Japan’s Top Social Media Networks for 2016

Posted By Caylon Neely

Here’s an incredible fact for you: as of 2015, over 90% of Japan’s entire population is online in one form or another.

Here’s another important number: over 50% of those individuals are regularly active on social networking services. The keyword there is “active”. Other sources may show higher numbers representing the number of online users who simply own a social account, but we’re focusing here on a truly, accessible audience as it applies to your business.

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

Internet Penetration by Country

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

Source: ITU

Does My Company Need Social Media Marketing in Japan?

Doing the math based on the above statistics, your company has the potential to reach 45% of all the people of Japan through social media—or to translate that into a tangible number, just over 57 million people (based on the Japan national census).

Moreover, connection speeds in Japan are some of the world’s highest, which is why companies in every industry are spending more money than ever before on digital media and social networks to promote their products.

Now that we’re in agreement that the answer to the above question is a resounding ‘Yes!’ – Let’s talk about how. First a bit of background:

How is Social Media Different in Japan?

First and foremost, your business must understand that social media is not what it “used to be”. This is incredibly crucial in the Japanese market.

The Word “Social”, as it relates to the digital world, merely implies the spread and “share” of media amongst one’s peers. As “sharing” gains momentum in the online world, we can now say that Social in Japan is more accurately comprised of three distinct sub-categories: Group Social, Direct Social, and Game-based Social.

Within the world of social media, understanding and addressing your customers’ intentions and motivations is now more important than ever.

For this post, we are going to focus on “Group” social networks, where the primary use case is for users to organically spread content amongst the whole of their networks, rather than through more select private or small-group messaging. Sign up for our blog notifications at the bottom of the page to be updated with more information about Messaging and Gaming networks as they become available.

The Most Important Social Media Networks in Japan in 2015

We’ve determined that 2015 yielded three key players in the “Group” social media world: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Social Network Usage in Japan by % of Population

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

Source: Nikkei, NHK, CNET, eMarketer, Nielsen
*2015 Twitter data is based on eMarketer projection
**2015 Facebook numbers reported by Facebook in December 2015
***2015 Instagram numbers reported by Instagram in June 2015

The Above Graph in Numbers

Per the details of the graph above, we can see that Twitter and Facebook are neck in neck for largest overall population share in the social media market. That translates to 26 million and 25 million respectively.

Instagram meanwhile reigns in about 8.9 million Japanese users via this statistic, though we estimate that this number is more likely around 9.2 million currently—based on current trend and timeframe in which that data was calculated.


facebook in japan social media statistics population demographic percentage

Facebook is still quickly growing in both number of users as well as the overall percentage of social media users in Japan. With over 25 million users now, the social network is showing no signs of slowing down. According to a survey done by the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Japan, most Facebook users are in their 20’s and 30’s with slightly more men than women using the social network.

Japanese Facebook Users by Age and Gender

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

Source: MIC

Facebook’s Background in Japan

Though the Japanese language version of the site was launched in 2008, Facebook never caught on in Japan until 2011. Facebook’s rapid rise to success started with its movie, “The Social Network,” being a hit in Japan and bringing in many new users. Furthermore, after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, when short-mail messaging and cell phone services had gone down, Facebook showed potential as an easy tool for Japanese people to use for alerting their friends and family about their safety. Since then, Facebook has jumped up to match Twitter as one of the top social networks in Japan.

Up until Facebook’s rise, the most popular social networks in Japan had one underlying facet fueling their success. They allowed users to maintain anonymous accounts. Facebook is unique in Japan as it is the first and only social network to be massively successful with a real-name policy on user’s accounts. Interesting shift in social culture there that us marketers should be aware of.

Unique Usage in Japan

In survey results, Japanese Facebook users have stated that they like the network’s international aura, compared with other social networks in Japan. Japanese users feel they have a greater chance of interacting with non-Japanese individuals and businesses on Facebook, than on other networks. It’s no secret that foreign appeal is popular in Japan, we’ve covered the importance of foreign language and appeal in Japanese marketing before.

