of newfound wisdom if you refuse to stop by? How do I get you to read a story that forty years ago would have made it into a best sellers’ list but today is lost in this virtual universe among millions of competing stories?

What do I have to do to get you to notice me?

make me care_FBK

You: Look me in the eyes and Make me care.

Tere: Make you care? That simple? You: Yes, that’s all I want. I’m sick and tired of not caring. I want you to grab me by the shoulders, look me in the eye and tell me to care. I demand you make me care with a good crafted story. Can’t take any more spelling mistakes. I hate  my language being tortured, shortened, abbreviated, played with. I want no more jargon, no gimmicks, no tactics, no ploys. I despise plagiarism and I can’t stand keywords “strategically” overloaded throughout the text (do you think I can’t really tell?) just to please an omnipotent virtual entity.
All I want is to care about what you have to say.
I want you to enthrall me with your words, with anticipation, with well-written intrigue so that I can stay in your page longer than ten seconds. I hate those ten seconds. I’m sick of swishing through the headlines without paying attention at what I’m being said. I despise myself for just looking at those

s and

s that supposedly hold the keys to all my answers.   All I want is to care about you, about your story, about the reason that brought you here; about the forest you see from your window while you write words that make sense to me. I want to see you wrap yourself up in a blanket while you write, make yourself a cup of tea and fill up a water bottle to put your icy feet on. So human. I want to see you through your words. Not through heartless keywords. Because I know there’s no one I wouldn’t learn to love once I heard their story. Their true story, not one enmascarated by keywords and strategies. You just have to give me the chance to care about yours. I’ll give you more than ten minutes in return. That’s all.

Shareable content is all that matters – for now.

The rules of content marketing keep on changing but, as we like to insist, CONVERSATION IS STILL KING.

talkingSo have participants at the Content Marketing World conference been told in Sydney today – the number of shares and likes a piece of content receives on the web are crucial in its efficacy as a successful marketing tool. Thanks to widespread high-speed Internet access and easy to use publishing platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, power and influence are seeing a shift on the web. The locus of power moves away from Robert Caldini’s six sources of influence – scarcity, likeability, reciprocity, authority, consistency and social proof to content that moves. In other words content that people share. For companies, social proof is incredibly powerful. People do look at numbers and prefer to read content with many likes and shares. Content it’s only good if it’s shared. So what you need is brilliant content that breaks the ice and gets the conversation rolling. Good news. The important thing now is to keep on churning quality content that is not just useful for marketing purposes. We also want highly informative content that, first and foremost, encourages healthy, peaceful communication among us all.

“Young People are Just Smarter” – Digital Immigrants vs Digital Natives

Noam Scheiber, New Republics Senior Editor, couldn’t put it any clearer – “Silicon Valley has become one of the most ageist places in America”. Yes, it seems Mark Zuckerberg’s premise predicated to an audience at Stanford back in 2007 that “Young people are just smarter”  is now the accepted creed;  that it’s better to be perceived as naïve and immature than to have voted (or have danced to Madonna) in the 1980s.

What worries me most, though, is that I don’t think this mindset is restricted to the technologically gifted young crowd in the Bay area. I believe we are looking at a cultural revolution taking place all around us.  Men and women with impressive professional achievements and credentials are being let go, nudged out and pushed aside everywhere in the world without a second thought as to where else in the workplace they could make a valid contribution. Scouring the useless job sites day in day out and spending endless hours writing ridiculously detailed cover letters to match even more ridiculously detailed selection criteria, does not help them but find themselves turned away even for the most basic retail jobs. Not because they aren’t competent. Not because they lack skills. But simply because the are not “cool enough” (not lying, that’s happened to me)  and assumed not to be in touch with the latest technological trends.

Wrong.

Old ducks know a thing or two about the world. And we can be very cool too (if we put our mind to it!).

digital nativeAlthough a vast percentage of the global population is not a “digital native” (a term coined by U.S. author Marc Prensky in 2001) and did not grow up with the Internet, one cannot forget that they (we) have, in fact,  invented the actual technology that defines the digital native. And yet, many of us remain, as CNN’s Olivery Koy would have us called, “digital immigrants”,  “a relic of a previous time […] Old world-settlers, who have lived in the analogue age and immigrated to the digital world.”

Prensky insists the differences run a lot deeper than merely our typing speed. There is a significant difference in the way we process information, with digital immigrants taking it in linearly instead of switching from source to source at warp speeds as natives do.

