Analysis of Tweets Shows Japan Brand Remains Intact After Earthquake and Tsunami

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An analysis has found sentiment toward Japan as expressed in social media is surprisingly balanced despite the multitude of headlines about the nuclear disaster, earthquake and tsunami.

Positive sentiment expressing sympathy and respect for the Japanese people nearly offset the negative aspects of the nuclear scare.

An analysis of web discussions for the U.S.-Japan Council (USJC) done by U.S.-based web analytics firm Webtrends using Crimson Hexagon’s ForSight platform found that 41 percent of English-language Twitter messages (or tweets) containing the word “Japan” were positive, while 42 percent were negative (17 percent were neutral).

Webtrends looked at tweets from March 11, the day the 9.0 earthquake struck northeastern Japan, to May 18. A total of 9.8 million tweets were analyzed, of which 51 percent emanated from the U.S. and just 5 percent from Japan. 35 percent of the messages dealt with relief efforts, while 27 percent of the messages touched upon radiation. The bulk of the “conversation” occurred during the first two weeks after the earthquake.

“So much equity has been built into the Japan brand that it sustained Japan’s image through this crisis,” said Marko Muellner, director of marketing programs at Webtrends. “The positive comments ranged from how well-prepared Japan was for the earthquake to how stoically its people dealt with the crisis, and negative comments centered on the fear of radiation and how that might devastate the economy.”

“There were also mentions about the jarring of the Japanese economy, contaminated food and the speed and cost of fixing the power plants,” continued Muellner. “But, overall, support for the victims and the country as a whole seems to be the enduring sentiment.”

The results of the Webtrends analysis were reported at the U.S.-Japan Council’s Japan Leadership Symposium earlier this month as a part of a panel about the Japan brand. U.S.-Japan Council President Irene Hirano Inouye was in Tokyo for the symposium.

“Without a doubt, the fortitude and resiliency of the Japanese people was demonstrated in the weeks and months following the earthquake and tsunami,” said Hirano Inouye. “What is important now is sending the message that Japan is safe and open for business. As an organization, we will continue our work to encourage others to travel to Japan, whether for business or for pleasure.”

The U.S.-Japan Council is a 501(c) 3 non-profit educational organization that contributes to strengthening U.S.-Japan relations by bringing together diverse leadership, engaging stakeholders and exploring issues that benefit communities, businesses and government entities on both sides of the Pacific. Established in 2009, it maintains a network of Japanese American leaders who are committed to maintaining this important relationship. The council is headquartered in Washington, D.C. with a regional office in Los Angeles.

Webtrends is headquartered in Portland, Ore. and San Francisco, with offices in London, Melbourne and Tokyo. For more information, visit www.webtrends.com or follow on Twitter at @webtrends.

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