fMC Tokyo, brought to you by Social@Ogilvy APAC

Last Friday, Facebook hosted its first-ever marketing conference outside the US: fMC Tokyo. I had the pleasure of attending on behalf of Social@Ogilvy, and over the next week will be sharing my top takeaways for marketers and brands.

To note, I am a long-time user and advocate of Facebook as a platform for people and marketers to connect and share stories. But, the US-centricity of the platform thus far has made it a challenge – one that I welcome, no doubt – to make Facebook more relevant and appealing for skeptical Asian marketers, who are viscerally attuned to the diverse cultural differences within our market. With fMC Tokyo, it was clear that Facebook had woken up to this too, and was taking the first step in a new commitment to Asia and more specifically Japan as key growth markets.

Impressed and eager to see what fMC had in store, I settled into my seat amidst some 500 Japanese marketers, media specialists and press, soaking up the rock and roll vibe as the Black Eye Peas’ “Let’s Get it Started,” welcomed Erik Johnson, Asia Pacific Vice President, to the stage. In his opener, Erik reminded us of the changes facing Japan, especially as the world increasingly connected, and Japan endeavors to use social to play a larger role in the world. The message was delivered to a Japanese audience but remains relevant to all Asian marketers: To survive in this ever-changing world, brands need to figure out and participate in those changes to stay relevant.

At this point, the obvious question arises in my mind: With the comfort levels for real-name social networking far below any other Asian country – reflected in Facebook’s 6% penetration rate of Japan’s online population – how can we be so confident that Facebook is indeed the vehicle to ensuring marketers’ place in consumers lives? That Japanese people even want to be connected, using their real selves?

Erik interrupted my train of thought with the story of Takeo-shi, a small city in Japan whose visionary Governor took the plunge head-first, shifting the city’s website to a Facebook page. He wanted to create a dialogue about what it means to live in Takeo, what it means to govern Takeo. To initial pushback from citizens, Governor Keisuke Hiwatashi responded,

“When people give their opinions or ask questions, they should take responsibility for this as adults, and this should be done using their real names.”

Now, the city of Takeo has over 12,000 Facebook fans, successfully building a sizeable, engaged, and micro-community to reach a personal and relevant audience. The “Facebook City” even has a user-generated case video on YouTube.

My ears were perked. I was listening, as was everyone else around me. This was only the beginning of Facebook as a game-changer for the Japanese market.

The rest of the day flew by with presentations from Global and Asia Pacific Directors of everything from Ad Engineering, Design, and Customer Marketing, covering everything from the philosophy that has guided the evolution of Facebook’s advertising products, the need-to-knows of Timeline for Pages, to granular step by step how-to’s for brands who’ve not quite started on Facebook yet.

As a digital strategist focused on social media, having this range of material grounded me in the reality that sometimes we assume too much about what people know about social. So we jump too far and miss the basics. fMC taught me that it’s helpful to start from the beginning, if only to soak in the reasons and philosophies behind all the amazing marketing products we have at our fingertips. It is this core understanding that will help us maximize the platform’s potential.

In my next few posts I’ll be sharing more on the most impressive elements of fMC, namely this elusive “philosophy” as well as the most relevant tips about design, engagement, and insights gleaned from fMC. Stay tuned!