Management Consulting Firm Deloitte quotes a 2012 study by Time Inc which, biometrically monitored both digital natives and immigrants for 300 hours to determine emotional engagement and visual attention. Interestingly but not surprisingly, natives showed a lower emotional response to content, because they experienced it briefly and simultaneously. Once boredom sunk in, they moved on.

“This study strongly suggests a transformation in the time spent, patterns of visual attention and emotional consequences of modern media consumption that is rewiring the brains of a generation of Americans like never before,” said Dr. Carl Marci, CEO and Chief Scientist, Innerscope Research, who performed the biometric monitoring for the study. And while this poses serious challenges for storytellers and marketers in this digital age when it comes to successfully engaging consumers, there is no denying that experience with technology can turn older people into digital natives.

And in fact, it already has. The generational digital gap is narrowing. In some places.

Recent research has shown that baby boomers comprise the fastest growing segment of smartphone owners in the US and they make up a third of all Internet users, with a third of those boomers describing themselves as “heavy Internet users.” Google’s study of more than 6,000 boomers and seniors confirmed that:

  • 78 percent of boomers and 52 percent of seniors are online
  • The two groups spend an average of 19 hours on the Internet each week, more than with TV, radio and magazines/newspapers
  •  71 percent of boomers and 59 percent of seniors use a social networking site daily (the most popular being Facebook)
  • 82 percent of viewers say YouTube is their preferred online video watching site with three in four online video watchers have taken action — such as searching on the Internet for more information — as a result of an online video.
  • 77 percent use their mobile device simultaneously with another screen
  • 82 percent of them use a search engine to gather information on a topic of interest,… and to broadcast their opinions not unlike these very savvy, very cheeky older internauts:

digital immigrants1 digital immigrants2 digital immigrants3And yet, that doesn’t seem to matter.

In the UK, the number of over-50s who have been unemployed for more than 12 months rose in 2012 from 11,000 to 191,000.  According to the research conducted by over-50s recruitment website Skilledpeople.com, 80% of over-50s have experienced age discrimination. Managing director Keith Simpson says it is high time employers stopped seeing older people as a potential burden and took a more enlightened approach. “Far-sighted employers should be cherry-picking the best over-50s now as an insurance policy for the future. These people need less training, are more reliable and less money-motivated,” he says. The Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin also studied how more than 200 workers, aged 20 to 31 and 65 to 80, performed 12 tasks testing perceptual speed, episodic memory and working memory. The analysis showed that the older adults higher consistency in the workplace is due to learned strategies to solve the task, a constantly high motivation level, as well as a balanced daily routine and stable mood.

Plus, studies show that older workers use fewer sick days on the whole than their younger counterparts.  Professor Peter Cappelli, who directs the Wharton Center for Human Resources explains that health care costs are actually less for older workers because most no longer have small children as dependents on their health care plans.

However, I think it’s too late. Only a handful of employers realise that the older generations are highly reliable, punctual and take a lot less unexplained leaves of absence which, ultimately, makes them a lot more productive.

As I write, the website of ServiceNow, a large Santa Clara–based I.T. services company, features the following advisory in large letters atop its “careers” page: “We Want People Who Have Their Best Work Ahead of Them, Not Behind Them.”

Thailand’s Love Affair with Instagram


A country inhabited by 67 million souls, Thailand has over 24 million Facebook and 1.5 million Instagram users. Not surprisingly, in 2013 there was a total of 36,443,398 photos and videos uploaded on Instagram from stunning Thailand. The natural and architectural beauty of the country lends itself to an Instagram frenzy, with people seeking a photo opportunity everywhere they go.In 2012 the top two most photographed locations were in the Thai capital, Bangkok. Interestingly though, surpassing all major world landmarks and attractions, including Disneyland, Times Square and the Eiffel Tower by far, the most popular location was Survarnabhumi Airport. The second was Siam Paragon, one of Bangkok’s more prolific shopping complexes. In 2011, both these two locations made the top 5.  As Tech in Asia commented on its 2012 report, ” if there are three things Bangkokians love to do most, it’s to travel, shop, and take silly self-pics whilst doing so.”However, there’s more to it than new airports, mega malls, perfectly reclining Budhas, vibrant temples and sandy beaches. Thai celebrities are also a key part of Instagram’s success in the country. Nine out of 10 of the most followed Thais on Instagram are (very attractive showbiz) females with the most watched being Chermarn Boonyasak and fellow actress Pachrapa Chaichua in a close second position. ZocialRank, the company that monitors social media trends in the country explains that celebrities make up 0.26 percent of the app’s user-base in Thailand. They have an average of 172,013 followers. Meanwhile, 10.48 percent are ‘influencers’ who have an average of 5,636 followers. This is a reflection of modern Thai culture’s infatuation with celebrities and everything ‘HiSo‘ (high society).Add the 10.2 million tourists passing through the country annually and you’ve got all the ingredients for thriving participation in a mobile image sharing platform like Instagram.

