Japan’s Top Social Media Networks for 2017

Posted By Caylon Neely

Welcome back to our annual social media Japan report! Though the main players in Japanese social media haven’t changed since our 2016 report, their positions and users have. This article will take a look at which networks are most important in Japan, how they’ve changed over the past year, and what you should be ready for in 2017 to stay ahead on social media.

For 2020 statistics, please check out our latest report on social media in Japan.

If this is your first look into Japanese social media, we also recommend checking out our 2016 Japanese social media report. Reading it will give you a good understanding of how social media in Japan is different compared to other markets. If you already have, or are already aware, then let’s get started!

Japanese Social Media Indicators in 2017:

  • Twitter has a big lead on Facebook in Japan and is still showing strong growth
  • Instagram is taking off just as we expected, pushing beyond 10 million users in Japan this year
  • Facebook is showing stagnation in Japan. Their growth is low and there are signs of low time being spent on the social network as well.

Japan’s Top Social Networks in 2016: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram


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

Source: Facebook, Nielsen, NHK, CNET, eMarketer, WSJ, Twitter, MyNavi
*2013/14 Twitter data is based on eMarketer figures
*2015/16 Twitter data is based on Twitter official figures
**2016 Facebook and Instagram data was reported by Facebook in Sept 2016

The Above Graph in Numbers

Looking at the latest numbers shows Twitter knocking it out of the park compared to Facebook and Instagram. Twitter reported having over 40 million users in Japan in 2016. This overshadows Facebook’s 25 million Japanese users and dwarfs Instagram’s 12 million. One important note about Twitter is that they have only recently begun to release data about MAU by country. The appearance of a rapid increase in Japanese Twitter users from 2014 to 2015 could be the result of more accurate reporting coming straight from Twitter rather than an actual increase of that magnitude.

Twitter: Japan’s Dominant Social Network


Twitter has apparently been underrated in Japan until releasing official figures for the country in 2016, which were much higher than what reputable market research firms were reporting. According to Twitter, the network saw a 14% increase in users that pushed it above 40 million monthly active users (MAU) for 2016 in Japan. As we’ve mentioned in previous analyses, Twitter Japan’s success is largely due to its mobile-friendliness and anonymity among its network, two factors that have shown to be very important to Japanese social networkers.

Twitter is also seeing much more activity and engagement among Japanese users. According to survey data, 40% of Twitter users said that they increased the amount of time they spent on the social network this year. Additionally, 41% of Twitter users said they are connected to over 100 people via the social media channel. For comparison, only 29% of LINE users and 28% of Facebook and Instagram users said they are connected to over 100 people.

Twitter Users in Japan by Age

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

Source: MIC
*Data is from 2015, taken from 2016 MIC report

Demographics are also helping Twitter to stay ahead. Teens and twentysomethings are the largest age demographic on the social network, and not coincidentally twentysomethings have the highest smartphone adoption rates in the country. Furthermore, Twitter is almost evenly split between male and female users, at 49% and 51% respectively. Comparing these demographics show that Twitter provides the most diverse and wide-reaching audience of any major social network in Japan.

Not only is it diverse, but Twitter is a much more wide-reaching network than Facebook and Instagram in Japan. It allows easier access to celebrities and influencers than on Facebook, and due to anonymity, people are not shy to follow and be followed. Additionally, there is a much broader range of content that is shared on Twitter in Japan, thanks to anonymity.

Facebook: Strong But Stagnant


Facebook is still sitting behind Twitter as Japan’s second most popular social network but is growing at a strikingly lower rate than Twitter and Facebook’s own Instagram. As mentioned in our previous report, Facebook experienced a rough start in Japan due to the fact that Japanese internet users prefer anonymity to Facebook’s real-name network. Eventually, Facebook managed to break through that cultural barrier and experienced rapid growth from 2011-2012. Now that the honeymoon is over, it seems that Twitter is reclaiming that momentum among Japanese social networkers.

In spite of this, there are still over 26 million Japanese Facebook MAU. Even if the social network is showing slow growth in Japan, it is still an established and useful channel of communication in japan.

Facebook Users in Japan by Age: 2015

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

Source: MIC
*Data is from 2015, taken from 2016 MIC report

In terms of demographics, Facebook in Japan is generally more adult than Twitter and used in a much more professional manner. Over half of Facebook’s Japanese users are in their 20’s or 30’s, and about a third are in their 40’s and 50’s. Seniors and teens make up less than 10% each of Facebook’s user base. In terms of gender, Facebook users are almost evenly split with 53% male and 47% female.

Japanese Facebook users are generally careful about what they share on the social network, considering that work colleagues are commonly added as friends. Additionally, Facebook is being used as a networking tool among young Japanese professionals. This makes Facebook Japan a place where users are not likely to share controversial or striking material, but rather more public and widely acceptable content.

