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«13TH INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC RELATIONS RESEARCH CONFERENCE “Ethical Issues for Public Relations Practice in a Multicultural World” Holiday Inn ...»

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This study could also be taken a step further using the weighting of attitudes and subjective norms, as many studies using the theory of reasoned action have done (see literature review). Also, it could easily be further analyzed from differences within the final results: It is interesting to note the significant differences that occur within the final products of these variables. For example, within the single v. married comparison, the majority of married individuals were strongly motivated to comply with family, while the majority of single individuals were only moderately motivated. More significantly, the normative beliefs about church for the majority of single individuals were that church was neutral (0) on wanting them to purchase products from socially responsible businesses;

however, married individuals believed strongly (3) that church wanted them to purchase products from socially responsible businesses. Likewise, significant differences could be identified throughout this data. Analyzing the differences within final products could contribute to the understanding of the underlying reasons consumers make purchases in relation to CSR and to the understanding of CSR as a strategic management function overall.

In conclusion, this study should result in future scholarly research and analyses on this important topic. It could also be replicated in applied settings to determine key publics to target communications about businesses’ participation in socially responsible activities, i.e. those publics that will be more likely to purchase products based on this information, and to enhance the demand of public relations practitioners. From the results of this study and the implications of these results, it seems that organizational participation in CSR programs and activities results in a win-win situation for everyone affected: consumers, organizations, the public relations profession and society, in general.

Acknowledgement Special thanks to Dr. Dustin Supa, Assistant Professor of Journalism at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., for his assistance as the thesis chair for this paper.

271

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273 The Influence of Cultures on SNS Usage: Comparing Mixi in Japan and Facebook in the U.S.

–  –  –

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to explore and identify the cultural influence on people’s Social Networking Sites (SNS) usage. Using Hofstede’s individualism/collectivism and Hall’s high/low context cultural values, this study examines the content of comments on online communities in Mixi, a SNS in Japan, and Facebook. A content analysis of comments that appeared on the SNS communities of three car brands (Lexus, Cadillac, and BMW) revealed that Mixi users and Facebook users differ in the use of visually oriented information and in the types of comments they wrote.

Specifically, Mixi users used significantly more visually oriented information in comments than Facebook users. In addition, comments by Mixi users were more likely to ask for and provide advice and information, while comments by Facebook users were more likely to express their feeling towards the brands.

274

Introduction

Social networking sites (SNS) have been getting increasing attention from public relations practitioners. One of the reasons is that SNS represent a great opportunity to facilitate two-way communication between companies and their publics. Although other online communication tools, such as websites and blogs, have been used for establishing two-way communication with their publics, the nature of SNS as a sphere for building and maintaining relationships makes itself much more attractive for public relations practitioners than any other online communication tool.

According to a study by Wright and Hinson (2009), 72% of public relations practitioners feel that social media have enhanced their public relations activities, and 84% of them believe social media (including blogs) offer organizations a low-cost way to develop relationships with members of various strategic publics. Both of these numbers increased from the study in 2008, and this illustrates the increasing importance of social media in public relations field.

Recently, several studies showed that the popularity of SNS became a worldwide phenomenon. As of June 2008, there are more than 580 million SNS users worldwide and 78% of them are living outside of the U.S. (comScore, 2008). The number of users increased 23% in Asia Pacific and 35% in Europe from 2007 compared to an increase of 9% in North America. Given the increasing popularity of SNS around the world, SNS hold a lot of potential benefits for companies in international public relations. By utilizing SNS and facilitating two-way communication with their publics outside the country, companies could have better understanding about their international publics and their images among international markets. This will help companies to exercise appropriate crisis management and build brand equity among their international markets.

Facing the popularity of SNS in public relations, a number of studies about SNS have been conducted recently (e.g., Bortree & Seltzer, 2009; Trusov, Bucklin, & Pauwels, 2009; Sweetser & Lariscy, 2008). However most of the studies have been designed to investigate SNS in the U.S.

context and little is known about what SNS look like and how SNS have been used in other countries. This study, therefore, is designed to fill in this gap by comparing Mixi, the most popular SNS in Japan, and Facebook in the U.S. The findings of this study will contribute to answer the questions how SNS are used differently as a socializing media in the two countries and how cultures shape these differences.

Mixi, Facebook, and the reasons to compare them Mixi started its service in 2004 and soon became the most popular SNS in Japan. In March 2009, Mixi had more than 16.3 million members, and 88.5% of Japanese SNS users had joined Mixi (Internet Association Japan, 2007). Currently, Mixi is open to people over 15 who have an invitation from a current member of the service, although people who are over 18 are only allowed to join Mixi before December 2008. Mixi is especially popular among teens and 20-year olds who account for more than 60% of total Mixi users (Mixi, 2007).

The founders of Mixi were influenced by the American SNS Friendstar, and decided to provide the same service in Japan. However, instead of using the same function and layout that Friendstar did at that time, they “glocalized” Friendstar in order to make Mixi fit into the Japanese society (E-Business Laboratory, 2005). Mixi has been constantly adding or deleting some of its services according to Japanese users’ needs. For example, Mixi started Mixi Mobile from 2006 given the increasing number of mobile internet users at that time. From those facts, we can say that Mixi is the SNS which reflects Japanese culture.

Facebook, a popular SNS in the U.S., started its service in 2004. Despite the presence of many other strong competitors such as Myspace, Facebook increased its users in a rapid pace, and has more than 60 million active users in the U.S. and 300 million active users worldwide in 2009 (Facebook, 2009; Inside Facebook, 2009). Facebook is especially popular among college students in the U.S., and people between 18 to 25 years old accounts for 44% of its total number of U.S. users (Inside Facebook, 2009).

275 There are some advantages to compare those two SNS in this study. One is the similarity of main users’ age group. Both of them are especially popular among teens and 20-year olds, and this will reduce the influence of age variable in the study. Another reason is that both of them are used for more general reasons compared with other SNS such as Myspace which is more for niches who enjoy sharing information about music with others. The last one is that they become a very popular SNS in their countries by reflecting users’ needs to its service as I mentioned above. Those fundamental similarities of the two SNS will provide more reliability to the study, and make the cultural influence on SNS more salient.



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