In Japan Crisis Foreigners Turn to Social Media


TOKYO (majirox news) -Social Media platforms have been a godsend to foreigners and Japanese in Japan since the earthquake struck Friday afternoon. With phone lines jammed by millions of people trying to reach family members many were staying in touch and getting much needed information through social media sites, including Facebook.

Additionally, when calls to and from the United States were impossible to make, TextNow, a service that enables free text messages to U.S. phone numbers, worked just fine.

Foreigners who speak Japanese were able to post information in English gathered from the Japanese media within a few minutes of the original announcements. Many bilingual Japanese also helped out by posting regular updates and quick translations of information for the English speaking community.

American Lance Shields, Digital Marketing Director for MRM Worldwide and a Tokyo resident of 16 years, started an open group on Facebook called Japan Quake Survival Strategies. In less than four days the group has grown to more than 450 members posting information such as how to make donations, where to get purifier straws for drinking water, and what potassium iodine is used for – protection against radiation.

Shields noticed that many foreigners in Japan shared information on survival manuals and the latest news. “Only sharing on our own walls was limiting our ability to get the word out to people, who either do not speak Japanese or do not feel they’re getting the full story from NHK News,” he said. “A lot of good news links were sourced as well as more practical information like needing to get gasoline before the stations ran out.”

He added that the chat feature was great for people who wanted to do a Q & A.

According to Dean Fujii, a Tokyo-based social media consultant, social networking web sites have been paramount in keeping people, especially foreign residents, well abreast of breaking news, tips, and other much needed info.

He noted during the last couple of years there has been a tremendous rise in the use of SNS in Japan to disseminate news, keep in touch with family and friends, and discover new and effective ways to communicate. “Many people are still new to this media, but learning while doing is invaluable,” Fuji said.

Meanwhile, Dean said immediately after the earthquake he focused on sharing information, confirming others’ safety, and encouraging his online connections.

“Using a combination of SNS, like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and others allows one to reach wider and differing audiences,” he said. “Having registered on more than 50 global SNS, I am grateful to those who have reached out through alternative channels to show concern about the earthquake.”

So far, he has heard from the Eastern United States via a check-in note at a local spot on Gowalla, quick notes via LinkedIn, Plaxo, and of course, Facebook.

Joe Peters is a writer for Majirox News who runs his own Tokyo-based executive search company.
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One Response to In Japan Crisis Foreigners Turn to Social Media

  1. Robert Sanzalone on 03/16/2011 at 2:35 pm

    Good on Lance and Dean. Both are good friends and have been very active in the SNS scene in Japan for years.

    We’ve also done our share on LinkedIn with people helping each other in the Japan Networking Group, Business in Japan and Friends of Japan group. Have a look and be heart warmed by everyone’s effort over the past week to help one another.

    Great job Joe for bringing this forward.

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