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A Complete Guide To Social Media In Japan

A complete guide to social media in Japan

In this guide, we introduce today’s most popular social media platforms in Japan and advise best online marketing practises for each platform. 

Social Media Facts and Trends

Before we delve into each social media platform, here are some facts you should know about social media in Japan.

  1. Social media penetration is relatively low (65%) compared to the rest of the world1, possibly due to Japan’s aging population.
  2. In January 2020 there were 82 million active social media users, an increase of 3.8% since January 20191.
  3. Japan is the only country where Twitter is the No.1 social networking platform2.
  4. The majority use LINE for messages, not WhatsApp.
  5. Blog platforms are among the top visited websites.
  6. Influencer marketing is still on the rise, mainly on Instagram and TikTok.
  7. Facebook is the LinkedIn of Japan, mainly used for business networking.

Now that you can see that Japan is different to most Western markets, let’s take a closer look at the social media scene in the Japanese market.

Top social media platforms in Japan

Based on monthly active user (MAU) numbers, the most widely used social media platforms in Japan are LINE and YouTube. The top social networking platforms are Twitter, Instagram, then Facebook – in that  order.

Social Media in Japan 2020 - infographic

LINE Messenger App

Japan’s most popular messaging app, LINE, has over 84 million MAU in the country and a total of 165 million globally3. Categorised as a super app and similar to the Chinese app WeChat, LINE has a multitude of features other than messaging, such as a newsfeed, a cashless payment system, a games library, TV streaming, digital comics and an ecommerce platform. Famous for their animated stickers, LINE even has retail stores that sell official character merchandise. 

LINE user demographics
LINE user demographics app usage

As you can see in the graphs above, more than half of the LINE users are over 40, but this is mostly due to the aging population in Japan. Many people from every age group, for both men and women, use the app on a daily basis. This makes  LINE Ads one of  the most effective ways for businesses to get ad impressions on smartphones.

Features about LINE in Japan:

  • LINE is the most popular messaging app in Japan
  • There are many users across all age groups which is  evenly split between men and women 
  • It can reach 64% of the Japanese population3
  • Close to 20% of smartphone users only use LINE for social media3
  • Businesses can promote their product or service on LINE with an official account and via LINE Ads
  • LINE coins can be purchased to buy stickers and themes within the app

For further information about LINE, its users and implications for digital marketing, please refer to our previous article, Why LINE is the most popular messenger app in Japan.

YouTube

The popularity of YouTube in Japan is undeniable. The video sharing platform had over 62 million MAU as of October 2018. According to Alexa, almost 5% of all traffic comes from Japan, ranking the country in 3rd place for number of visitors on YouTube4. According to the JustSystems “Mobile and Social Media Monthly Survey: December 2019 Edition” (see graph below) and Globalwebindex Q3 2019 survey1, YouTube is the most used social media platform in Japan among internet users.

The top YouTube channels in Japan are mostly Japanese, with many famous Japanese YouTubers such as Hajime (8.65M subscribers) and HikakinTV (8.45M subscribers). A platform that was once dominated by Japanese pet videos is now full of content that gives insight into real opinions of the Japanese people

Features about YouTube in Japan:

  • YouTube is the most-used social media in Japan
  • Japan comes in 3rd place globally for the number of YouTube visitors
  • Most users are in their 40s and 50s

Twitter

A platform known to be dwindling in users and tweets worldwide is still experiencing massive popularity in Japan. In terms of users, Japan comes in second place after the USA with 48.45 million users1. Similar to LINE, the catalyst for Twitter’s popularity was the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, where people needed an up-to-date source of information and means of communication. Twitter saw a 33% increase in Japanese users that year.

The secret behind Twitter’s popularity may be attributed to the use of aliases on anonymous accounts. As Reuters mentions we also believe that this allows Japanese users to express their opinions freely, making Twitter a great platform to collect market data on products and services. 

Features about Twitter in Japan:

  • No.1 social networking platform in Japan with 48.45 million users
  • Japan is the only country where Twitter is the no.1 social network2
  • There are many anonymous users
  • It is great for social listening by market researchers 
  • 140-character tweets can convey a more detailed message in Japanese compared to English and other languages

A screenshot of a cell phone

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Instagram

The most popular social networking platform for younger generations is Instagram. According to Instagram, there are 33 million users on their platform in Japan5. Their largest audience is aged 18-29, spending over 100 million hours on Instagram a month. Impressively, Japan comes in first place globally for the number of daily “stories” at 7 million per day6. The engagement rate on Instagram is also extremely high in Japan, placing them second to Greece at 4.93%7. In addition, Japanese influencers have high engagement rates in every influencer category.

Features about Instagram in Japan:

  • Most popular for users in their 10s and 20s
  • Highly engaging users
  • great for brands to use influencer marketing
  • World’s largest volume of monthly “stories”

Facebook

The world’s most popular social networking platform1 is not the most widely used in Japan. It does, however, still have 26 million users with most of them in their 20s and 30s6. An interesting feature about Facebook in Japan is that Japanese people have been using the platform mainly for business networking. This explains why LinkedIn has had a slow uptake in Japan. 

Features about Facebook in Japan

  • Users in their 20s and 30s
  • Used for business networking
  • Great for B2B marketing
  • Easy ad targeting and insights 

Niconico

This is a video sharing service in Japan that ranks 12th on Alexa’s Top Sites in Japan. Aside from uploading videos and video live streaming, Niconico have other services such as news, blogs, affiliate and advertising. 

Snow

Once a clone of Snapchat, SNOW is a selfie camera app owned by Naver, LINE’s parent company. They have selfie-centric filters, stickers and AR tailored towards a younger audience. In 2016, the app raised $50 million from SoftBank Group and Sequoia China.

TikTok

The relatively new video sharing platform, TikTok, already has 9.5 million MAU in Japan. With most users in their 10s and 20s6, this is an app used by many influencers in Japan to create video content for other platforms. In fact, their successful expansion into Japan can be accredited to influencers such as Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

Ameba

This is a social networking platform which is  known more for their blog service. As you can see on SimilarWeb’s top websites in Japan, www.ameblo.jp ranks 18th compared to 38th for www.ameba.jp

It’s worth mentioning that blogging has long been popular in Japan, with the Japanese language coming in first place for most blogged language in 2007. It may be the anonymity of blogging that attracts many Japanese users.

Using social media in Japan for businesses

With over 82 million social media users in Japan and a multitude of platforms to choose from, it is important to create the right content for the appropriate platform, depending on your product, service and target audience. Hiring social media marketing experts for the Japanese market is a fool-proof and efficient way to reach customers in Japan. Contact us to find out more about our services.

1Source: “Digital 2020” report by Hootsuite
2Source: “Global Twitter Users 2019” by eMarketer
3Source: Line Corp. (April 2020)
4Source: youtube.com on Alexa
5Source: Instagram Day Tokyo 2019 by Instagram Business
6Source: “Most popular social media platforms in Japan” by We Love Social (March 2020)
7Source: “Top 10 countries with the highest and the lowest Instagram engagement rate” by Hype Auditor

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