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A Guide to Japan Social Media

Updated: Jul 19, 2021

Getting Japan Social Media Right

It's important to understand a guide to Japan Social Media because Japan is the only place in the world where Twitter is more popular than Facebook and sending applications in via Indeed is preferred over LinkedIn. In this article we'll review the top social media platforms, how they're used, and what you need to do to get it right.

What Social Media is Used in Japan?

Japanese social media is one of the most fascinating topics in the world for marketers. Why? Because in Japan, everything you know as a marketer has to be relearned.

Get ready to be re-schooled, let's get started...

In a guide to Japan social media, we cover how consumers prefer Twitter over Facebook, Messenger over SnapChat, and while mobile has been the norm for years- due to Covid-19 and the need for remote work many consumers are using laptops for the first time.

As a result of this change in both user behaviour, platform preference, and online buying patterns- Japan is a dynamic place to explore social media and what it means to do marketing in Japan.

In this article our digital marketing agency in Tokyo describes how Japanese social media is different than you'd expect. What's better yet is that these percentages are always changing based on how top social media trends for 2021 develop amongst consumers.

While you can see below some of the interesting stats regarding social media in Japan, what you can't see is the context behind much of this.

For example, YouTube may have the highest penetration rate but that has a lot due to largely party due to how content is being distributed and the importance of fan favor to influencers, which all can't be found on traditional Japanese television.

While all of the small details can seem small in a large overall strategy, none the less they're important for success in Japan, so keep reading below to see why.

Table of Contents

  1. Japanese Facebook

  2. Japanese Instagram

  3. Japanese Twitter

  4. Japanese YouTube

  5. Japanese LINE

  6. TikTok Japan

Japanese Facebook

Japanese Facebook is emerging, for years Japanese stayed away from Facebook for the simple fact that anonymity matters here and putting a photo of yourself on a page for everyone to see, is just not that popular. Which is why when you search Japanese profiles, most photos are empty or of someone other than themselves.

Why Facebook Marketing In Japan?

So if this is the case, then why invest in Facebook? A Guide to Japan Social Media showcases how Outside of it being the best ad platform in the world, just like digital is evolving so is the consumer landscape and their media consumption in Japan.

Due to Facebook’s ad platform progressiveness, the integration of Instagram- which is wildly popular, and the fact that FB messenger is finding a place in Japan, Facebook is growing and here. As a matter of fact many advertisers are finding it a much better platform to use for bottom of funnel sales while platforms like Twitter or Line are better for brand awareness.

What to Know About Facebook Marketing?

However, it's important to understand that Facebook is a pay to play platform, therefor in almost all cases, we create an advertising strategy or advertising calendar- not a organic calendar. If you are paying for an organic calendar for impressions and expecting anything in return, you're simply wasting money and should start running from whatever agency has tried to sell you this.

The difficulty here is that most clients are not used to Facebook being an advertising platform, some are still under the assumption that it is a organic word of mouth platform or even a PR platform - while this can be debated and there are some truths to having content on your page for recognition purposes (as you would on a website) Facebook being an organic platform is no longer the case.

On Facebook, to get reach, views, or even shares it seems, you have to pay for it. Paying for it, means developing campaigns where the specific objective of your posts are things like brand awareness (reach), consumer engagement (views/likes), or even landing page views (purchases, etc). In each case, technology has evolved to the point where you can choose your objective and now the new goal of your agency is how to achieve that objective for the lowest cost possible so that you can save money while also being effective.

Of course this might seem alarming at first, but please know that the benefits of this outweigh the negatives. If you have a digital marketing agency in Tokyo like ours, you no longer have to push to get viral metrics, you simply engineer it.

How to Start Facebook Marketing in Japan?

We help a wide variety of clients get started with Facebook Marketing in Japan by first understanding what your goals are, then engineering a set of objectives that we need to reach those goals, and finally a predictive costs for each objective so that we can share with you the ROI or ROAS goal ahead of time.