However, what’s interesting is that it is also seen as a networking medium for business contacts. Another part of the Facebook experience in Japan is a focus on job hunting and maintaining professional contacts. According to a survey, University students who are looking to join the workforce have been using Facebook to connect with their university’s alumni and other professionals, to make business connections through the sight. The fact that users must use their real names on their profiles has created the kind of atmosphere where business connections are welcome through Facebook.

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twitter in japan statistics and data social media population, active users, demographics

Twitter has long been seen as the dominant social network in Japan, and only in recent years has it been met with stiff competition from Facebook. Twitter users are generally younger than Facebook users, with most of them being in their teens and 20’s. Though Facebook has taken some of Twitter’s steam in Japan, Twitter is still showing steady growth over the past three years. Smartphone penetration rates are increasing, and this should help Twitter to stay relevant as a top social network in Japan.

Japanese Twitter Users by Age and Gender

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

Source: MIC

Twitter’s Background in Japan

Twitter caught on strong and early in Japan, compared to other countries. Much of Twitter’s success in Japan has been attributed to its anonymous platform and long-lasting mobile friendliness. Users can use Twitter on nearly any web-enabled cell-phones, not just smartphones, which greatly helped boost its popularity in the early years. Also, without the requirement of using one’s real name, Japanese users were more inclined to sign up and share information.

Unique Usage in Japan

Timing is a very important factor to Japanese Twitter users. Big moments in popular TV shows and Japanese holidays have caused great spikes in usage, and have even broke records. Taking that theme further, it’s important to recognize that commenting on an event while it is happening isn’t as important as commenting at an exact moment within that event. That point becomes ever apparent when considering Japanese actually knocked out Twitter’s servers as a result of a massive ‘Happy New Year’ message influx precisely at midnight on New Year’s Eve in 2012.

Japan is famously looked at by many as a culture of conformity. It’s easy to see how timing and the acclimation of these types of “social moments” is an important aspect to the way Japanese people use their social networks.

Most Twitter users are anonymous to the world, but maybe their friends know their accounts. This allows businesses like yours to be a bit more flexible with the tone of your content than perhaps you would be on Facebook. Finally, just as “Opportunity Marketing” is essential to any business, being in tune with the latest trends is very important with Twitter. Finding out what people are tweeting about and aligning your content when a trend comes up is extremely useful, especially in Japan.


instagram social media in Japan, population, active users, demographics female and male

Instagram is a newcomer to Japan’s social networking world. While it wasn’t exactly a “huge hitter” in 2015, it deserves mention here since it has doubled its users from mid 2014 to mid 2015, and shows strong global growth to go along with its Japanese presence.

Right now, the bulk of Instagram’s Japanese user base is female. Women aged 18 to 40, account for over 55% of its total users in Japan—an impressive and actionable statistic for those companies targeting young women.

Japanese Instagram Users by Age and Gender

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

Source: Nielsen

In a survey conducted by Japanese research firm, ICT, Japanese users rated Instagram as the most satisfying social tool—beating out LINE, Twitter, and Facebook. As mentioned above, as we discussed, having an anonymous and mobile platform served very well for Twitter’s success in Japan, and Instagram is also following the same formula.

As seasoned social users will know, Instagram is accessed exclusively through its smartphone application. As a result, its success is directly tied to the proliferation of smartphones and high-speed mobile connections, both of which are rising steadily in Japan. As smartphone penetration is stronger among young people in Japan, Instagram’s demographics seem to reflect that.

That being said, it won’t likely boast the proliferation statistics that Twitter and Facebook carry as a whole, but may take over the mobile market in the near future.

How Instagram is Used in Japan

As with Twitter, influencers and celebrities are among some of the most popular accounts on Instagram. A recent survey shows that users prefer to follow celebrities on Instagram rather than Facebook. There are even some up and coming Japanese celebrities, such as @_megbaby_, who have become famous solely from their Instagram accounts. Other more established Japanese celebrities have already passed the 1 million-follower milestone. In addition to celebrities, many companies are also building large followings on their Japanese facing Instagram pages.

