“Manbe-kun” case shows us the difficulty of having a company’s Twitter and SNS account.; September 2, 2011
“Manbe-kun” is the Oshamanbe town’s official mascot. The tweets posted by Manbe-kun caused some troubles and confusion. In the Hokkaido, many mass media including the local TV stations and the newspaper companies have repeatedly reported this incident. Quite a few number of complaints have been directed toward the Oshamanbe town, and the mayor apologized and forced to close the town’s Twitter account, and stripped the license.
On August 14, Manbe-kun made controversial tweets about Second World War that he said that “three million Japanese died and Japan killed 20 million through Asia in a war of aggression. From every standpoint, Japan’s war aggression started everything. Manbe-kun’s statement or opinion about the Second World War is quite similar to the foreign policy of Kan’s administration.
Actually, Prime Minister Kan made similar statement at the annual memorial service for the war dead on August 15. And for me it seems quite naturally that the Oshamanbe town’s Twitter site burst into flame. With the advent of the internet, people enable to access vast amount of information and understand much more about the Second World War. Furthermore, the younger generation has its own opinions over the war and history. There also are some territorial claim issues between China(Senkaku Islands) and Korea(Takeshima Island).
It was under such circumstances that the Manbe-kun’s issue occurred. I think it is quite natural that many people responded Manbe-kun’s tweets rapidly. The response by the follower was quick and furious as irate caller e-mail complained to the town and asked if Manbe-kun’s opinions represented the official view of the town.
I think there are some lessons from Manbe-kun’s issue. Many people point out that “you cannot cross the line, even on the Internet”. In other words, when you express your own opinion on the issue, you need to make a deliberate statement. Especially, if you are not the central player of the issue, you should be very careful to avoid doing anything that could harm people who are involved. Twitter is simple, convenient and fun. But you must know that “if you tweet your opinion, you cannot go back on it”.
You should take responsibility for what you say. Trying not to make a irresponsible statement would save the Internet and open-minded discussion. I believe the Internet has a self-cleaning capability and it is one of a fundamental reason for the existence of the Internet.
On the other hand, there are some opinions that it is not good to become nervous about the personal opinion. In other words, the extreme reactions or opinions for both sides are inappropriate in this situation. The Internet should be open for everyone and free discussion. So that is why people should express their own opinion with moderation and high sense of responsibility.
However now we look at this issue from company’s perspective. As I already said “Manbe-kun” is Oshamanbe town’s official mascot. Therefore Manbe-kun’s tweets are as same as the tweets made by Oshamanbe town. Needless to say, Oshamanbe town has different opinion from Manbe-kun.
Usually, public men’s private opinions about difficult or controversial issue should not be expressed in public. If they express their own opinion in public, they should clearly state that this opinion is personal and does not reflect Oshamanbe town government policy. However, some cabinet members of Japan’s current administration often express their own opinions or policy views in public. It seems like to me that they do not understand their situation and position appropriately. The Internet is actually quite strict about this kind of the gaps in their statements.
In the case of Manbe-kun, I think most of people recognize that there is someone behind Manbe-kun. But people still do not know whether or not Manbe-kun’s tweets and opinions about the war reflected by the town. I think this problem of confusion is deeply related to how to deal and manage the town’s official mascot. I am not sure whether or not the image of Manbe-kun is the image the town wanted. Originally, what does Oshamanbe town want to do through Manbe-kun?
I have heard that Manbe-kun has sharp tongue and his black humor made him popular. Manbe-kun has about 88000 followers, attracting many people because his venomous-tongued tweets are far distant from the town mascot’s soft image. According to the information on the web site, Manbe-kun had said nasty thing about celebrity and apologized for it.
The tweets of Manbe-kun had been made by a man in the private company commissioned to make posts on the Twitter microblogging service in the mascot name. In an TV interview, he said that “I put myself up for the role of the mascot, because the town did not make use of his character”. I am not sure, but very possibly there was no in-depth talk between the Oshamanbe town and the private company about the image and the character of the mascot. I think this is the one of the cause of this problem…
Again, Manbe-kun is the town’s official mascot but he makes tweets and expresses his own opinions. That means he has his own persona and I think such is the case with company. If a retailer’s sales representative made an inappropriate remark, the retail company’s executive would apologize for it. However on the other hand, the Internet is anonymous and it is easy for us to hide exactly who we are. I think most people think that the tweets made by town’s mascot are naturally based on the mascot’s opinions. Furthermore, Manbe-kun is the official mascot of the town, so Mnabe-kun’s tweets are the town’s tweets and opinions. The tweets and any direct message on the company’s account are the company’s statements and opinions. If a company made an inappropriate remarks, the company would be subjected to criticism including both emotional and logical. In the case of Manbe-kun, quite lots people had discussed his tweets critically but logically. Therefore, the argumentation ended in a short period of time.
Substance of the problem of Manbe-kun’s case is actually not that his tweets filled people with confusion. The biggest problem was Manbe-kun as an official mascot of the town could not act the way that his role required. However now one question comes to my mind, does the town accept or have no negative opinion about Manbe-kun’s sharp tongue?
Actually, Manbe-kun’s sharp-tongued tweets made him popular. And for small town like the Oshamanbe, it is good thing that the town’s official mascot becomes very popular. But what does the follower of the Manbe-kun’s tweets bring to the town? If the town really wanted to convey the town’s good point to the followers, the town would have needed the next step. Most of all, I am not sure whether or not Manbe-kun’s sharp-tongued character is matched with the town.
The Oshamanbe is small and peaceful town located at the south-west coast of Hokkaido. The sound of “Oshamanbe” is quite unique and the most people in Hokkaido know the town. There is Hakodate, one of the most popular tourist attraction in Hokkaido, when you go south and is Noboribetsu, the Hokkaido’s most popular hot spring, when you go east. The Oshamanbe is famous for its crabs, and there is a nationally famous boxed lunch with crab meat and rice. This lunch box is often sold in department’s production exhibition. So to me, the image of the Oshamanbe is never related to the Manbe-kun’s sharp-tongue character.
Manbe-kun has a large number of the Twitter followers and attracted many people. What do these mean to the town? There is the Oshamanbe town and Manbe-kun. The town should set his character appropriately, and he tweets in the way the town wants. I think this structure is right and appropriate and works well, particularly for the small town like the Oshamanbe. I think it is much more difficult than you think to deal with blog account for a town’s official character and a company appropriately, and you need careful consideration and planning before you start. The crucial lesson from the Manbe-kun’s case is that any blog account for company or organization has a persona, and its persona develops.