The great thing about the advancements in Facebook is that every agency you work with should be able to understand or at least tell you how ROI is measured or can be simulated within your campaign, we specialize in this at AdVertize and working with all of our clients to understand how to meet every marketing goal affordably online.

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Japanese Instagram

Thankfully, Instagram in Japan is a much different story - it has a 50% year over year growth, consumers use it for a myriad of reasons, and most important of all for marketers - Instagram sells.

Why Instagram Ads?

That’s right, Instagram is a great platform for driving first touch or last touch conversion campaigns and with Facebook Business Manager support, you’re bound to find success if you approach it right.

What to Know About Instagram Ads?

While insights are still evolving, the Guide to Japan Social Media also means understanding how Instagram in Japan impacts user behavior.

For example, 57% of Instagram users in Japan are Female, 70% use Instagram Stories, and according to Facebook Insights 82% claim that they take actions upon immediately seeing a post.

For reasons like this and more, one doesn't need to know the key to Instagrams Algorithm, they just need to know how to reach customers.

But there's more to Instagram than just that, while it's more of a selfie sharing platform in other countries, in Japan it's more of a self-exploration platform.

Yes, it's true that anonymity matters in Japan, but that does mean that self expression and self identity does not exist. What's great about Instagram in Japan is that it's one of the first platforms (we'll explain Twitter later) that gave the Japanese consumer the opportunity to express themselves visually - and when we say themselves, we mean what's inside.

As you can see from the image above, most searched topics in Japan are not celebrity news, but more along the lines of food, drink, what people are wearing. One of the most fascinating insights we founds years ago was from Instagram saying that what most women search for is also opportunities to meet other women or make new friends.

To understand social media in Japan, one must understand the consumer and also the cultural dilemmas they face due to the current times.

How to Get Started With Instagram Ads

While insights are still evolving, they key to understanding Instagram in Japan is to know about user behavior. At AdVertize we take our clients through a very similar approach as to that of Facebook, given the two platforms run in tandem to one another. For example, though Instagram does have more organic possibilities than Facebook - it too is a platform where there is a necessity to pay to play.

Therefore, when our digital marketing agency in Tokyo clients want to use Instagram in Japan we often look at what the main objectives are then how to build out an objective based plan from there that will help them drive a ROI of some format. The advantage in doing this, back to our earlier point, is that Instagram sells. Just looking at the data, what we know is that purchase both offline and specifically online desktop come as a results of first seeing an Instagram ad.

For us, this means working with our clients to understand how Instagram can fit into the full funnel of their marketing cycle and what the plan needs to be in order to be successful from there.

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Japanese Twitter

Japanese Twitter is huge. Another reason why you need a guide to Japan social media. First of all, Japan is the only place in the world where Twitter has more users and popularity than Facebook and on top of all that it’s a great platform for marketers to connect with their users, get honest opinions about products and identify new ways to engage their customer.

Why Japanese Twitter?

However, before getting started on Japanese Twitter, one must ask the question to “Why all the popularity? To answer this question you’ll have to look more into not only the consumer, but the cultural norms that drive the society.

For starters, Twitter didn’t just gain popularity overnight, well actually it did. The platform originally grew its large use back to the 9/11 tsunami because at the time, it was the only place to get the trusted news, information, and other relative facts to find out what was actually going on. Following this consumer realized that this platform wasn’t only great for sharing news that they wouldn’t find on traditional TV, but also for opinions as well.

What to Know About Japanese Twitter?

In Japan, the level of honor and respect one has for their elders and government, trumps that of any other country in the world. What’s worse is should someone disagree with something that has been agreed open unilaterally by society or the government, they rise the chance of being consequentially shammed.

That is until Twitter arrived. With Twitter, our digital marketing agency in Tokyo has learned that the Japanese consumer can use avatars as photos, aliases as names, and other details to remain anonymous while sharing their opinions, even if un-popular with society. This is important because it was the first time in Japan this type of “free speech” populous could be accessed and explored by just about anyone.

