Japan’s Top Social Media Networks for 2022 – A Complete Guide

Posted By Jim Kersey

Depending on how much you know about the Japanese social media landscape, the data presented in this guide may not surprise you. For instance, the fact that Japan is one of the only places where Twitter is more popular than Facebook or where LINE is the nation’s favourite SNS platform is often cited in country comparisons.

However, we can promise you a new level of context to frame these often misunderstood numbers, helping you to understand the why behind Japan’s major differences when it comes to social media trends, user behaviours and breakthrough platforms.

In this year’s report (now our 7th!!), we aim to cover the most recent data and trends for social media networks in 2022, as well as shed light on the bigger picture — where brands and audiences are settling into new normals after an incredibly turbulent time due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

If you want to know how we draw our conclusions at Humble Bunny, you can find our methodology and sources at the end of this report, otherwise, let’s dive in!

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Japan’s Digital Landscape in 2022

Japan's top social media networks SNS demographic data 2022

Japan's top social media networks SNS demographic data 2022 secondary overview

Monthly Active Users by Platform

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

Source: Insta Lab, NapoleonCat

Key Behavioural Trends in 2022-23

Japan's top social media networks SNS behavioural trends 2022

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LINE Japan

Japan's top social media networks SNS LINE data 2022

The only other country in the world where LINE is the most popular SNS platform is Taiwan. And while awareness of the app is still low in many places around the world where LINE is merely one of many messenger apps on the market, it has become so much more than this to the Japanese population.

Initially gaining popularity in wake of the 2011 earthquake that resulted in thousands of deaths and an almost nuclear meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi, many took to LINE (over 50 million in the first year) as a way to stay connected during times when phone lines may be down.

Developed as a way to keep families and friends in touch during times of crisis, its relevance has remained strong in a country where natural disasters are always a possibility. And its recent spike in usage during the start of the pandemic highlights the way the platform still plays this role.

LINE Demographics

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

Source: Insta Lab

With such a large user base, covering over 70% of the Japanese population, there’s no surprise that its demographic breakdown is spread fairly evenly – somewhat mirroring the demographic breakdown of Japanese society on the whole.

LINE’s vision to become an all-encompassing hub for serving its user’s digital needs has also broadened its value as a tool for both young and old. For instance, it now offers classic social media features such as media timelines and news sections, as well as cashless payment functionality (made even more attractive by coupons and loyalty programs through LINE Pay).

LINE Manga, available on the LINE messaging app or as a dedicated app, has also become Japan’s largest digital comic service offering users an easy and convenient way to read manga and novels on their smartphones.

In short, LINE has evolved significantly since the days when it was just a messaging app and with people using it for an increasing number of reasons in their day to day lives, it has attracted a growing number of businesses and brands who want to capture the attention of LINE users who use this space.

Top LINE Trends in Japan

Japan's top social media networks SNS LINE trends 2022

Predictions for 2022-23

We predict we’ll see many more brands adding LINE advertising as a complementary component to their Japanese marketing strategies. As well as using it as a powerful customer retention tool to deliver text-based updates relating to store updates, incentives (coupons and flyers) and company news, we may see more companies experiment with the platform’s newer PPC advertising options.

HB Pro Tip: Don’t expect an outstanding CTR from this channel, but seriously consider it for any large scale brand awareness campaign in Japan due to the incredible volume of targetable users.

YouTube

Japan's top social media networks SNS YouTube trends 2022

Many households in Japan consume content on YouTube as a kind of substitute for TV (aided by the widespread use of smart TVs). However, with Japan’s video streaming market growing incredibly fast (with international players Amazon, Disney+ and Netflix engaging in a kind of streaming war together with local providers like Hulu Japan, DoCoMo Anime Store and UNext), YouTube’s success in this area may be limited.

Nevertheless, the platform still offers unique appeal through its broader set of features. For instance, many are drawn by the sheer variety of content to be found on the platform (much of which is user-generated) as well as the ability to interact with others as part of interest-based communities (often in real-time).

