10 Best Tips for Using Social Media Advertising in Japan

Posted By Jim Kersey

If you already follow our blog, you’ll know we’ve covered various aspects of the Japanese social media landscape in our other posts, with topics ranging from a general overview of Japanese SNS channels to advice on using specific channels like Facebook or TikTok.

Table of Contents

  1. Build a marketing calendar localized for Japan
  2. Replace Western images with Japanese ones
  3. Create your target personas from scratch
  4. Rethink your messaging pillars and value proposition
  5. Learn from your customers
  6. Don’t be too granular with your targeting when you first arrive
  7. Be open-minded about channels and strategies
  8. Learn how to leverage video content
  9. Don’t neglect organic social media for important social proof
  10. Seek out advice from local marketers on social media advertising in Japan 

In this article, we’ll simply be looking at a few of our favorite tips and tricks inbound brands can start integrating into their social media strategies for Japan. However, if you still think you need to cover some of the basics first, you might be better off taking a look at one of our guides below:

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If you’re more of a video person, we have your back too! Here’s a video with our 10 best tips for using social media advertising in Japan. We suggest you take a look at the blog too, as it contains other useful information not included in the video!

1. Build a Marketing Calendar Localized for Japan

Woman holding gift and traditional item for Japanese holiday

You may already be well versed in the process of creating a marketing and editorial calendar – what days content is published, at what times, and how they relate to other pieces of content going out on various channels. However, there are some additional strategic elements you need to consider when you enter a new market as different as Japan is.

As well as studying up on the different holiday dates and special activities that take place throughout the year, you’ll also need to learn how to craft messages that synchronize with these events within the context of other messages and communications people are used to seeing from other brands.

It might be hard to see at first, but the recurrent themes and motifs are something you need to be aware of as you plan your own content.

Even Christmas promotions might require a completely new approach (and certainly new visuals) to support your campaign for this season, as Japan has a very different religious and cultural history from most Western nations.

Important Japanese Holiday Dates


New Year’s Day (Ganjitsu) January 1
Adult’s Day (Seijin-no hi) The second Monday in January
National Foundation Day (Kenkoku Kinen-no hi) February 11
Emperor’s Birthday (Tennou Tanjoubi) February 23
Vernal Equinox (Shunbun-no hi) March 20 or 21
Showa Day (Showa-no hi) April 29
Constitution Memorial Day (Kenpou Kinenbi) May 3
Greenery Day (Midori-no hi) May 4
Greenery Day (Midori-no hi) May 5
Marine Day or Ocean Day (Umi-no hi) The third Monday in July
Mountain Day (Yama-no hi) August 11
Respect-for-the-Aged Day (Keirou-no hi) The third Monday in September
Autumnal Equinox (Shuubun-no hi) September 23 or 24
Health/Sports Day (Taiiku-no hi) The second Monday in October
Culture Day (Bunka-no hi) November 3
Labor Thanksgiving Day (Kinrou Kansha-no hi) November 23

HB Pro Tip: If you’re building your Japanese marketing calendar in-house, don’t just ask the only native Japanese person on your team to handle this project. The best content calendars should be influenced by a range of viewpoints and should be collaborated on by all the creative talent at your disposal, whether it’s your writers, marketers, designers or other relevant individuals.

2. Replace Western Images with Japanese Ones

Assuming you’re not actively trying to emphasise the fact you are a foreign brand, having images and videos that feature Japanese models and settings is something you really want to do when optimizing your social media advertising for engagement and conversions.

If your ads seem out of place or targeting a different market, it’s going to be easy for potential customers to be put off.

One of the reasons for this is that consumers prefer Japanese brands over ones they don’t know. And who doesn’t prefer content that’s actually 100% personalized and targeted at them rather than a completely different culture?

Learn what else you can do to localize your brand and website for Japan in our article: Japanese Website Localization – Do I Need to Reinvent My Brand?

3. Create Your Target Personas from Scratch

Example of real life target persona used for social media advertising in Japan

While the Japanese population shares a number of commonalities including language, race, ethnicity, education, cultural attitudes, and social awareness, which to some extent are relatively uniform across society, compared to many other nations in the West, marketing to the Japanese population as a single mass market with generic targeting approaches would be a huge mistake.

Successful social media advertising in Japan requires you to have a comprehensive understanding of your audience, including the finer details of their preferences and behaviour trends.

Japanese customers crave personalised content too. Trends spread fast (especially in places like Tokyo) and many choose brands in order to “fit in” or conform, more than they might in many Western consumer markets, but there is still a great deal of segmentation between demographics that your strategy must take into account.

HB Pro Tip: The challenge is trying to position your brand effectively so you’re not so unique or different that you’re scaring off new fans, but are also not so generic or commonplace that Japanese shoppers won’t see the value of buying from you compared to a Japanese brand they already know.

To learn more about the Japanese consumer mindset, take a look at our article: Marketing in Japan? 10 Important things You Need to Know About Japanese Consumers

4. Rethink Your Messaging Pillars and Value Proposition

It could be possible that what makes you appealing and desired in Japan is completely different to what makes your product sell well at home. Because of this, you always need to test your messaging as part of, or prior to, launching your social media strategy.