If you are keen to find out more about Thailand’s self-reflection in Instagram,  Zocial Inc’s nifty little Infographic can help:

Thailand loves instagram

Want to join Russia´s (virtual) space project? – Now could be the right time

Last year was quite an eventful time for our happy little office. Amongst many light-hearted events and team-building exercises involving fancy-dressed bowling, trivia quizzes and soccer competitions, every now and then, we sat down and did some serious work (I hope my boss is not reading this :)). A major project in particular, one that involved the revision, translation and localisation of 38 different countries, kept us focused for great part of the year.

Many lessons were learnt – and documented –  on a variety of topics relating to languages and website readability and localisation. But if I was asked to highlight something from that year-long project it would be the amount of research, detail and ¨digital empathy¨required to achieve a website that accommodates to the expectations of audiences in countries like China, Japan. Korea and Russia.

I have previously written about some of the areas that need particular attention when creating a website for JapaneseChinese and Korean audiences. Russia, though, stood out for me because my lack of previous contact with the country and its language. So,here are some of our findings:

cyrillic typewriter at work

To start with, a caveat. Although Russia tends to conjure thoughts of vast territories and a large population in most people´s minds, this does not immediately translate into widespread Internet usage. Out of nearly 140 million people, approximately 60 million were  using the Internet in 2010, a percentage unlike Korea´s, for instance, where the number of web users is more than 81%.

Cyrillic

What´s most remarkable about Russia though, is that in 2007 the number of persons using the Internet was less than 30 million. In a very short span, and  even though most Internet users still concentrate in major cities like Moscow and St Petersburg, this growth rate could well place this nation within the next three to five years in the top five worldwide Internet markets  side by side Germany, Brazil, India, Japan, the US and China.

Even in the area of e-commerce and despite having quite a lot of catching up to do in terms of consumer credit – an expected consequence of decades of government-controlled availability of goods and disposable income – development has been fast and steady. According to com-Score Russia showed the highest growth in online retail penetration in Europe in 2011, a rate nearly twice as fast as that of Europe as a whole.

Search engines  

Yet ANother inDEX, or Yandex, is the dominant search media in Russia, with 61% market share traffic in 2011 shared with Google 25%, Mail.ru 7.1%, Rambler and Bing both with 1%. A full-service portal providing a variety of additional services to users (real-time search, email, mapping, comparison shopping, etc), Yandex generated nearly 11 billion page views per month already in 2010 for Russians and Russian speakers in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Belarus.

But Yandex is crossing borders fast and it opened a US office in Boston, creating Yandex.com to allow searchers to query for sites in other Latin characters, mainly English.

And yet, when you approach Yandex for the first time, as is the case with many other local search engines, you need to take your Google hat off and begin taking into account the local specifics and the structural elements of the Russian language. So, I´m going to reiterate what I´ve already insisted on before:

太陽のかけら

Do NOT merely translate from English using an automatic translator. It does not work. Whether you simply want to put an ad in Yandex or whether your intentions are to establish a more in-depth presence, you need to get a native Russian speaker, preferably one with copywriting and SEO local knowledge.

And another thing. As silly as this reminder may sound to you: do NOT attempt to make your way into Russia by writing  your copy in English. As you can imagine, that does not work either as only about 5% of Russians speak English.

A good place to start is by recognising Moscow and St Petersburg as major civic, cultural and financial centres and realise the preferential treatment they receive from Russian search engines because of their prominence. So, you are more likely to get it right by geotargetting those two cities because the Internet service providers have more accurate data for them than for other parts of Russia.

Remember that Yandex rates sites using a system similar to Google´s page rank called a ¨citation index¨, which ranges information found from 0 to 150,000. The higher a website´s citation index, the more authority it has. Organic ranking in Yandex favours good-quality, rich content. So, if your aim is to reach Russian audiences, you need to remember that despite its expansion into other languages, Yandex needs to satisfy its native speaker searchers first and foremost. Have your content written in Russian and use a Russian country code top-level domain (.ru) in cyrillic characters and Yandex will recognise your site as relevant to its customers.

Unlike China, getting a Russian domain is simple. If you produce some form of  ID, almost any registrar will allow you to register .ru domains (both in latin and/or cyrillic characters). Getting your site indexed is not complex either. The Yandex webmaster tools can help you with that process as well as connect you to Yandex´s API and assist you with keyword search to gain more visibility in their index.