We mentioned in last year’s report how home exercise, cooking and DIY content increased by five times in 2020 and interest in these areas has only continued. With over half of Japan regularly using Youtube for one reason or another, its importance as a platform can’t be mistaken.

YouTube Demographics

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

Source: Insta Lab

We’ve seen YouTube’s age distribution shift largely towards young users over the last few years, with the biggest group now represented by men aged 18-22 years, which perhaps comes as result of many new Japanese influencers and celebrities making their debut on the platform, pulling in droves of young fans, as well as the platform’s smooth live publishing features catering to audiences who want up-to-date, less polished content at their fingertips.

For instance, many young people looked to YouTube news channels and even trusted vloggers on YouTube during the pandemic rather than mainstream media options, hoping to learn more about Japan’s implemented State of Emergency during the start of the pandemic when government advice and restrictions were changing so rapidly.

Top YouTube Trends in Japan

Japan's top social media networks SNS YouTube trends 2022

Predictions for 2022-23

Hesitancy still exists among the Japanese population when it comes to visiting brick and mortar shops due to the risks that Covid-19 still presents, according to a report by GWI. And together with the constantly growing Japanese ecommerce market, it’s highly likely that the user-generated product/brand-related content (reviews, unboxings, comparisons) will continue to perform well on YouTube in Japan.

Brands will be looking to further capitalise on this by sponsoring influencers to feature their content in video blogs. This may be performed formally through transactional agreements or casual “gifting” where brands send out free samples to popular YouTubers in their sector.

As peer reviews and recommendations are perhaps even more important in Japan than in other places around the world, due to higher levels of distrust and uncertainty avoidance, this would be a smart move for any brand entering the market or growing their presence here.

HB Pro Tip: Using Youtube video ads at the start of your sales funnel can drive much better performance overall, especially when you are launching retargeting campaigns where you deliver ads to people who have viewed a certain amount of your video on Youtube. Just make sure you feature plenty of domestic appeal and include local models and environments to improve engagement.

Twitter

Japan's top social media networks SNS Twitter data 2022

Japan is Twitter’s second-largest market after the US and many have commented on the intriguing fact that it dominates over Facebook in terms of popularity (which bucks the global trend). A few likely reasons for this are:

  • The Twitter app offers better online anonymity compared to Facebook. Many Japanese people prefer being unidentified when engaging in online conversations — keen to be in the know, but reluctant to announce their true opinions when representing themselves. This ensures millions of tweets go out each day from all kinds of users, supporting the platform’s vibrant ecosystem of interactions.
  • Over 92% of the Japanese population live in urban areas and spend a huge amount of time on busy public transport between home and the office or school. Apps that have always had a smooth mobile UX like Twitter, which offers users bite-size chunks of content, are incredibly convenient when people are on the go.
  • Japanese celebrities, politicians and notable figures are among the most popular accounts in Japan and are highly active as users (updating their posts once or more a day). As such, Twitter gives users a glimpse into what’s going on in their world (and more importantly, makes it easy to do this quickly).

Twitter Demographics

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

Source: Instalab

Twitter’s growing popularity across a wider range of ages in Japan has prompted brands, influencers, and marketers to reconsider Twitter as a way to connect with audiences both young and old. The prominence of politicians and government spokespeople on the app has brought many older users to the platform, historically considered almost unreachable on Twitter before.

Twitter Penetration Rate Among Age Groups in Japan (%)

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

Source: Statista

Top Twitter Trends in Japan

Japan's top social media networks SNS Twitter trends 2022

Predictions for 2022-23

Many, including ourselves, have commented on the likelihood of Twitter losing users as people look to more visual and video-based platforms for their content.

However, the delivery of fast (sometimes immediate) updates and news about important issues in Japan, as well as the participation of many of the nation’s most influential politicians, celebrities and brands, makes Twitter a unique place for citizens to find out what’s going on, supporting the platform’s ongoing popularity.

We predict that businesses will continue to take advantage of Twitter’s large user base through customer retention tactics, however, we also suspect that more marketers (especially those actively engaged in market research) will use Twitter as a social listening tool.