Start by breaking down your value proposition into segments and crafting unique Japanese content that speaks to these pillars. Once you’ve launched your ads on whatever platform you choose, whether it’s Facebook PPC or even TikTok, closely monitor which messages are getting the most attention.

Remember, Western brands can take on a whole new identity in Japan and understanding what your strengths are early on will help you to put budget where it will have the biggest impact.

HB Pro Tip: Make sure your creative ad content and your image synchronise well so that people who receive your ads are getting the best possible user experience possible.

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5. Learn from Your Customers

Japanese woman at platform using phone and watching social media advertising in Japan

In the earliest days of using social media advertising in Japan, one of the biggest priorities should be to learn. Even beyond social media, you should try to find every way you can to basically read the room when it comes to how people perceive and interact with your brand.

Japanese customers are less likely to leave feedback (especially negative feedback) on ecommerce platforms or social channels, so it’s worth creating at least one or two proactive ways of gathering information from your new market. A few ideas are:

  • Reach out to existing customers or fans and find out what they think about your brand through rewarded interviews or questionnaires.
  • Review comparison sites and forums for your industry to see the kind of things people are saying about you and your competitors. Picking up some key Japanese keywords and phrases here and integrating them with your ad content and even SEO can help you to send the right signals to future customers.
  • Build a social media strategy that integrates constant testing and experimentation. It’s only by trying new things that you can really understand what customers do and don’t like about your brand.

Want to See our Tips for Performing Japanese Market Analysis?

6. Don’t be Too Granular with Targeting When You First Arrive

Similar to the above, leave room in your social media targeting to learn about your customers before investing heavily in any specific area.

While it might be necessary to reduce your focus and introduce some narrower structure into your strategy when you start (so that you’re not literally marketing to everyone in Japan) consider ways you can still include some flexibility when it comes to exploring targeting opportunities.

Tokyo is an incredibly huge consumer market that might seem like more than enough for a brand to take on, but by limiting your location targeting to just the capital you can close off many potential avenues that could be profitable for you in the long run.

HB Pro Tip: As millions of people travel in from other parts of Japan to work or study in Tokyo, a completely Tokyo-based business and brand can still really benefit from targeting people in cities outside of the physical limits of Tokyo.

7. Be Open-Minded About Channels and Strategies

Business owner reviewing various strategies and avenues for social media advertising in Japan

Learning where most people are spending their time as well as which channels best match your brand and advertising objectives is obviously a big part of making it work in Japan.

Channels like TikTok offer huge opportunities to access younger demographics if you’re prepared to embrace the energy of this video-first social platform, while platforms like LINE, Japan’s most popular messaging app, might also have some incredible exposure to the demographics you’re trying to target as the most popular platform in the country.

Monthly Active Users by Platform

*Tap or Hover on the graph below to see details.

Sources: Insta Lab

8. Learn How to Leverage Video Content

Dominating other forms of social media advertising formats in Japan in terms of engagement and conversions, is video content. Mobile video ad revenue in Japan is expected to grow to $885m in 2021 (up from $199m in 2015) with a large focus on video marketing.

If you haven’t done so already, we would recommend finding ways to grab attention, tell a story, and strike a connection with new audiences through video content as an integral part of your social PPC output.

  • A few tips when creating video ads for your social campaigns are:
  • Focus on creating engaging stories
  • Make sure content is suitable for the platform and audience
  • Include enough product details and facts to satisfy the Japanese appetite for information
  • Don’t consider sound as an “add on”, but an integral part of the experience
  • Consider text overlays that can “guide” the reader through video content
  • Leads users to tangible actions, goals, or CTAs
  • Create content that is fun and creative

If you want to discover other Japanese advertising trends, take a look at our popular blog: Online Advertising in Japan – 5 Key Trends and What You Can Learn From Them

9. Don’t Neglect Organic Social Media for Important Social Proof

Two friends enjoying organic social media advertising in Japan from favourite brand

Reviewing your brand’s credibility and asking friends what they think about you is a huge part of the Japanese purchasing journey. Recommendations and social proof can have a huge impact on whether your brand gets the kind of traction you need it to.

One of the easiest ways to do this, and convince your new market that you are 100% focused on meeting the needs of the Japanese market, is to create social media pages where you create and share unique and engaging content regularly.

If a prospective buyer searches out your Instagram page and finds a meagre amount of users and content that only features Western models and settings, you could lose them. And while social media advertising in Japan is predominantly pay-to-play, the role of organic social media is not to be underestimated.

10. Seek Out Advice From Local Social Media Marketers in Japan

Team of marketers consulting on strategies for social media advertising in Japan

One of the best ways to make sure your social media advertising in Japan has the impact you want is to remove as much guesswork as possible when it comes to understanding your market.

A little help from someone who already has experience adapting the messages and content of Western brands for the local Japanese market can sometimes go a long way.

We’re more than happy to consult on your expansion plans for Japan, whether it’s social media-related or otherwise, and there are plenty of useful partnerships and collaborations with existing Japanese creatives that can help you get a head start when bringing your products and services to the country for the first time.

Need help with social media for your business in Japan? Let’s chat on how we can help.

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