Since then they results and impact of Twitter on Japan has only increased as it remains not only more popular than Facebook, with a 41.7% daily penetration rate, Twitter makes almost 2X revenue per customer than where it would outside of Japan.

How to Get Results with Twitter in Japan?

Just because Twitter is popular in Japan doesn’t mean that anyone can do it or that the same rules applies as in other countries. For example, in Japan Kentucky Fried Chicken is one of the top Twitter accounts - because they share news?

No, because every other post is a uniquely dynamic contest or game geared to tap into the consumers need for gaming in order to drive engagement, something Dominos Japan does well too. As a matter of fact you’ll see Dominos do so many giveaways, that it’s often said amongst social circles “I don’t think I’ve ever paid full price for a Dominos pizza” and in Japan- that’s not a bad thing.

So to get started with clients we work to understand what the main objective is and then use those objective to draft out the appropriate communications plan in accordance with how the Japanese consumer operated. This means understand style guides, but also cultural relevancy when it comes to trends to ensure your tweets stay relevant as that is the only way to remain successful.

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Japanese YouTube

Recently a study came out that revealed 1 in 5 youth when asked about the profession they hope to have as a adult then responded with, “being a YouTuber” Yes, YouTube is by far one of the most popular social media channels in Japan and while it doesn’t have the most users, it does have the highest penetration rate at over 71% which is very telling for marketers looking to makes sense of their media spend and where to allocate it.

Why Japanese YouTube?

A guide to Japan social media explains the importance of digital and why Japanese YouTube is fascinating for a variety of reason, but mostly because like all of these channels - it’s growing up in Japan right before our eyes. What has made YouTube so popular is similar to what has made it popular in the states - influencers.

YouTubers are all the rage here and not only because of their content, but because of what their content represents- independence.

As mentioned earlier, Twitter because popular because of it’s anonymity, but as society evolved eventually it was time for those with strong opinions, voices, or even creative things to say and put them somewhere online in which they could express them effectively, in this case - the answer was/is YouTube.

What to Know About Japanese YouTube?

YouTube and YouTuber influence has been mainly popular because unlike other countries in Asia where such content might be censored, in Japan it’s welcomed. So much that watch time is increasing by 50% year over year and what we know now is that 37% of 18-34 year olds in Japan are binge watchers.

So, with a platform with that much popularity, what is the best way to get started? Let’s find out.

How to Get Started with YouTube in Japan?

The AdVertize digital marketing agency in Tokyo can help you. However, starting your marketing strategy on YouTube is like any other channel with one giant caveat - video content. Understanding what works, what doesn’t, how to prepare it for different stages of your funnel and more are all giant questions that you should have the experts handle so that you don’t exceed your budget without getting results.

At AdVertize YouTube is one of our favorite channels to work with because we often use it as an organic play before spending media dollars. This means we work with our clients to develop ambassador, influencer, and other type of celebrity based video campaigns that will tie together with our other campaigns on Facebook and Instagram.

Why is this? While Facebook and Google fight for the future of advertising, advertisers can take a seat back and enjoy both sides of the party. For us, we’ve learned that 25-45% of our channels success on Instagram is always tied to our channels success or influencer success on YouTube. We learned this not only through various A/B test but also by using different attribution tools.

As a result, we’re able to watch our client succeed from both channels while saving double their budget thanks to using a smarter approach to digital with AdVertize.

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Japanese LINE

By far, LINE is Japan’s legacy social media platform. If you’re new to Japan and haven’t heard of LINE yet, then you’re going to need a guide to Japan Social Media. LINE is extremely popular in Japan because essentially it gets consumers first and foremost in ways the competing platforms have not and there for it still has the highest number of users in Japan - however, that’s changing.

Why LINE in Japan?

With Facebook Messenger making a race for consumers and a large backing of advertisers behind them - to stay relevant for marketers, LINE has a lot of work to do. However, when you’re at the top he mountain it’s hard to to always see what out there around you in the weeds.

