When you think of Japan, some people might remember anime whilst others might visualise “otaku (nerd)”. When it comes to the Japanese market, I guess many people have the same impression. For example, the Japanese population is 126.8 million people. Although this number is not as significant as China and India, that is not as small as other European countries. Japan is the third-largest economy in the world after the US and China. Japan belongs to the Free World as many Western countries do.
However, Japan is nothing but an Eastern island for many Western countries. If you learned the strategy behind social media platforms, your typical impressions might change as they did for Instagram and Twitter.
Instagram built a development team in Japan
When Adam Mosser, head of Instagram, visited Japan this March, he announced in a press conference that Instagram decided to build a development team in Japan for the first time except for the US. According to the release, a handful of employees like engineers, designers, researchers, and analysts will start working there, and the team will expand in future years.
Apparently, they were going to focus on increasing Instagram users because Japan is around the corner from the Olympics and Paralympics 2020. Is this real and only intention for Instagram? Of course, the Olympics and Paralympics are critical events for many people involved.
The community continues to grow
Like many Western countries, Instagram is the most critical social media platform for marketers in Japan. Instagram revealed that MAU (monthly active users) in Japan finally reached 33 million people as of March 2019, which means that about one in four use Instagram nowadays. This grew eightfold in just five years, from 4 million people in 2014 to 33 million people in 2019. It’s notable that not only young women but the likes of males and the over 50’s have started to enjoy Instagram too. Instagram used to be enjoyed by only young females before but now the old and young generations in Japan are crazy about Instagram.
Japanese users are unique and active
Why did Instagram start paying attention to the Japanese market? If looking at market size, they should have chosen the Indian market. The Indian market has enormous potential because they have a considerable population.
Some experts say India’s population will go beyond China in a single decade. In addition, India is a democratic nation and is even open to American social media. Nevertheless, Instagram chose Japan because they set their eyes on the unique and active characteristics the Japanese have, in particular:
- The number of hashtag searches in Japan is about three-times compared to the average in the global market. People used to “Google” something before. Many Japanese people search for something with a “hashtag” now.
- About 70% of active users in Japan have already utilised Stories. The number of the post through Stories surged about 20 times in 2018 compared to 2016.
- According to Adam, Japanese people positively started to take advantage of ‘location search’ faster than other countries as well. He said that a new development team would catch up with these trends and then get inspiration from Japan.
Twitter noticed the uniqueness of Japanese people
Instagram isn’t the only social media platform that took note of the Japanese. Twitter decided to build an engineering office in Japan in 2015 for the first time except for its headquarter. The MAU of Twitter in Japan is 45 million people as of now. This size is bigger than Instagram and even Facebook (26 million people as of April 2019). Just like Instagram, Twitter paid attention to the Japanese market not only because of the market size but also the uniqueness of Japanese people.
Japanese Twitter users often try to enjoy the platform within a limited number of characters. For example, Twitter Ogiri is one of the popular styles for Japanese people. Ogiri means that a comedian tries to play their performance after the audience presents them with a specific theme. When it comes to Twitter Ogiri, someone posts an idea with the hashtag, and then others post tweets that are funny, hilarious, cynical, and even harsh about the theme (hashtag). If the theme works, users and official brand accounts start to join in.
As a result, the number of comments could be over a thousand. Why do many Japanese try to enjoy Twitter like this? One expert thinks that unique Japanese culture like Haiku and Tanka might be related. Maybe, Japanese people are accustomed to trying to enjoy something within the field of restriction. Therefore, it’s natural that Twitter paid attention to such characteristics of the Japanese.
Why is the Japanese market for social media platforms?
As mentioned previously, Instagram decided to launch a development team in Japan to learn about and activate the Japanese market. It seems that this strategy is based on their essential principle: community first.
However, Naomi Unozawa, a social media consultant, anticipates it might take some time for users in a global market to accept new products, which were originally inspired by Japanese users. Maybe the new development team in Japan will focus on arranging various tasks like Stickers on Stories and tie-up deals with IGTV for the time being. They might be involved in the trial of new products that they want to launch globally at the end of the day.
Having a development team means a lot because business executives and even c-suites at Instagram will visit Japan more. Japan is a nation where new trends in the social media world often happen. It means a great deal for social media platforms to be successful in this unique and active market.