Unlike Facebook or Instagram, most of the content shared and consumed on Twitter relates to opinions. By carefully monitoring conversations and looking for key trends and themes, brands can better understand the way people think and feel about certain topics, which can then inform communication strategies used both on Twitter and more widely across their other touch points.

HB Pro Tip: When building your Twitter strategy, consider making around 80% of your Tweets about your “local environment” such as current events in your company, industry, city or country. Even tapping into seasons and the weather can drive much better engagement, as well as useful customer information about stock, opening times or holidays. The remaining 20% should then highlight products and services.

Instagram

Japan's top social media networks SNS Instagram data 2022

Instagram’s pleasing UX on mobile phones, the potential for anonymity, and highly visual and aspirational content has made it popular among the Japanese population.

The ecosystem of communities on Instagram is now more varied than ever, with classically popular categories on the platform such as beauty, fashion, travel and food now joined by other interest groups such as gaming, wellness and social justice.

Brands that initially invest a lot in Facebook advertising in Japan, in mirror of their approach taken in other markets, often find themselves shifting budget towards Instagram.

Instagram’s video features (Reels, IGTV and Stories) also give the platform more modern relevance, allowing people and brands to publish candid glimpses into real life and behind the scenes.

INSTAGRAM Demographics

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

Source: NapoleonCat

Instagram still remains one of the best places to target young Japanese women interested in fashion, beauty, music, food and entertainment.

Notably, we’ve seen the proportion of users over 35 grow in recent years with almost 60% now over this threshold (another example of older users migrating to social media platforms since the pandemic started, but also a sign that TikTok has been capturing the lion’s share of Japan’s youth market recently).

Top Instagram Trends in Japan

Japan's top social media networks SNS Instagram trends 2022

Predictions for 2022-23

A few trends we’re most excited about witnessing (and being part of) on Instagram in Japan this year are:

  • The evolution of augmented reality (AR) Instagram shopping, combined with even more social commerce on the platform with both small and big brands capturing the attention of new customers through creative and engaging ad content.
  • More video-based content and music becoming prominent with TikTok style challenges and trends becoming more popular, as Reels become the dominant content type within the platform
  • More resources invested by brands into partnerships with influencers and digital creators to help them build their exposure and even shape their Japanese brand identities

HB Pro Tip: Despite Instagram’s visual nature, remember that Japanese audiences have a higher need for technical information and detail, explaining exactly how products work and how they’re made. Highlighting this kind of information with text as well as your product’s UVPs is really important to give potential customers everything they need before committing to a purchase. Similarly, make sure you follow up with fully conversion optimised landing pages (with plenty of images and descriptions) if you’re not directing traffic directly to product pages.

Facebook

Japan's top social media networks SNS Facebook data 2022

Forget about LinkedIn if you’re trying to grow business contacts and sell B2B in Japan. Facebook is your best bet when it comes to achieving these goals and you’ll find many senior-level professionals using it very similarly to how their counterparts in other locations use LinkedIn.

However, in many other respects, Facebook’s success in Japan has been modest. It has a much lower user base overall when you compare it to other markets and a dwindling youth demographic.

There are whole reports written about why Facebook “failed” to capture the Japanese market, but below is a short summary of what we think are the most relevant takeaways.

  • Facebook’s real name policy made it harder for Japanese users to fully buy-in when the platform came to Japan. Many were concerned about invasion of privacy as well as reluctant to engage in online conversations as themselves (preferring to participate anonymously).
  • Due to the above, the platform makes it easy for old friends, acquaintances and colleagues (or even bosses and seniors!) to add you as a friend. And combined with the fact that declining an invite might be seen as rude (therefore making acceptance necessary), this reduced the freedom and escapism that Japanese people so often enjoy about social media platforms.
  • Other platforms simply fulfil people’s needs better and failing to achieve enough user growth velocity in the initial months and years after launching in Japan has no doubt stunted its long-term growth potential.