Russian language and cyrillic script

Regional linguistic and cultural differences compound to the already inherent difficulty of the Russian language for outsiders (for instance, the perplexing use of six grammatical cases). This means that search queries will likely be phrased differently in different regions. So, in order to get your keywords right, you need to have someone who understands regional vernacular, idiom and even spelling variations in different parts of Russia.

Because of the language barrier, getting visibility online is not easy. A good way is to associate yourself with online press release  services that include translations and distribution to major consumer, business and trade presses: Sovanet and Ivan-pr.com specialise in online copywriting, translating and public relations for the Russian market and they are worth your initial investment.

For those interested in crossing virtual borders, the Russian online market presents loads of opportunities. As crucial as it is to have a firm understanding of the role that cultural, linguistic and regional differences will play when establishing an online presence in Russia, don´t let the grammatical impossibility of the language and its alphabet discourage you. It might be a race well worth joining.

Congratulations – If you are reading this you are part of the Global Digital Culture of 2012 and beyond

The end of the year is coming to a close, hell, who knows if even the much talked about Mayan apocalyptic end could be upon us (as even Australia’s Prime Minister is warning us about):

But whether we are invaded by flesh eating zombies or whether we are allowed to continue to web our insignificant microcosmic lives in this infinite universe, if I were to find a word that marked 2012  for me, I would borrow the expression “Epic change” from  fellow blogger Tim Rayner.

Having started Digital cultures and translation this year has dragged me into the vortex of digital global communications and into a speedy and steady flow of digital conversations, causes, actions,  petitions, exchanges, advocacy, praise and complaint… a vortex that engulfs everything you do because whatever it is you are thinking or reading or writing, you want to share it, comment it, like it or dislike it, post it, tweet it, pin it, learn it, tumblr it… you name it – you just want others to be part of what you are thinking,  whether it is with an image, a video, a haiku (Yepirate being the best at that!), a tender poem (like Subhan Zein’s), an amazing animation (Nonoymanga) or a full-fledged, brilliantly written and extremely informative articles like those by Storiesbywilliam’s.

Exchanging conversations with the great pirate of the Laplands about all things ‘independence’ or with fellow translators from Russia, Italy, China about the future of this profession now more and more threatened by low Internet job rates and technological advancements that tend to replace at least some of the translator’s previous tasks, I have come to think about the existence of a global cultural identity, a virtual place where a catalan born Australian resident talks about Scottish independence with a Finish “pirate’ while exchanging sci-fi best moments with a prolific writer from the US.  A space where time and place are irrelevant, where political boundaries are non-existent. An egalitarian space open to everyone.

Yes, very nice, very romantic, very utopian.

But can we really say we have we accomplished this somewhat superior stage in global cultural identity?

Hang on, let’s rewind.

Here I am, talking about a Global Cultural identity when elsewhere in this very same blog I refused to commit to even a definition of culture. In the concluding remarks of that same article I wondered:

Poonam & Brampal's Wedding

1.    Is it possible to have the endless number of conceptualisations of the world that each and everyone one of us create justly represented in today’s digital world [in order to then create an ensemble of world representations called perhaps, ‘global culture]?

2.    Is it our responsibility to make a concerted effort to ensure that cultural/personal/generational/gender/etc diversity is fairly represented on the net or,the endless number of conceptualisations of the world that each and everyone one of us create justly represented in today’s digital world [in order to then create an ensemble of world representations called perhaps, ‘global culture]?

3.    Should we take this unique chance to move towards a universalised digital world?

I’ve had more than six months since I started DGAT to think about these issues and at this stage I think my answers will have to be:

 Yes – Yes – No.

Dance [ of the ] Masai

Yes, I think there is now and endless and ever growing number of conceptualisations of the world imprinted in the net – your blog, your poem, your image, your song, your haiku, your critique, your petition, each and every form of expression says something about the way each one of us mirrors our reality. Every single one of those representations are a unique, inimitable sliver of our history that merges with endless others to form a morphing global entity we could call “global digital culture”.

The concept I have in mind, however, differs from  (in fact, it is antagonistic to) some of the meanings assigned to global or mass culture by the media – the homogenised, westernised consummer imperialistic culture that dominates in malls around the world.

My understanding of Global Digital Culture resembles Roland Robertson’s Symmetrical Global Gemeinschaft 2 – a microcosm of ordered equal communities and individuals with considerable sociocultural exchange among them. In this construct, global order rests on a globe-wide collective conscience where humankind is the pivotal ingredient of the world as a whole. The dangers of mass consumer globalisation are here to be overcome by a commitment to the communal unity of the human species. Universalism and particularism intertwined become both a basic feature of our global digital world. This entity is committed to a world system of societies that constitutes the major unavoidable dimension of the contemporary global human condition much like recent peace and environmental movements or even romantic Marxism have done.

