Japan’s Top Social Media Networks for 2020

Visual media on the rise to dominate SNS landscape in Japan

Posted By Milosz Bugajski

We are happy to present to you our fifth annual report about social media in Japan. In this article, we dive deep into the Japanese social media landscape, looking at how it developed across 2019 and where it is heading in 2020. The analysis and insights here are based on years of experience in tracking social media trends, executing social strategy for a number of Clients, and leveraging our multicultural team to Japan. We hope you can apply some of our learnings to your strategies.

We highly recommend reading our previous blogs, to see how social networks have been evolving across the years: 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Japan’s Top Social Media Networks for 2020

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Japan’s Socio-Demographic Overview
  2. Japan’s Social Media Overview
  3. LINE Japan
  4. YouTube Japan
  5. Twitter Japan
  6. Instagram Japan
  7. Facebook Japan
  8. TikTok Japan
  9. Japan’s Niche SNS Platforms
  10. Japanese Culture and Social Media

 

Japan’s Socio-Demographic Overview

Japan's top social media networks SNS demographic data

Here are some hard facts: Japan is the 3rd richest and 11th most populous country on the planet. On top of that, almost every person in Japan has internet access and uses a smartphone (actually there is more than one device per person on average!). All of this contributes to one of the world’s highest social media penetration rates with almost 2 in 3 Japanese being active on some kind of social platform. Needless to say, SNS channels are a great platform to leverage for your businesses marketing and awareness initiatives.

Japan’s Social Media Overview

MONTHLY ACTIVE USERS BY PLATFORM

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

Sources: Insta Lab

OUR APPROACH

This year we open our list of top social media networks in Japan with Line and YouTube, having in mind that they are respectively messaging and video platform in the first place. However, as they present many social media features and enjoy huge popularity among Japanese users this blog wouldn’t be complete without them. It’s important to keep in mind that from a marketing point of view, the “traditional” platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook offer much more social features and possibilities for social media marketing – therefore we will give them more attention in this blog.

Let’s dive deep into every platform to see where it might be heading in 2020 and how to best use it for social media marketing in Japan.

LINE Japan

Japan's top social media networks SNS LINE data
LINE is not strictly a social media network. This is an essential understanding as it has an impact on how you use the channel.

LINE primary function is a messaging platform, but because of over 81 million users across Japan and social features (like “Timeline”: LINE’s version of a news feed), it deserves to open our list as the most popular “social media” channel in Japan.

LINE not only gained 3 million new users since the beginning of 2019 but also enjoys outstanding popularity with more than half of Japanese society using it on a daily basis. It’s important to note, however, that most of these great daily usage statistics stem from Japanese people using the platform for messaging – and not necessarily as social media. Still, in terms of reaching the widest audience possible, LINE can be a great tool, regardless of the targeted demographics.

LINE DEMOGRAPHICS

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

Sources: Insta Lab

LINE is equally popular among men and women, the big difference, however, is in the age of platform users: ¾ of which are older than 30. According to the newest data published by LINE, half of the platform users are full-time company employees and only 1 in 10 is a student. Not surprisingly, however, engagement in the Timeline and time spent on the platform tend to go down with the age of the user.

Looking at the business profiles on LINE, dominating industries are restaurants (over 22% of all business accounts), retail shopping (18%), beauty, automobiles, and fashion.

If you would like to tap into that potential, but don’t know how, check out our blog: How to Advertise on LINE dedicated entirely to that platform or ge t in touch with us for a tailored strategy.

PREDICTIONS FOR 2020

We believe the future of the LINE platform, in terms of digital marketing, belongs to big brands using it to attract large numbers of followers by direct messaging. This function of LINE, similar to a newsletter allows brands to create direct, personalized messages and interact with users in a similar way to how they would talk with their friends on the platform.

For brands planning to use different digital channels in 2020 and onwards, LINE can become a great complementary tool for keeping in touch with a large pool of followers. A robust follower acquisition campaign, and steady follow-up communication and engagement is crucial to a successful LINE strategy.

YouTube Japan

Japan's top social media networks SNS YouTube data
YouTube is much more about media than it is about social features. It’s important to notice that YouTube should not be considered a traditional social media platform. 