Additionally, over 90% of Facebook users are accessing the social network via smartphones and mobile devices. In 2017, virtually everything should be mobile enabled, but remember that mobile-minded content is going to be crucial when communicating with Facebook users in Japan.

Instagram: The Fastest Growing Japanese Social Network


Instagram was still seen as a newcomer to Japan in 2015 but has become much more established and common in 2016. The photo sharing social network has seen the highest rates of growth among all social networks in Japan since 2014, enjoying a 37% increase in users from 2015-2016 and pushing above 12 million users in 2016 as well.

Consistent with 2015, Instagram also scored the highest satisfaction ratings among Japanese social networkers, tied with LINE as the most enjoyable social network in Japan. Users are also spending more time on Instagram, with 58% of users reporting that they increased the time they spent on Instagram in 2016. We’d say it’s safe to conclude that Japanese people are generally liking Instagram as a social network, and as smartphone adoption continues to be on the rise, we can only speculate that Instagram will keep its momentum into 2017.

Instagram Users in Japan by Age: 2015

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

Source: MIC
*Data is from 2015, taken from 2016 MIC report

As for demographics, Instagram still is strongest among young women, but men and older users both rose in 2016. We saw year over year user increases of over 200% for both men and women over 50 years old on Instagram in Japan. Color us a bit surprised to see this, but it seems that Instagram isn’t just for the kids. This shift could lead to a new dynamic for the network, with a curious mix of content for young and old audiences.

Usage is quite similar to Twitter in terms of influencers and followers. There are numerous Japanese celebrity accounts now that have surpassed 1 million followers. Additionally, brands are also doing well on Instagram in Japan. Fashion and food related companies continue to be very popular in Japan, but we’re seeing many more automotive brands and accounts gaining popularity among Japanese Instagram users. This is likely a result of the increase in male users. It will be interesting to see how the dynamic of Instagram will change with an increase of older and male users hopping on.

LINE: Japan’s Favorite Messenger App

As we have mentioned in our previous report on social media in Japan, LINE is less of a social network and more of a messaging app. We have covered LINE’s usage in Japan extensively, and also have advice on how to connect with Japanese LINE users on our blog. We suggest taking a look at our previous blogs to learn more about LINE in Japan.

Ephemeral Social Networks: Snapchat and its New Counterparts

Ephemeral Social networks such as Snapchat, where users send temporary content to one another that can only be seen for a short period of time, are already mainstream and popular in many markets but have just started to gain traction in Japan in 2016. Snapchat, Instagram Stories, and Snow are all vying for users in Japan, and gaining quite a lot of attention. Though they aren’t quite mainstream in Japan yet, we think they are worth paying attention to in 2017.


Though we don’t have hard numbers on MAU in Japan, Snapchat.com experienced a 250% increase in traffic from Japan in Q1 2016. Additionally, survey data shows that Snapchat is used by over 50% of ephemeral social network users in Japan. Snapchat isn’t seen as an innovator of ephemeral social networks like it is in America, and other networks are gaining ground on the app in Japan as a result.

Instagram Stories

Instagram is sort of crossing over its style of social networking with the introduction of Instagram stories. The “me-too” feature that mimics Snapchat’s function of sharing temporary images and videos for up to 24 hours has seen strong adoption rates compared to competitors. Survey data shows that 30% of ephemeral social network users switched from using Snapchat to Instagram stories in mid-2016. Considering the rapid growth of Instagram as an overall social network, Instagram stories is poised to keep a strong hold of this segment.


Snow is a newcomer in this segment which was recently launched by LINE messenger’s parent company Naver. Though many of its features can be seen as a direct copy of Snapchat, they are very localized for Japanese and Asian audiences. Naver has a very good sense of what smartphone users want in Japan, and Snow is an app geared directly towards them. Survey data shows that Snow was more popular than Snapchat in mid-2016, and it’s a network that we will definitely be keeping an eye on in 2017.

Special Mentions


LinkedIn is still showing very small adoption in Japan and hasn’t released any new usage figures for Japan in 2016. According to their website, they have over 1 million users in Japan. As we mentioned last year, if you’re looking for English speaking professionals or expats living in Japan, LinkedIn is a great place for that. Otherwise, we suggest Facebook for contacting and maintaining professional contacts in Japan.

Social Media in Japan for 2017

Looking at all of the trends, we think that Twitter is definitely going to be the dominant social network in Japan for 2017. Twitter Japan has seen massive growth over the past two years, and the network’s reach is unmatched. Instagram is the up and coming network that we expect to continue growing. Additionally, brands are doing pretty well on Instagram. Also, Facebook is still relevant and allows highly targeted advertising. Though the reach isn’t as broad as Twitter, it is better for reaching professionals and older users.

Whatever your plans are for 2017, there are millions of social networkers in Japan that you can reach out there. We’d love to help you expand on this information to plan your social media marketing plans for 2017 and keep on growing in Japan.

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