Facebook Demographics

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

Source: Napoleon Cat

Over recent years, we can clearly see Facebook slowly becoming less and less relevant in Japan (at least among younger Japanese groups). This was our take last year and admittedly we have seen some significant growth in the platform’s total users. However, there’s no doubt that with visual platforms like TikTok capturing people’s attention through video-based content, Facebook has found it even harder to both retain and attract a younger audience.

The platform still boasts a respectable 49 million users and the people you find on it are often working professionals with higher disposable incomes, making it a fantastic place for B2B marketing as well as for promoting luxury goods and services.

Top Facebook Trends in Japan

Japan's top social media networks SNS Facebook trends 2022

Japan's top social media networks SNS top Facebook locations 2022

Predictions for 2022-23

With the continued outflow of young users from Facebook, the platform still appears to be in recession, with over 50% of users over 35.

While companies selling to younger audiences are likely to shift their focus to other platforms, those in the B2B sector will find it the perfect space to make connections with high-value customers and clients.

Also, we still see Facebook as an important tool for providing social proof to prospective customers engaged in pre-purchase research. The fact that Facebook uses real names also makes reviews and ratings much more credible and Japanese shoppers are still likely to use it as an important stepping stone in their purchasing journeys.

HB Pro Tip: In general, we recommend developing product-focused campaigns if your goal is generating conversions with Facebook Ads. While motivation and lifestyle oriented ads can work well too (if you have the right funnels in place and engaging creative content), ads that display your product in detail with a clear UVP added to the caption or text overlay, have proven the most efficient method of generating conversions for the majority of our clients.

Wondering How to Convert Facebook Users into Loyal Customers?

TikTok

Japan's top social media networks SNS TikTok data 2022

In a nation of short attention spans, where bite-sized media space segmentation is widespread, the simple usability of TikTok and its trend-orientated, video-first approach seems to have fueled its success in Japan.

Akira Suzuki, head of TikTok’s in-house planning and creative unit in Japan, once explained how certain drivers contribute to the success of content on the platform (as well as the ability of advertisers to increase ad recall, brand awareness and the favourability of hashtag challenges).

Shortened to the acronym WTF, these principles are ‘Wish’, ‘Try’ and ‘Fun’:

  • ‘Wish’ — relates to a greater interest in social causes and breaking stereotypes, as well as spreading positive messages with friends. If the cause is something people really care about, users will tend to share content willingly in the hope of doing something good, or at least to be seen as promoting a good cause.
  • ‘Try’ — relates to how users, predominantly younger demographics, love the idea of tackling something new that might be complicated yet also achievable. Embracing such a challenge can fill them with satisfaction and when they nail it, they’ll naturally want to share this with the world.
  • ‘Fun’ — captures the platform’s lighthearted and exciting character, with much of its content not being particularly “deep”. Many TikTok users just want to have fun and to share this experience with others.

Convert Using TikTok Ads in Japan – A Crash Course

TikTok Demographics

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

Source: Statista

It’s true that TikTok caters mostly to a younger demographic and many Japanese brands have been concerned about this fact, given that the country has one of the most rapidly ageing populations.

Some are naturally mindful of the assumed “fickleness” of Japan’s youth, which once had equal love for similar platforms like Vines and MixChannel (among many others) who have since disappeared from the nation’s social media landscape.

Nevertheless, recent numbers show us that it’s probably the best online space to reach Gen Z Japanese teenagers. The application enjoys a penetration rate of 58% among people aged 13 to 19 years old!

Top TikTok Trends in Japan

Japan's top social media networks SNS TikTok trends 2022

Predictions for 2022-23

Many older users and brands catering to an older demographic have been scared to use TikTok. Some see it as too “different” to what they’re used to, while others believe its popularity is only fleeting, meaning investment in time or resources isn’t worth it yet.

With the platform’s continued success, however, and the prominence of TikTok-style trends making their way onto platforms like Instagram, there will likely be a larger migration of users to this channel — even among older generations.

