Funnily enough, just when I asked in my previous post if AKB48 had any more news in store for 2011, they dropped one of the biggest game changers of the year.
There was an announcement that an event would take place live on AKB48’s youtube channel where they would reveal a new project, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. What was it about? Well, Garry wrote an article about it and I stated it on the “Top 5 Wishlist” podcast; In a time when the internet was being taken advantage of by idol groups in ways we wished the 48 groups would, management was holding onto a trump card. And that trump card is Google+.
Producer Akimoto Yasushi and Google Product Management VP Bradley Horowitz talked about AKB48’s(and SKE’s and NMB’s) integration with Google+, emphasizing the level of engagement fans will be able to have with members. They advertised Google+ as a more natural platform for members to share information and interact with fans, and can even hold “hang outs”, which are limited simultaneous video chatrooms. In addition to individual member content, there is of course, the big news we’ve all been waiting for: live streaming of concerts and events.
There’s lots of potential here, and it looks like the promotion is working so far. Popular members already have over ten thousand followers(checking it recently, it’s more like 20k), many of which I’m sure never gave Google+ a second thought prior to this news, and it has quickly transformed into something of a 48 paradise, humming with activity from both fans and the members. If management and members get used to using this format and use it often, I can see this becoming THE center of activity for 48 groups. It looks like a smart move for both Google+ and AKB; AKB finally steps forward to catching up with the current digital age, and Google+ gets tens of thousands of followers in one fell swoop.
As someone who rarely even uses Facebook, I was pretty impressed by some of the new and elegant solutions they brought to the table, particularly in grouping and settings. The night of the announcement, a lot of us at NSK were adding members and fellow idol fans to our circle and even made use of the “hang out” feature with NSK staff and followers. Google+ is something I would recommend getting, even if you’ll be using it just for the live streaming. If you’re a fan of the 48 brand, this is a must.
You can see all the members available here.