However, because of the social component of the comment section, large amounts of content being published by users every day, and over 62 million people watching YouTube at least once a month in Japan, we couldn’t leave it out. For comparison there were little over 45 million monthly active YouTube users in Japan in 2017, that’s almost 38% growth in just 2 years. On top of that YouTube is by far the most popular video platform in Japan, beating both of its domestic competitors: Niconico and GYAO.

YOUTUBE DEMOGRAPHICS

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

Sources: Insta Lab

YouTube is most popular among Japanese men and women in their forties (almost 25% of the users) and fifties (over 20% of the users). It’s safe to say that YouTube is dominated by older audiences in terms of monthly active users, however, younger audiences, tent to spend longer time on the platform and engage more.

Similar to many other cultures around the world, Japanese younger generations are slowly turning away from television and more often choosing online video streaming platforms, which they can enjoy on any device anytime they want. Not surprisingly, YouTube being absolutely free is one of the most popular video platforms in Japan – not only attracting young audiences but also having a growing number of Japanese creators (190 channels with over a million subscribers) and a growing pool of influencers.

Reaching out to influencers and tapping into the digital marketing potential of YouTube can be especially beneficial because of the Japanese culture (just be aware that the influencer costs in Japan tends to be a bit higher than in other countries). It’s surprising how the purchase decisions of so many people in Japan are based on social proof, ratings, and reviews—often they search for this social feedback on YouTube.

Twitter Japan

Japan's top social media networks SNS Twitter data

TWITTER MONTHLY ACTIVE USERS OVER TIME (% OF SOCIETY)

Sources: Insta Lab

According to Yu Sasamoto, the President of Twitter Japan, the platform enjoyed a 10% growth compared to the previous year. This would mean the number of MAU in 2019 in Japan was about 48 million.

With over 48 million MAU Twitter continues to dominate the social media landscape in Japan. We believe Twitter will continue to be the number one social media in Japan, however more visual platforms, like Instagram, will start beating it in terms of new active users in the coming years.

TWITTER DEMOGRAPHICS

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

Sources: Insta Lab

As 38% of the entire population is active on the platform, you can expect a variety of demographics here. All age groups and both female and male users are heavily active. The visible pattern is that there are slightly older male users and females are more numerous only in the 15-29 year range.

TOP TWITTER TRENDS IN JAPAN

Japan's top social media platforms infographic about SNS Twitter industries
Most followed profiles on Japanese Twitter belong to celebrities, actors, and news channels, however many local and international brands enjoy a following of over one million.

Currently, the top 3 followed brands on Twitter in Japan are Lawson (retail chain of convenience stores), Starbucks and Seven-Eleven (another convenience store chain). This fits the trend of the food and beverage industry dominating the Twitter landscape in Japan.

If we look at the fastest-growing brands however, they include two airline companies: JAL (Japan Airlines) and ANA. The following are Pokemon, as a toy & gaming brand, and Dell – electronics manufacturer. This indicates that some changes in the industries dominating Japanese Twitter might be coming in 2020.

PREDICTIONS FOR 2020

We are confident that Twitter will continue to be the dominant SNS platform in Japan throughout 2020 and beyond. However, it might slowly become overshadowed by more visual platforms like Instagram, that appeal to the younger audiences. We can already see a faster growth ratio in MAU for Instagram (4 million new users joined in 2019!).

We expect a spike in tweets and activity on the platform during the Tokyo Olympics 2020, especially because of new live-stream features being introduced by the platform. Twitter is pushing this feature through its new broadcast agreement – preparing to show highlights of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on the platform.

DOMINATING SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING ON JAPANESE TWITTER IN 2020

Twitter is a perfect tool for communicating news and updates about your brand’s products, services, special promotions, events, etc. as 50% of Twitter users in Japan use this platform partially for searching news connected to their hobbies and personal interests. This is a potential your brand should be tapping into.

To succeed on this platform in Japan you have to clearly define your audience and persona you are about to target and then keep your Twitter messaging unique and tailored. Also, there might be no better place for real-time marketing than Twitter – keep an eye on trending hashtags and top tweets to position your brand where the user’s attention currently is on the platform. So our perfect recipe for success on Twitter in 2020 would be to keep the balance between a unique messaging, and targeting that follows the trending topics and hashtags.

Also note that because Twitter has a more “direct communication” vibe (similar to the potential of LINE), you’ll need resources to remain engaged with your audience.