So, to answer question number one, YES, I do believe it is possible to have an endless number of conceptualisations of the world represented on the net, in fact, I believe that is what’s happening as we speak. We are creating a timeless, egalitarian space source of curated knowledge and representation of historical opinions for our future generations. This space is at once universal and personalised and generally reactionary.

And, to answer my own question number two, it sure is our responsibility to encourage diversity in this universal sub-culture when we are facing such a daunting extermination of traditional practices everywhere. David Rieff, senior fellow at the World Policy Institute says: 

“We are stuck with the global culture, just as we are stuck with world capitalism. Like the latter, the former will be more or less successful in different parts of the world. […] Those who yearn for authenticity, for the preservation or restoration of the traditional, will not prevail because of the brute fact that traditional societies – of which traditional culture is a product – cannot support their populations in a period of rapid increases in the world population.”

I believe we have an obligation to use what’s been given to us to use it as an antidote to the negative effects of globalisation everwhere, speak for those that cannot speak on their own, share  the knowledge that should not be the privilege of just a wealthy elite and promote causes that are worth promoting. So far, we are doing a pretty good job of it:

Let’s enter 2013 doing what we do best, improving on it and encouraging others to contribute to this community, always retaining our virtual/real identity, never (and here comes the answer to my third and last question) aiming to lose it by creating an amorphous  entity that gobbles up our personal DNA.

Blog of the 2012 year award nominations

Somewhere in the infinity that is the Internet universe, The Blazing trail (http://theblazingtrail.wordpress.com/) has found DCAT and felt it deserved to be nominated for the:

Blog of the Year Award banner 600

Whatever use of words I chose to show The Blazing trail my appreciation will not compare to the skillful art of narrative shown in this site – a prove that the digital community has an immense pool of hidden talent that needs to be nurtured and shared.

And in order to do so, these are the other blogs I nominate for the Blog of the 2012 year award:

‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award Rules

(This has been copied word for word for accuracy. It is suggested you do the same…makes posting easy!)

Do you know a blog that deserves an award? Do you have special blogs that you love to read? Which blogs do you bookmark and follow? Would you like to give them an award this year? Then the ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award is for you!  The ‘rules’ for this award are simple:

1 Select the blog(s) you think deserve the ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award.

2 Write a blog post and name/tell us about the blog(s) you have chosen – there’s no minimum or maximum number of blogs required – and ‘present’ them with their award.

3 Please include a link back to this page Blog of the Year 2012 Award and include these ‘rules’ in your post (please don’t alter the rules or the badges!)

4 Let the blog(s) you have chosen know that you have given them this award and share the ‘rules’ with them

5 You can now also join The Facebook group – click ‘like’ on this page ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award Facebook group and then you can share your blog with an even wider audience

6 As a winner of the award – please add a link back to the blog that presented you with the award – and then proudly display the award on your blog and sidebar … and start collecting stars…  Yes – that’s right – there are stars to collect! Unlike other awards which you can only add to your blog once – this award is different! When you begin you will receive the ‘1 star’ award – and every time you are given the award by another blog – you can add another star! There are a total of 6 stars to collect. Which means that you can check out your favorite blogs – and even if they have already been given the award by someone else – you can still bestow it on them again and help them to reach the maximum 6 stars!

‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award Badges There are six badges for you to collect – you can either ‘swap’ your badge for the next one each time you are given the award – or even proudly display all six badges if you are lucky enough to be presented with the award six times! ~ Need to know more? Check out the FAQ page And Congratulations! on being chosen for the ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award! ~‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award – thumbnails Here are the 6 awards in thumbnail size for your sidebar – feel free to Right Click and save any of the images on this page:

                  

very-inspiring-blogger   sunshine-blogger-award-2

And if you are planning on having a break, go ahead and enjoy some re-energising time. I hope to get inspired by the gorgeous mountain tracks in New Zealand :)

See you and talk to you soon.

Shine on!

Teresa

Establishing your online presence in South Korea – Gangnam style, or not

Since the infectious single by Korean pop star PSY appeared in July, the Gangnam Style engineered dance routines, over-the-top styling, and the Technicolor production that captivated over 350 million viewers in YouTube, repositioned South Korea in the digital world and made us pay attention to a country we had left in the backburner for quite a while.

