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Adapting Social Media for the Japanese Customer


6 min read

Written by


Argos Multilingual

Published on

02 Apr 2024

Japan is widely acknowledged for its technological prowess, yet strategies and platforms that prove highly effective in Western markets can often be met with suspicion by Japanese consumers, due to the culture of formality and propriety.

In this blog post, Akagi Kobayashi, a Translation and LQA professional, shares the key points to consider before engaging in the social media sector in Japan.

Japanese Social Media Trends in a Nutshell

A whopping 82.7% of the Japanese population uses social media, which exceeds the global average of 77.8%. Nevertheless, the time spent on social media per day is far smaller in Japan (51 minutes) than the global average of 2.5 hours per day. As a result, businesses entering the Japanese social media sector must choose their strategies wisely, as they are competing for a significantly smaller amount of attention from each user.

The Importance of Online Anonymity

In contrast to most Western markets, Facebook ranks fourth on the list of social media apps in Japan. As Akagi explains, the main reason is the lack of online anonymity.

“Facebook requires you to use your name,” she notes. “I think it’s a fear of losing privacy.”

During its first launch in Japan, Facebook was met with difficulties to persuade the customers to use their real names.

“A lot of other social networks would ask you to set a nickname by which you appear,” Akagi observes. “Even bank apps ask you for your pseudonym. So, in general, people are scared of exposing their true identity.”

The importance of online anonymity comes from a fundamental concept in Japanese culture which is avoiding unnecessary attention towards oneself. “Maintaining a certain level of privacy is very important in Japan as opposed to perhaps a Western viewpoint, which is far more open with identity,” strengthens Akagi. “People are scared about privacy and guarding their identity. I think there’s sort of a general phobia about that.”

The Possibility for Social Media Growth

Akagi believes an opportunity for social media growth in Japan exists if the companies respect the cultural boundaries. Accordingly, the apps which prove the most successful allow for the sense of anonymity.  “X is very popular,” Akagi points out, “but I’m not sure how many people like to use their own name.”

Advantages of Cultural Understanding

Akagi explains the success of local apps, such as LINE, which was created by Korean search engine company Naver as a communication tool for their Japanese staff after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The app doesn’t require a real name and features a variety of Anime-style stickers.

 “It’s used by local retailers to attract shoppers in the area with bargains and news and so on and so forth. It may be used most in sales where retail may be involved.”

The Japanese market also favors smaller social media apps focused on convenience, such as restaurant search apps.

Interestingly, even the largest convenience retailer faces local competition. “Amazon is also very popular,” Akagi says. “It’s used a lot in Japan, but there are many rival sites as well.”

Adapting Social Media to Culture: Local Apps for Local Stores

Store-specific apps are also very successful in Japan. Despite the popularity of online shopping and social media, the Japanese culture values in-person shopping and long-term relationships, especially in towns where, as Akagi describes, “there’s a huge density of population, which means that there’s a density of small shops, like those convenience stores at every street corner.”

Akagi explains how store-specific loyalty apps have flourished because of this personal contact. “My experience is that each shop in the mall has its own little app. So, you go in there and you’re encouraged to download the app. Then once you get it, you get your marketing messages and loyalty promotions through that app.”

This adaptation encapsulates the interpersonal dynamics, seamlessly integrated into the technologically infused world.

Ready to Learn More?

This is Part 3 of a 3 part series. If you want to learn more about the overall philosophy of Japanese LQA, check out Part 1. And, for Some of Akagi’s best tips on Japanese LQA, see Part 2.

Still Trying to Make Japanese Social Media Work on Your Own? You Don’t Need To.

Our experience with Japanese LQA, and our relationships with experts like Akagi, have made us the go-to choice for clients who want to gain and maintain the high translation quality the Japanese market demands.

Contact us today to learn how Argos Multilingual can support your expansion to Japan.

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