Kickstart your social media marketing in Japan with a robust Twitter campaign

Contact Us


Instagram Japan

Japan's top social media networks SNS Instagram data

INSTAGRAM MONTHLY ACTIVE USERS OVER TIME (% OF SOCIETY)

Sources: Insta Lab

Instagram experienced the strongest growth among all SNS platforms in Japan – adding 4 million active users in 2019 and reaching 33 million total. This, combined with the growing popularity of TikTok and dominance of image and video posts on Facebook and Twitter suggest that the future of SNS belongs to highly visual, entertaining and easy to consume media. With 5G only months away and traditionally outstanding web speeds, Japan is poised and ready to take full advantage of this more heavily visual approach.

INSTAGRAM DEMOGRAPHICS

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

Sources: Insta Lab

What’s characteristic for Instagram is the dominance of female users, especially between 20 and 40 years old. For the older generations, we see slightly more males in their forties, which is an “interesting” trend that continues from previous years. If your brand’s target is young women, there is no better platform for SNS marketing than Instagram.

TOP INSTAGRAM TRENDS IN JAPAN

Japan's top social media networks SNS Instagram data
Japan's top social media networks SNS Instagram data
Japan's top social media networks SNS Instagram data
Regarding the industries, not surprisingly the most visual ones, like fashion, photography, cooking, and pets continue to dominate the Instagram landscape. The same trends can be seen among hashtags. Some more popular ones include #ファッション (Fashion), #ランチ (Lunch) and #ネイル (Nail [Art]). All this paints a picture of a platform that is focused on light content where people come for entertainment, inspiration, and to follow their passions and current trends.

PREDICTIONS FOR 2020

The platform will most likely keep attracting new users thanks to easily consumable, entertaining, and addictive content. Also, due to the new shopping functions, fashion, and beauty brands will keep thriving on Instagram.

Another thing to look out for is a boost in popularity and quality of video content on Instagram. Seeing the rise of TikTok, we might also experience new formats of both IGTV in-feed videos. For now, we see IGTV going into the direction of brands creating content similar to TV series – with an ongoing theme and regular motives.

Lastly, 2020 will undoubtedly continue to bring the further rise of small and micro-influencers on Japanese Instagram. Especially in the segments of fashion, beauty, and travel, we expect to see much greater budgets for influencer marketing campaigns. The smaller the niche, the more engaged the audience tends to be which many brands have realized over 2019 and will continue to capitalize on in 2020.

HOW TO MARKET YOUR BRAND ON JAPANESE INSTAGRAM IN 2020

Quality over quantity. Instagram has always been all about high-quality visual content and Japan keeps raising the bar in terms of what’s expected from a good, “instagrammable” photo. It’s important to establish and stick to your brand’s visual identity with colors, annotations, and graphic elements – creating a clear image in the minds of the followers in terms of what style to expect from your brand’s posts.

Interestingly, along with the rise of visual content, we anticipate seeing a rising importance of longer captions and image annotations. To capitalize on this trend in 2020 your brand should step up the storytelling game with more engaging and impactful posts, take advantage of different post types, and set up a unique approach for Stories and engaging with your closest most engaged followers.

Start building your brand’s digital presence on Instagram Japan right now

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Facebook Japan

Japan's top social media networks SNS Facebook data

FACEBOOK MONTHLY ACTIVE USERS OVER TIME (% OF SOCIETY)

Sources: Insta Lab

Facebook lost almost 2 million users, leaning towards recession with 26 million monthly active users in 2019. Still the platform remains fifth biggest social media network in Japan, attracting over 20% of the population. It’s a great platform for reaching the older audiences, as 4 in 5 users are over 30 years old. Also, it has slightly more male users than female ones. 2019 was the year when Instagram overtook Facebook in terms of MAU in Japan, giving a clear signal that the younger audience’s attention is pulling away from the platform.

FACEBOOK DEMOGRAPHICS

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

Sources: Insta Lab

Clear trend visible through the years of 2016, 2017, and 2018 is that Facebook becomes dominated by older audiences that are mostly male. What we clearly saw in 2019 was the recession of the platform, with an outflow of users, especially among young females. This will most likely continue over the coming years.

TOP FACEBOOK TRENDS IN JAPAN

Infographics about Japan's top social media platforms Facebook industries
There is much more professional and working-class oriented content on Facebook in Japan. It’s a perfect platform for targeting individuals who make purchase decisions for their households and have a substantial disposable income. Industries that we saw on the rise in 2019 on Facebook in Japan included hotels and travel/tour agencies. Even our Japanese staff have said it, but another major trend for this platform is that it continues to be viewed and used as a network for professionals.