A subtle commentary on class in South Korea, PSY uses the repetitive tunes and somewhat quirky dance moves to paint a caricature of the ostentatious culture of people who frequent the wealthy Seoul neighborhood of Gangnam, where young people go to party.

If PSY has put Korea back in the map for you, it might be time to dig a little deeper and understand the state of digital communications and marketing in South Korea.

Here are some facts:

• South Korea is a top 10 trader in world markets and the home of household brands such a Samsung, LG and Hyundai.
• The South Korean economy in 2011 was the third largest in Asia and the thirteenth largest in the world.
• According to a June 2010 International Telecommunications Union (ITU) report, SK has some 48.6 milllion internet users, which represents 81.1 percent of the population. This makes SK the eleventh largest Internet population in the world.
• By 2012, a majority of Korean internet users will have access to 1 Gbps services, which is 10 times faster than they had in 2010.
• The Korean language ranks tenth among languages used on he Web.
• Men and women appear to be online in equal number, and almost 100 percent of all Korean under the age of 30 are online, including students, professionals, managers and office workers.
• Internet subscriptions are among the cheapest in the world. Most homes can get a 100 Mbps connection for KRW33000 ($30 US) per month.
• The Digital Economic Daily estimated two million web visitors in South Korea (about 8.5% of all Internet users) could be described as Internet addicts because they spend most of their non-work time online.
• More than 75% of Koreans have mobile phones and many are adopting smartphones as their way of connecting online, with the number of smartphones expected to reach 20 million in 2011.
• South Koreans have a passion for blogging, with nearly 40% of web users having had written their own blogs, second only to Chinese bloggers.

The Hangeul series - XII

It sounds promising, I know. But here is where business owners trying to penetrate this market need to hold their excitement and ponder about local preferences and idyosincracies.

South Korean preferred search engines

If we look at search engines as we know them, things start to get a little unfamiliar- not only do Google and Yahoo! Online have a market share in Korea of only about 10%, but also, Korean content is largely favoured over international content.

In 2010 local search engine Naver lead with a 62% share while Daum was number two at 21%. In third place came newcomer Nate, launched in 2009 by the popular Korean social network Cyworld.

Besides, while South Koreans have very successfully integrated the Internet into their daily lives in many ways, their expectations of what search engines should do for them are fairly complex for international newcomers – South Koreans want search engines to solve their problems for them and so the task of these providers is a lot more complex than simply producing a choice of links to click through.

As such, results pages on popular South Korean search engines Naver and Daum appear to Western eyes to look more like portals instead of the compilation of organic links on the left and sponsored links on the top and along the right side that we are so accustomed to. But most interestingly, these sites aggregate a lot of different kinds of content , combining paid content with news, blogs, academic articles, real time results, shopping comparisons and a lot of User Generated Content in very different formats like videos, images, special boxes for real time results and a continuously updated box of most popular searches.

Preferred content in South Korean search engines

If you search for a particular product in one of the most popular Korean search engines, you will get organic results well below the fold, leaving the top 15 to 20 spots for paid links. In fact, Korean users seem to expect both Naver and Daum to push traffic to other properties in their networks or paid listings.

Paid per click

The only really effective way to penetrate pay-per-click advertising in SK is via Yahoo! Korea’s Overture because it partners with both Naver and Nate and also shows ads on Yahoo! Korea, Paran, MSN, HanaFos and DreamWiz.

But even using these tools,  opportunities for foreign sites to advertise on Naver and Daun are limited to one or two listings from Yahoo! Korea, among as many as 50 on a typical results page.  Furthermore, in order to use Yahoo!Korea and manage your campaign successfully, you need to be use a native speaker of the language, preferably familiar with keyword optimization strategies who can manage it.

Your best bet is to translate your site to Korean and use  a Korean top-level domain such as co.kr and .kr

Social media

According to the South Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a stuggering 30% of online users in this country report to belong to some kind of a social media network, and 60% of youngsters in their twenties claim to purchase products or services using social media.

The top South Korean social network Cyworld had more than 25 million members in 2010 – more than six times the number of users than Facebook has in the country. Thanks to the partnership between the second largest search engine in the country, Daum and Twitter, South Koreans can now microblog from inside the portal, producing a twitter usage rate twice the global average.

Online PR

Online Press releases are an important tool to socialise your news in South Korea. This, can in turn, become an effective way to bring your news and your company to the attention of searchers there via their user-generated content. Both PR Newswire and Business wire translate and distribute PRs there. Plus PR Week reported in August 2010 there are over 600 public relations agencies in South Korea.