For marketers, the challenge will be to adapt processes and content to match the unique style of TikTok. And as influencer marketing is one of the most powerful tools available when trying to reach new audiences, many brands will be forced to take a step back from the creative process and defer to the experience and insights of their TikToK partners to increase exposure.

With the platform itself based around videos of 15-second intervals, maxing out at a total of 60 seconds, you could say TikTok is a crystallisation of the long-term trend that has already been taking place towards the demand for more user-generated video content.

HB Pro Tip: Before rushing to TikTok as your next Japanese advertising platform, consider that it is notorious for its lack of options and flexibility when it comes to exactly how ads can be configured and targeted, which may limit your performance potential. Facebook still beats all other platforms when it comes to the sophistication of its campaign manager tools. Having said this, TikTok is a great way to create engagement quicker than any other platform, especially if your product and/or content serves the needs of a younger audience.


Other SNS Platforms in Japan

Due to the importance of gaining a significant critical mass of followers when a platform first launches in Japan, it has historically been harder for certain channels to scale their audience.

A few less popular SNS channels that are still fighting for greater market share or are in their early stages of growth are below, along with our predictions on how we think they’ll do in the near future.

LinkedIn Despite its popularity in other markets, LinkedIn hasn’t been a hit amongst the Japanese population. This may be due to cultural factors with individuals reluctant to boast about their experience or publish an open CV to the world, signalling to their employers that they are looking for work elsewhere, or, that in a highly relationship-based society, business relationships are still largely handled face-to-face. Whatever the case, Facebook is a better choice if you’re looking for a platform for B2B marketing!
Ameba Ameba is a niche micro-blogging site in Japan, similar to WordPress but with a few quirky twists, such as customizable avatars that allow users to socialise with other users in digital environments based on real-life landmarks, such as Shibuya. This gamification of blogging may help to retain a certain level of interest, but we don’t predict Ameba’s popularity to grow considerably in the near future, with Twitter doing a much better job in the micro-blogging space.
Pinterest Pinterest’s market share hasn’t grown, but it also hasn’t dropped considerably, doing well to cater to a small yet enthusiastic following of around 8-9 million individuals made up of mostly designers, artists and people looking for creative inspiration.
Clubhouse Along with the US and Germany, Japan has consistently been among the top 5 markets for Clubhouse iOS downloads and interest spiked in 2020. However, while awareness has grown rapidly, the modest velocity of its new member registrations has not yet earned the platform a place among top social media channels in Japan. As the company overcomes growing pains and implements new scaling initiatives, there’s still a chance for this audio-based SNS to do well here.

Key Insights

Japan's top social media networks SNS key insights 2022

Top 5 Reasons People Use Social Media in Japan

Japan's top social media networks SNS user data 2022

Japanese Social Media Trends in 2022

Japanese man using social media in Japan in 2022 to connect with friends

With a wider view of the kind of changes taking place in Japanese social media, we’ve seen some interesting themes emerge in terms of user trends, the conversations being held, and the new features being launched.

People Look to Social for Immediate Answers

In a country with a strong distrust of organisations (second to last in Edleman’s Trust Barometer after only Russia), it’s not that surprising that many people look to social media for immediate answers or news during times of crisis rather than mainstream TV news channels.

The importance of relationships in Japanese culture can’t be understated either, and as many now form strong bonds through digital peer-to-peer networks, as well as hold the opinions of certain famous individuals and influencers who are active online in extremely high regard, many turn to their social media networks for instant access to local coverage and real-time updates on the issues that matter to them.

Unfortunately, the instantaneous nature of information sharing on social media has also led to more fake news and factual errors from user-generated event coverage reaching users, sometimes leading to unnecessary panic and concern in society.

Learn More About the Japanese Consumers

A Tool for Connecting and Supporting Communities

As the pandemic reached Japan, social media became home to many new communities of people offering support and information to its members. Platforms like Twitter and LINE served as a lifeline for directly affected individuals, providing a means of information sharing and a way for people inside and outside of Japan to connect, share, volunteer, donate and provide information-based support.