PREDICTIONS FOR 2020

We believe Facebook is leaning into a recession as more users tend to spend their time on Instagram or Twitter. In the short-term, and depending on your target market, however it will remain a good platform for all goods and services that are directed to adults, households, and companies (B2B). It will also continue to attract luxury, automobile, and travel industry brands that require longer purchase decision processes and more touchpoints.

Also, we anticipate some outflow of brand’s ad spend on Facebook News Feed – moving towards Instagram, because of much higher engagement rates on the platform combined with new social shopping features – making the purchase process easier than ever before.

PROMOTING YOUR BRAND ON FACEBOOK IN JAPAN IN 2020

Our biggest tip for making your brand win on Facebook in Japan would be to focus on visual content and go beyond the photos and graphics. If you haven’t done it already, 2020 is the year you should tap into the potential of short videos and live stream on Facebook. This type of content is proven to trigger higher rates of engagement among users and fewer brands are doing them – meaning an excellent competitive advantage for you on Facebook in Japan.

Let us lead your brand to where Japanese consumers attention is on Facebook

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TikTok Japan

With about 9.5 million users, TikTok might not be the most popular SNS platform in Japan, but in recent years it experienced a significant growth rate. It is a perfect platform for reaching the youngest demographics in Japan, especially females in their teens. Fastest growing top ten categories and content types on TikTok in Japan include fashion, sports, singing, cooking, occupational and DIY, makeup, travel, tutorials, musical instrument performance, and fitness. This all paints a clear picture of a highly entertainment-oriented, playful, and easy to use platform that appeals to young audiences.

MARKETING ON TIKTOK IN JAPAN IN 2020

Winning on this relatively young social media requires a much greater understanding of current trends and focusing on content that is natural to TikTok rather than pushing a brand with a calibrated, professional messaging. The best strategy we can recommend for 2020 is monetizing the trending hashtags by encouraging user participation and creating or taking part in hashtag challenges.

Japan’s Niche SNS Platforms

Platforms like Pinterest, Snapchat, and LinkedIn continue to struggle to gain popularity in Japan, which is unlikely to change anytime soon.

The biggest one of those three, with over 4 million monthly active users is Pinterest. The primary focus of the platform in Japan is searching and pinning images related to hobbies, design, fashion and beauty and food. Many artistic souls tend to go on Pinterest searching for inspiration or DIY hints or ideas.

LinkedIn officially claims over 2 million registered users in Japan. The low popularity of the platform can be traced back to Facebook playing the role of networking tool for many professionals in Japan. Other reasons stem from Japanese culture and the working system.

Japanese Culture and Social Media

Having a critical view and analysis of social media in Japan wouldn’t be complete without taking into consideration the cultural aspects and Japanese mentality.

One of the most important factors shaping the behavior of SNS users in Japan is the importance of personal privacy and low self-disclosure. This is one of the reasons that contribute to the dominant position of Twitter and Instagram in Japan because those platforms allow much greater anonymity than Facebook. This explains why many social media users in Japan tend to use pseudonyms or even create multiple fake accounts. Also, regarding self-disclosure, people are not so open about their private lives and personal views and opinions on SNS in Japan compared to other countries.

The very same value of privacy that attracts many Japanese users to Twitter and Instagram can be a factor for other platforms losing its users. Events like data leaks and scandals undermine the trust in Japanese society and can easily ruin the image of any social platform. With Japan being consistently one of the most distrusting cultures in the world, these types of issues can have more substantial effect. Take note of this for your marketing as well.

What also has a significant influence on social media use in Japan is the cultural tendency of being humble, modest, and honest. It touches upon the ideas of staying in harmony and acceptance with social norms – a notion that aligns with Japan’s cultural classification as a collectivistic culture. Not only can this be observed among social media interactions like commenting or tagging other people but also through the open, honest and transparent communication of the brands – which is greatly valued by the Japanese people.

There are a myriad of other cultural and psychological factors that influence the way people use social media in Japan. At Humble Bunny, we work to discover those factors and build robust, brand-specific social marketing strategies. For more information about our social media services, or our approach to psychology and the cultural effect on your bottom line.

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