The Japanese social media landscape can be hard to navigate. We take a look at the space and give you some top tips for success.

 

It’s a well-known fact – Japan has an aging population.

Perhaps because of this, the Japanese population is less interested in social media than the rest of the world. It has a social media penetration rate of 56%, compared to 66% in the UK and 78% in Hong Kong.

Even so, Japanese social media still presents many opportunities to engage with your customers on a personal level. And a good place to begin is by understanding the importance of anonymity in Japanese online culture – and its impact on each platform.

COVERTLY SOCIAL

There are many players on the Japanese social media scene – and they’re not all names you’d recognize. LINE is one of the leading platforms and it’s totally unique to the Japanese market. And although big networks like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are all popular, they’re used for different reasons than in the West.

1. LinkedIn

LinkedIn is not very popular in Japan. Using it suggests that you’re looking for a new job – and doing this publicly is seen as unprofessional and disrespectful.

For this reason, jobseekers use Facebook to speak to potential employers instead – which in turn makes it a less social space than in the UK or US.

2. Twitter

Despite wanting to be anonymous, Japanese people still like to express their personality by customizing their online presence.

For example, Twitter’s popularity is partially due to the fact that it allows you to have fake names and avatars. Tweeting under a ‘nom de plume’ means you can express your ideas (and create a new online identity) without fear of being judged. This is a big reason why it serves as a platform for complaints and voicing opinions, just like in the rest of the world.

3. YouTube

Youtube initially struggled in Japan. Although users were watching videos, they weren’t uploading content because they didn’t want to be seen on camera. To rectify this, YouTube hit the streets of Tokyo with video cameras and photo frames to get people interested in uploading their own content. It didn’t work.

YouTube’s second campaign focused on videoing your pets, and it was a spectacular success. Now, YouTube is the most popular social media platform – and pet videos are the most popular genre, with many pets becoming Japanese pop culture celebrities.

4. Instagram

Instagram use is growing rapidly in Japan, with a year-on-year increase of 43% in 2017. Because you can curate a personal page without having to use a real name or profile picture, the platform is perfect for anonymous personalization – popular in Japan.

In terms of the content they share, Japanese social media users are aspirational. They are more likely to share luxury products they want to buy rather than those they already own – and discuss ideas bigger than themselves. Brands with a deeper purpose, such as sustainability, ethics or social justice, will appeal to this mindset.

Interestingly, Japanese consumers are less likely to engage with public posts about special offers. They prefer the personal touch, so they expect companies they follow to contact them with offers directly. As such, using private channels like messaging apps or email is an effective marketing strategy.

HOW TO GET ON LINE

LINE is one of the fastest growing social media networks in Japan, with a larger reach than any other platform. It launched in 2011 after the Tohoku earthquake and its name is inspired by the queues that formed outside public phones in the wake of the disaster.

The messaging app resembles a more customisable version of Whatsapp. Users can talk to their friends and link with businesses or celebrities – using texts, pictures, video and even cutesy stickers to do so. Because of this, it presents a huge opportunity for brands to connect with customers personally. Luxury brands in particular have been flocking to the platform recently – check out our blog post on how British luxury brands and social media can work together to find out more.

To promote your brand on LINE, you’ll either need to get a LINE@ account or become a LINE partner.

LINE @ accounts allow you to:

  • Create a custom name and account page
  • Post on the LINE Timeline
  • Send batch messages and chat in one-on-one messages
  • Conduct surveys and track statistics
  • Share coupons and announcements

Free LINE@ accounts are available, but the number of messages is strictly limited to 1,000 per month. The paid version increases your message allowance and comes with added perks.

Becoming a LINE partner is like entering into a more serious relationship with the platform. It also gives you access to more services and tools, such as:

  • LINE official accounts
  • Promotion stickers
  • LINE points
  • LINE game services

Unlike on Facebook, you can only advertise on LINE if you pay via a fixed-rate card. However, you can target specific audiences, which can be filtered according to mobile operating system, a person’s interests or demographic data. You can use LINE segments to help with this, which are similar in function to Facebook’s Custom Audiences or Twitter’s Tailored Audiences.

So, you’re now on LINE. What’s the best way of connecting with your customers?

TOP TIPS FOR LINE SUCCESS

1. CREATE BRANDED LINE STICKERS

LINE stickers are cute or funny designs that users can send to each other. They’ve become so popular that two recurring characters – a bear and bunny pair called Brown and Cony – have developed a life of their own outside the app. They are available as plushies and they often endorse other products like chewing gum. LINE invests time in these characters, using the stickers as well as short videos on YouTube to tell stories about them.

Users can download stickers from the sticker shop and most sets sell for 100 yen. However, brands can create their own sets for users to download and it’s common for them to give these away for free if users add the business as a friend.

Creating branded stickers is high effort, but high reward. Companies have to plan and create their own designs, which can be expensive. But the stickers are so popular with users that they’ve resulted in some of LINE’s biggest advertising success stories. Pepsi is one example, who achieved success by creating sticker sets that featured LINE mascots Brown and Cony drinking Pepsi (like in the picture below).

Other brands, such as KFC for example, have opted instead to create stickers of their own mascots. Like gifs or memes, these stickers can then be sent by users to their friends to reflect their reaction to various everyday events. This helps to increase recognition and appreciation of the brand.

2. GIVE OUT EXCLUSIVE OFFERS

When a user adds a company as a friend, they can receive discounts and offers. Giving out special discounts is a common marketing method on LINE because it appeals to the Japanese desire for the personal touch. It’s available for both LINE@ and LINE Partner accounts.

3. LINE POINTS ADS

LINE points are another great method of promotion, available only to Line Partner accounts. Users can build up these points and spend them on themes, stickers and other packages. But to get points, they need to do specific things. Brands can determine what these tasks are – whether it’s watching an ad, downloading an app or adding an account.

If done well, as with so much else in Japanese social media, these strategies can increase your brand visibility while fostering stronger relationships with your customers.

Photo by Huyen Nguyen on Unsplash

ABOUT Isabel Evans

Busy studying for my Master’s in Cognitive and Decision Sciences at UCL, I’m fascinated by how and why people do things. As well as researching and writing for Wordbank, I love learning about culture and was in my element living and studying in Paris.

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