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Is Facebook Really Winning in Japan?

  |  July 16, 2012   |  Comments   |  

Facebook and Twitter are eroding the dominance of local social networks Mixi, Mobage, and Gree in Japan.

Many global digital marketers are now aware that Facebook and Twitter don't necessarily rule the entire world, especially not in Asia. So when I saw this report published by Vincos early this June, I was surprised to see that Japan and South Korea were colored in Facebook blue. The report also shows that Mixi, which is one of the oldest and most popular SNSs in Japan, is in third place. Is Facebook really winning in Japan? And, what happened to Mixi and other popular SNSs such as Gree?


Japan's social media population grew 143 percent in the last year

First, let's look at the state of social media in Japan. According to the Internet Whitepaper 2012 and the Internet Personal Usage Survey 2012 (both by Impress R&D), the total social media population grew 143 percent from 2011 to 50,600,000. With 65 percent active users, it looks that the SNS market will continue to grow healthy in Japan in the upcoming months and years. (The number doesn't include video sharing sites, blog sites, Q&A communities, etc. and is limited to SNS and micro blog services.)

The smartphone market growth in Japan seems to be working for the social services. Smartphone usage has doubled to 29.9 percent from 14.8 percent last year. More than 27 percent of the non-smartphone users are seriously considering switching to a smartphone. Smartphones provide better user experiences, and keep people accessing the SNS from anywhere, anytime. Currently, 40 percent of Twitter usage and 33.5 percent of Facebook usage are from smartphones.

Facebook is the fastest growing SNS in Japan

See the graph below. Mixi still has a larger market share in Japan than Facebook by the number of users, but Twitter has taken over the top position by 0.2 percent. More interestingly, Facebook was the fastest growing SNS in Japan by tripling its market share from 8.3 percent to 24.5 percent. By the growth and the traffic, Mixi may indeed have lost the top position.

sns jp

Stale and dead, or fresh and lively?

As digital marketers, we are interested in the sites that have many active users. Having tons of members doesn't mean it is a success, unless the site has many active users. I found an interesting stat in Macromill, Inc.'s May 2012 report.

It shows that the active user base of Facebook is growing rapidly, while the active user share of Mixi is decreasing. The Vincos's graph may be showing the accurate view of Japan market in terms of the active users.

[Active users, Past users, May use in future, Not interested, Don't know the service]

The report also gives the user interests for Google+. It shows that almost one-third of people are not interested in the services, and almost half of people don't know about the services or the site. PlusDemographics's tool says that there are 1,115,892 Google+ users in Japan, which is only a fraction of the users that Mixi and Facebook have.

gplus jp

The size doesn't matter... at least it's not everything

From the number of active users, and the growth rate, Facebook does look like a winner. But depending on your business's target audience, marketing objectives, etc., other social media services may be the better choices. Each service has different social signals, too. Still, the growth of Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ in Japan is a welcome trend for many foreign businesses, which are already familiar with these services in their own countries.

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Motoko Hunt

Since Motoko established AJPR in 1998, she has been providing the online marketing services targeting Japan and Asia to companies from around the world, helping them to enter the regional market using the Internet. Her search marketing consulting services with her extensive knowledge of Asia and Japanese market have been highly valued and made big impact on some of the world's popular multi-national brands' search marketing campaigns.

A number of her articles have been published on industry websites and printed media including Multilingual Computing and International Journal of Localization. She also writes about the Japanese online market on her blog and Multilingual-Search.com. She's a frequent speaker at search marketing conferences globally, and gives seminars and trainings about search marketing targeting Japan and Asia.

Prior to entering the online marketing industry in the mid 90's, she worked as a senior marketing manager at a traditional marketing and trading firm, marketing U.S. products to Japanese government and heavy industries.

She believes in giving back to the community and volunteers her time for industry organizations. She served as a member of Board of Directors of SEMPO (Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization), and is a Chairman of SEMPO Asia-Pacific Committee. In March 2009, she received the first SEMPO President Award for her support and dedication to the search industry and SEMPO organization.

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