It’s important to consider the dynamic of Instagram in Japan though. Your content alone will be very important. Hashtags aren’t widely used among female Instagram users in Japan, it’s largest demographic, so having a large following or tapping into an existing one is the ideal proliferation method for Instagram. Fortunately, Instagram’s owner, Facebook, has now linked its advertising tool to Instagram as well. Paid, targeted, advertisements are now up and running on the Japanese language app, giving you more control on how to reach the right audience on Instagram.

As a result of the primarily female demographic and the visual aspect of Instagram, the fashion industry is very active with promotions on this channel. The restaurant and food industries are also benefitting from Instagram in Japan.

Special Mentions


LINE is in a slightly different realm of social than the above services, but its prevalence in Japan means it’s important to your marketing campaigns.

LINE is very useful to marketers because promotions are littered throughout the application’s services. Within the messaging functionality alone, users can opt to follow a company’s official LINE account for timed messaging. Users can also receive or purchase digital “Stickers” that function as emoticons within messages—a powerful value-add for companies to consider. Other initiatives within the app are LINE Currency, a music streaming service, and an Uber-style taxi service. LINE is also delving deep into gaming with some of the country’s top mobile games.

There is definitely a huge potential to promote on LINE, but traditional social media marketing tactics (let alone implementation) aren’t relevant there.


Although it remains a strong recruiting tool for non-Japanese companies, LinkedIn as a business network hasn’t quite caught on in Japan yet.

Reason #1 – Japan, as a country of humility, not sticking out, and team-based social practice, tends to frown upon highlighting one’s individual accomplishments, and…
Reason #2 – From a technical standpoint, the format of a Japanese resume is very different from the western one.

However, now that Facebook has opened up (seemingly overnight!) more opportunities for real-name social networks, who knows where the next social revolution may lie.

As LinkedIn currently stands, if you are looking to target (or hire) English speaking professionals in Japan, this is still a very targeted and effective network. The ex-pat community remains active here, and internationally-minded Japanese are aware of its importance. Via anecdotal observation and experience in the network, most Japanese LinkedIn users are looking for work or building contacts with foreign businesses via the English version of the site.

For connecting with more of the general public however, 2015 shows us that Facebook is a better business-networking tool than LinkedIn in Japan.

LinkedIn has recently opened a dedicated Japanese office, and is introducing more Japanese language content. We’ll be keeping an eye on them in 2016.


This is the network that seems to be on the way (if not already) out in Japan. Similar to America’s Myspace network, Facebook and Twitter have come in and converted most of its users. There are still a decent amount of users, but Mixi’s not really in the race anymore. Its primary sustenance in 2015 was its entertainment division and their popular smartphone game “Monster Strike”.

Actionable Next Steps For Your Company

  1. If your company hasn’t done it yet, recognize that social media is one of the best ways to contact the Japanese public. Every year, that impact grows here in the Japan market. Your competition will most likely already be invested here.
  2. Utilize someone with experience and knowledge of social media (someone who can separate themselves from the company and offer a birds’ eye/unbiased view) to analyze the new world of “Social” as it applies to your company’s growth/future. This person should be able to put an action plan together for your company and determine primary networks per your distinct company needs.
  3. Register your email for blog updates down at the bottom of the page. We’ll be providing more in-depth analyses of the different networks in the near future.

Increasing social network proliferation in Japan over 2015 points to a clear, strong, and important future for companies to utilize and expand upon their social media marketing efforts. With smartphone penetration supporting that influx, the importance of social media grows further.

Companies in Japan are aware of this, and are already investing in establishing a stronger social media presence to build their customer bases and reputations. If you’re planning on promoting your brand or cause to the Japanese market, social networking services are an amazingly targeted, and large reaching medium for your message.

As the social media landscape expands and new types of sharing and social interaction become mainstay (via messaging and game apps), it’s important to begin looking introspectively at how social media is now playing a different role in your customers’ lives.

As always, feel free to contact Humble Bunny to get our take on how that applies to your specific needs.

Article Sources

Internet Data Sources:
Japan National Census

Facebook Sources:
What Japan Thinks – Facebook Survey
What Japan Thinks – University Student Survey
New Scientist

Twitter Sources:
Twitter Blog

Instagram Sources:
SMMLab – Hashtag Survey
SMMLab – Data

LinkedIn Sources:
What Japan Thinks – University Student Survey
James Riney

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