IMPACT OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN JAPAN, JAPAN SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING

Social media has become a vibrant part of Japanese business and culture, with over half the population engaged on a regular basis.

Only a few years ago, there were relatively few active social media users in Japan. But the role of social media following the 2011 Great Eastern Japan Earthquake opened people’s eyes to its practicality and potential, being the main means for people to communicate with friends and family during the disaster. Now millions of Japanese are using social platforms like Twitter and LINE to share information and keep in touch. Social media in Japan found its place - and hasn’t lost its footing since. 

Japanese businesses are utilizing social media to reach these millions of consumers. Even the traditionally more corporate, less brand-like types, such as the professional services; insurance, financing, consulting firms, are getting “social”.  

A stark contrast to when I started a career in financial services marketing in London’s finest financial district. A time way before social media and when corporate identity (and simple on-page web banners) were something equivalent to brand storytelling. And this was while the FMCG fellows and lifestyle brands were getting creative and seemingly having all the fun. Hence I left.

Back to present day Japan, record numbers of foreign tourists are piling in and the almighty 2020 Olympics are on their way. Many Japanese businesses are also using social media to connect with visiting foreigners and others. Unlike Japan itself, social media is borderless after all.

Japanese social media by the numbers

Here are some recent statistics from We Are Social and Hootsuite that illustrate the current popularity of social media and social media usage in Japan:

  • As of January 2017, Japan had 64 million active social media users
  • This was a 21% rise from the previous year
  • They spend an average 40 minutes on social media every day
  • They visit by smartphone (24%), PC (27%) and tablet (8%)
  • 25% of Japanese internet users watch an online video every day
  • YouTube is Japan’s most active social media platform
  • Twitter and LINE come in second and third
 
 

YouTube outpacing LINE?

LINE is often touted as the most popular social media in Japan. But the globalwebindex survey quoted by We Are Social and Hootsuite shows that YouTube is actually far more popular. Among Japanese internet users aged 16-64, 74% use YouTube, 46% use Twitter and 42% use Line.

 
 

Social media expertise for Japanese audiences

Whether using video or other content, a specialist can be invaluable when connecting with Japanese through social media. However, we’d recommend avoiding companies simply jumping on the bandwagon with ‘social media’ hastily slapped onto their business cards. Here are some tips:

  • Check the company’s background and track record to make sure they really know the local market and have experience executing campaigns in that market. Tactics that are successful in other markets may not necessarily work for Japan. Also find out how they keep on top of trends, what they do to test the market and how often
  • Make sure they understand the difference between social media and conventional advertising. Many Japanese (and other) marketers still focus on paid advertising and try to apply the same principles, essentially one-way communication, to social media with poor results. Our own experience has found that if the campaign isn’t conversation-friendly and sociable, it's unlikely to succeed on social media in Japan
  • Make sure the company assigns professional social media experts to your account. We’ve seen very often the tendency in Japan for companies to assign young, inexperienced workers (often interns) to social media accounts because they assume familiarity with usage breeds understanding of social media marketing. But of course, it’s not that simple. Success requires industry and marketing knowledge, strategic thinking, familiarity with the market, good writing and above all experience. So be sure to choose wisely!

Video, a great way to connect with Japanese

Clearly, video content offers huge potential for reaching Japanese audiences. Through our own experience and social marketing research in Japan, here are some pointers for video content marketing for Japanese viewers (read our full article here): 

1. Tap into emotional advertising trends. Sentimentality is an easy emotion to evoke among Japanese. 

2. Amaze and surprise with less common emotions. Shiseido used this to gain a 36% share of views in 2015/16. 

3. Utilize “shared passion”. Provide content that Japanese will share as part of their “grouping” culture. 

4. Tailor your video content strategy for the Japanese market. Be sure to include cultural icons, values or locations in Japan. 

5. Use paid media to reach a wider audience. The experience of big brands shows it makes a big difference.

6. Make content for mobile distribution. Japanese audiences are more engaged on their mobiles than on desktops.

 

Based in Tokyo, An-yal develops social media and content marketing campaigns for Japanese markets and brands worldwide, find out more here. We’d love to hear from you!

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Chioma Anyalewechi