The State of Social Networking in Japan

Lady with flag with people following her.

Photo by St Stev on Flickr

Sorry for being late with my typical Tuesday post. I was helping a friend with an appointment, so I was away all day yesterday.

Today I came across an interesting article on the popularity of social networking in Japan. The Japanese are certainly big on media consumption, but often it’s done in a completely different way than in the West.

The Japanese Mind

You don’t have to look further than the widespread adoption of Yahoo in Japan to realize that the Japanese market doesn’t follow all the trends in the West. Yahoo trounces Google as the search engine of choice in Japan, with many Internet service providers using it as the default homepage on new installs. With so many people using it, Yahoo Japan is the brightest star in the entire Yahoo universe.

Why such popularity? The website Within Japan explains how the Japanese way that business cosy up together may have something to do with it:

Yahoo! has been doing business in Japan longer than Google and is more established. They also have ties with other Japanese businesses, like Softbank. Yahoo! is the largest stockholder is SoftBank and followed the trend in North America of companies acquiring the naming rights for buildings. They renamed the Fukuoka Dome to “Fukuoka Yahoo! Japan Dome.” – Within Japan

So what does this mean for Social Networks?

Twitter is King

Big surprise here. The number one social network in North America (Facebook) is not the most popular in Japan. In terms of new unique activations, the website Skeptikai reports that Twitter is killing it.

twitter new activations graph in Japan

There are many reasons for Twitter’s rise in popularity, but one contributing factor was the fact that it was one of the only reliable modes of communication after the March 11 earthquake. Mobile phones could simply not be trusted then. I remember on that day, emails were being received many hours after they were sent, often in the middle of the night, well after the quake screwed up the phone signals. As it turns out, Facebook was also used popular at that time, but obviously not to the same extent as Twitter. – Skeptikai.

I have to agree completely with the the above statement. Twitter was a life saver when we were in Osaka when the 2011 great earthquake struck. Being without adequate English news coverage we soon discovered that Twitter was an amazing source for information. Those who were in Japan and who could translate into English we’re constantly updating the Twitterverse with valuable information. I never even thought of checking Facebook for updates. As far as an instant news broadcasting medium, Twitter was king.

What’s in store for the Future of Japanese Social Media?

The Social Network Japanese website page

Well it’s not all bad news for Facebook. While the Japanese people get used to the Facebook navigation and find ways to use the service with their mobile devices, adoption for Facebook will continue to rise. As for anyone who’s been on a Tokyo Subway, you know how important mobile phone use is to the Japanese. If you can’t access something easily from your phone, then don’t even bother trying to get a foot hold in Japan.

Skeptikia goes on to explain:

I expect that Mixi and Twitter will have to work very hard to keep Facebook from gaining ground, though I think Facebook will come out on top. One of the most pronounced aspects of Japanese culture is conformity, and I think after passing the point of no return, Facebook will be adopted into the mainstream, just like other countries have done in the last few years.

And that pretty much says it all. Conformity and popular opinion play such a huge role in Japan that whoever can swing the masses in their direction usually win. Just look at Yahoo Japan.

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