Korean digital language, culture and website aesthetics

Koreans are accustomed and expect high digital standards and user-friendly, fast websites that adapt to their tastes and preferences. The widespread broadband created a stimulus for web developers to write overly complex and rich web-pages. So, South Koreans now embrace visually rich, highly interactive websites that incorporate flash and images, preferably animated, like so:

Another element to take into account is censorship. Remember that all South Korean who publish content on the internet are required by law to verify their identity with their citizen identity number. The most common form of censorship at present involves ordering internet service providers to block the IP address of disfavored websites. Because of this, and all the above reasons, I think it is wise to establish a sound relationship with the digital agency in South Korea to help you pave your approach to this country’s Internet culture.  This is a market that is certainly worth becoming part of but not without having done a very solid research prior and having understood its obstacles and peculiarities.

Don’ts of South Korean digital marketing

Apply your common sense and don’t expect conventional western search marketing strategies to apply to the South Korean market.

• Remember that access for business located outside South Korea is limited to one or two listings on a results page.
• Even if you think that relevant, timely content and links are going to help you achieve results, think twice. You will still have to fight for visibility with other 50 something paid listings and links to UGC.
• Don’t expect to focus your search strategy on Google Korean and receive the visibility you are hoping for. Yes, you can geo-target this market from inside your AdWords account, but keep in mind Google and Yahoo! Together hold less than one-tenth of the market.
• And if you are familiar with other Asian countries like China or Japan, don’t expect South Korea to automatically function like them. SK is very unique and a very lively internet market with its own preferences and rules of play.

Aesthetics of a Japanese website

If you were to do a quick survey of non-native Japanese speakers into what their first impressions when looking at a Japanese website are, the majority of them will probably use words like ‘chaotic’, ‘confusing’, ‘shocking’, etc. If, on the other hand, you were to question Japanese Internet users about their reaction towards non-Japanese sites, most of them will consider these to be too barren and uninteresting.

unaji / 項

Japanese websites – feeling dizzy?

I personally feel there are examples of outstanding design with international appeal everywhere. But I’m also a staunch believer in localising User Interface and copy appropriately. There is no denying that Japanese websites seem to prefer a specific type of format that includes:

• What may seem like excessive amounts of jammed up text
• At least two but usually three columns
• Smallish sized images
• Poor use of white real estate in the site
• URL colouring
• Use of icons and animated characters
• Use of boxes to contain text
• A general feel of what may seem like chaos to the untrained eye

The result, then, is something like this:

At first glance, it may look like a nonsensical composition that takes you back to the clumsy design of western websites in the late nineties. But if you think about it, the lack of familiarity with the structure and format of the language probably does contribute to feeling overwhelmed.

On the one hand, even describing the Japanese script is problematic for us because if I were to say that it’s composed of three different alphabets, I would be lying. An alphabet is composed of letters that represent a sound. The Japanese language is composed of two syllabaries (each with 46 “letters” or syllables) that combine with Chinese imported logographs. When these extremely different writing systems are presented in a website they appear to be lacking in the consistency and homogeneity of, say, for instance, the Latin alphabet we are used to. The Hiragana and Katakana syllabaries are generally smaller sized than the Chinese characters which, in many websites, appear in fonts that are too small and cause them to look  like a scramble of strokes with no rhyme or reason.

On the other hand, the Japanese written language can be read in a number of directions; from right to left, from left to right and from top to bottom. Combine all these possibilities in a website interface and there is no wonder non-Japanese readers feel dizzy!

Japanese websites – now, let’s flip the coin

Japanese site design currently finds itself in an exciting process of evolution. There are still, a number of issues to confront, mainly the use by the majority of Japanese people of a very outdated Internet Explorer 6. And yet, if you make the best of what you are given (and that’s usually an excessive amount of flash throughout the page), follow the advice of a professional native Japanese person and take a number of cultural and formatting guidelines into consideration, you might come achieve a successful site that conforms to Japanese expectations.

The Japanese love for beauty and aesthetics is captured in two words, Shibui (the quality of the concept of beauty in Japan which is simple, subtle and unobtrusive) and Kawaii (cuteness). Cuteness is a highly valued aesthetic quality in Japanese society which is said to have taken over the former more refined concept of beauty.

Further, while Japanese consumers are very appreciative of western products, western lifestyle and western celebrities, they are also very sensitive to their own culture (Shih) and want western brands, ideas, and products, but presented on a Japanese platter.

The following are some examples of these two qualities of the Japanese aesthetic:

Kabusan

Shunkawakami

Subtonic

Kotori.fostex.jp

Sakuran-themovie.com

Nttdocomo

They are all well worth a visit. And if you were previously confused by the somewhat intimidating design of many Japanese sites, these art pieces will surely show you the other side of the coin.