A Place to Voice Criticism and Concern (but Also Praise)

Japan has used social media as a space for voicing criticism about the government’s handling of various events relating to the pandemic. Substituting for more public gatherings, online spaces have given people the forum to discuss their thoughts and share them with others.

Notably, we’ve also seen people congregate around several positive issues and genuinely search for solutions with their peers, as well as offering support and encouragement for certain groups and communities and praising those who they feel deserve it, such as charities and frontline health workers.

Communities Look to Influencers for Guidance

The pandemic has pushed influencers and high profile individuals in the community to take on a greater leadership role. As well as government officials, many popular YouTubers have faced increasing attention as people looked increasingly to those in their social networks for guidance and advice — trusting their opinions more than anyone else’s.

Social Commerce to Keep Expanding

Japanese lady live streaming ecommerce reviews on social media in Japan 2022

Many more Japanese individuals are expected to shop directly through their social media accounts, as well as use social as an indispensable stepping stone for discovering and vetting new brands. New features and digital tech will also show us the true power of AR social shopping and we’ll be able to see whether this strand of commerce is received well by Japanese consumers.

Ultimately, as Japan’s ecommerce market continues to grow, social media will continue to play its part in supporting digital buying journeys as well as directly serving customers through in-platform purchase and payment options.

Older Demographics Are Now Within Reach

Brands have historically found it hard to target certain older demographics through social media, but we’ve seen many more seniors take to platforms like Facebook in recent years.

With Japan’s ageing population and the fact that disposable income is the highest among older groups, we’re likely to see brands launch brand new campaigns to connect with this growing social media audience.

New Messaging for a New Era

Finally, people’s lifestyles and outlooks have changed dramatically since the pandemic. And while normality has resumed in some respects, Covid-19 is still on many people’s minds, impacting attitudes towards various topics as well as changing behaviour. Results from GWI’s 2021 Japan report found that among Japanese respondents:

  • 73% are uncomfortable at large outdoor events
  • 69% are uncomfortable indoor dining
  • 41% are uncomfortable in-store shopping
  • 68% are uncomfortable on public transport

As different priorities, concerns, and interests have been emerging while people struggled with major changes to their lives and fears about the future, brands interacting with audiences on social media have had to adapt their messaging approach.

Many companies have completely changed their whole approach to content, such as placing more emphasis on things like social responsibility, safety and even aspects of product durability (with an understanding that consumers look for reliability in times of uncertainty).

Whether genuine or not, we’ve seen thousands of brands across Japan and worldwide take a more responsible and compassionate tone of voice in social media communications.

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Advice for Brands Using Social Media in Japan in 2022-23

Teenagers on train using social media in Japan in 2022

If you’ve read this article because you’re looking for advice on how your brand can connect with your Japanese audience on social media, we have two important things to say.

The first is that achieving your commercial targets on popular SNS platforms will come at a considerable cost. Realistic budgets need to be set to generate enough conversion velocity if you want to see results, whether you’re going for brand awareness KPIs or just trying to make sales.

The second (slightly more reassuring point) is that when you take the time to really understand the kind of content users enjoy consuming on each individual SNS platform here, engagement can be incredible.
Most platforms are now heavily saturated with high volumes of paid or sponsored ads, but if your content is good (creative, original, appropriate for your audience), social ads can still be your most important tool for growing interest in your brand in the way you’d always dreamed.

It’s still shocking how many foreign brands use the same approach to social media marketing here that they do for their other markets. While Japan isn’t as “weird” or different as some people make out, the interests and behaviours of people are unique enough here to warrant fresh thinking and new social media strategies for any brand hoping to build a following here.

Methodology

To draw accurate year-on-year comparisons and to track trends more realistically, we rely on many of the same data sources used in last year’s report, with updated figures for 2021-22. However, where the same sources have not been available, certain data points have been substituted for the most recently available data.

These sources include a range of publicly available surveys as well as official company and government data sets. And where numbers alone have not been enough to paint a full picture of Japan’s most important social media trends, we’ve added our own understanding of the local context gathered from extensive social media marketing activities on behalf of our clients.

Sources

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