So, how did LINE get so popular and why use it as an advertising platform? Our digital marketing agency in Tokyo discovered that most simply put, LINE is a legacy platform that means there is not only an affinity to the platform it is as common as using a mobile phone. In Japan, Japanese don’t often (or ever) exchange phone numbers when meeting, they exchange LINE.

Think about being in the states, you’re at a professional networking event and everyone is exchanging LinkedIn. LINE is a lot like that in Japan, only it’s not just for business, it’s for everything, and everyone, at any age, anywhere in Japan.

However, is LINE good for digital marketing

What to Know About LINE in Japan?

Larger arguments than this one have ensued over this fact. Most foreign companies entering Japan don’t advertise on LINE simply because they just can’t understand it. Rightfully so, LINE's advertising platform is not advanced, user friendly, or quite clear really. So, if you know that on one platform you can guarantee a 3% ROI for every 100 yen spent, while on the other platform, it’s a toss up, then you’re going to choose the first option.

This is where LINE has truly been struggling, without creating advancements early enough in advertising, platforms like Facebook Messenger are increasing user bases and ad dollars thanks to easier to manage technology and a rapidly changing Japan where in 2019, 1 out of every 20 millennials recorders where foreigners.

But this doesn’t mean you should discount LINE, hardly.

How to Get Started with LINE in Japan?

What’s great about LINE is that with 84 million active users, 5.59 million are LINE Pay users. This means for brands with a more ecommerce friendly business model or even and more gamification based flexibility, there is room to advertise on LINE and to make money there too.

As a matter of fact, just last year Line had 364bn JPY in transaction volume take place through the platform.

For this reason, at AdVertize, when writing digital marketing agency blogs or using LINE with our clients we also make the distinction between whether this is a good hero channel or not based on your business model. From there we can make the proper adjustments in terms of how we’re going to use LINE, the KPI’s we expect to receive, and how you can benefits as a business looking to grow in Japan.

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TikTok Japan

Last, but certainly not least, TikTok. While there is much controversy still to be settled around this platform, it doesn’t change its importance amongst consumers. For example, TikTok is the fastest growing platform in Japan and in just a few years went from 0 to being a top 10 platform in Japan.

Why TikTok in Japan?

When exploring a guide to Japan social media, we found that TikTok in Japan is an easy choice for using it as a way to engage with a younger audience. While it’s clear that this platform has a more unilateral user base globally, in Japan it’s a much younger audience. But that is not a bad thing, especially in a changing Japan and also a changing social media landscape which seems harder and harder to succeed in.

TikTok is so consequently because it addresses both, on the one hand it’s easy to connect with younger audiences, on the other - it’s just that, easy to connect with younger audiences. TikTok has done what no other platform has done, it made it’s algorithm weaker or more fragile as oppose to strong.

Which has opened flood gates for brands in Japan.

What to Know About TikTok Japan?

This is important because what it means is that content on TikTok is that much easier to go viral because the algorithm and code for going viral is being published, revealed, and celebrated by TikTok themselves.

Actually its a smart business move, in a social media work where the key is to strengthen your AI so that it's hard to crack or grow- instead make its easy to hack so that anyone from the worlds biggest brands to a house wife in Kentucky can easily go viral.

How to Get Started with TikTok Ads?

Our digital marketing agency in Tokyo is full of TikTok advocates and influencers. This is particularly important for brands in Japan, here TikTok works in your favor should you be willing to use it. For one, you have easy to understand Ai to work with. On the other hand, you have almost 0 competition from brands given that social media adoption is still taking place domestically in Japan.

With these factors alone anyone has the potential to grow using this platform. Want more good news? Unlike other platforms, this is actually the goal of TikTok, they want you to grow us their ad platform and bring your network with them, as a realist they hope to be a Giant competitor to Facebook.

For us and our clients we use TikTok as one part influencer platform or other organic content and one part ad platform. We can help you regardless of what your objective is, find success on social media in Japan using TikTok because of our ability to use omni channel marketing to reach all your marketing objectives.

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