Teresa

Creating a website for Chinese audiences – Optimising, linking and sharing

If I discouraged you with my earlier post on setting up a properly localised website in China, it wasn’t my intention. Although there is no denying that the language, cultural and bureaucratic barriers in China may seem to outweigh the final benefits for you and your business, the nature of the Chinese audience as it is now and as it is evolving towards the future, could very well be a deal breaker for your online business.

Why?

Because of the power of viral reaction in China.

Packed like Runners in a Subway Car

Similarly to many Asian countries, Chinese online users love highly interactive websites and web 2.0 functionality that allows them to directly participate in the site. As such, blogs, forums, comments, ratings and similar features are very popular. Besides, Chinese audiences tend to be very brand driven and focused viral campaigns seem to work particularly well in this vast country.

This could very well be result of the long term orientation ingrained in Chinese consciousness, also known in this society as 关系 (guānxì). The strength of the community and the past links that bind them together result in relationships where they invest a good deal of effort to ensure they remain harmonious and reciprocal for life. An emphasis on long-term relationships is key to the development of trust, another very important component in the development of a solid network.

Search Engine Optimisation
MKT China estimates that in the last quarter of 2010 there were 4.02 billion search queries in China of which local search engine Baidu had a market share of 56.6%. So, it is very important for your newly arrived business to consistently achieve high rankings in this search engine primarily, as well as in Google.com.hk and Yahoo.cn.

How?
1. Keyword Research
If language limitations prevent you from doing the appropriate research to make sure you use the most effective keywords for your site in China, try to find a reputable Chinese online marketer to help you:
• define those keywords
• submit them to major international and Chinese search engines,
• submit them to relevant Chinese online business directories
• develop an efficient link strategy.

A good translator can also help you integrate your keywords into the copy as part of the translation process.

2. SEO Optimised copy
But remember that your marketing messaging needs to be equally compelling and persuasive and cause the initially intended emotive messaging. This time, however, the message needs to be conveyed in the Chinese language, to Chinese audiences. For this purpose, you would be better off engaging the assistance of a professional SEO copywriter to help you place the right keyword phrases in the right density in the right places. This person should be well informed about search engines guidelines in order to avoid penalties incurred by keyword stuffing and spamming. But equally important, he/she should deliver quality SEO copywriting that entices visitors to respond to the various Calls-to-Action proposed by the company.

Link and pay-per-click
A simple pay-per-click campaign, which works the same way in China as everywhere else, will help you gain an initial stronghold in the Chinese online market while your website is waiting submission in the local search engines. Your traffic will receive an early traffic boost and get important information on the performance and potential profitability of your website. Again, the advice and assistance of local online marketing experts will be invaluable to help you approach the main pay-per-click platforms in china (Baidu, Google, Soso.com, Sogou.com and Bing), because, although the process is fairly similar for English and Chinese pay-per-click campaigns, the language and cultural barriers could be far too overwhelming and slow if not halt your attempt altogether.

Remember that, ideally, your Chinese marketing campaign should not be ‘translated’ from English, but developed from scratch and supervised by linguistic and market experts. Use your successful English online marketing strategy simply as a reference point but try to develop a local presence that make logic to the Chinese audience. Besides, the focus of your website and pay per click campaign, when handled by capable local professional, can be tailored towards the products that will be most profitable in China. A good pay-per-click manager may be able to find less competitive keywords and niches to increase your ROI.

When choosing potential working partners in China, try to find somebody you can rely on, trust and communicate with.

Your share strategy in China
As impenetrable as it seems, the notorious Great Firewall of China, has succeeded at blocking some international high social media profile sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter but it has not managed to keep this vast community from diving into social networking. Today, more than 500 million Chinese citizens are online reviewing, complaining, raving and overall, sharing what’s there to share with whomever is there to share it with. Of all of these users, 30% log into at least one of their favourite social media sites and most of them spend an average of  2.7 hours online per day — second to only the Japanese.

Cleverly enough, Chinese nationals have found a way to imitate the international social networks that are not allowed in China: Renren and Kaixin001 replace Facebook and Weibo replaces Twitter.
Youku is a video hosting platform, which only vaguely enforces copyright laws, while Jiepang is the most popular location-based mobile app, with Foursquare-style checkins.

The much talked about potential for foreign entrepreneurs breaking into the massive Chinese online market is certainly there. But the entry strategy needs to be carefully planned, researched and respectful of local customs, language and culture.

If you have relevant experience and want to share with those who are thinking about entering China but not daring to give the first step, let us know your thoughts.

Thanks,

Teresa