2011 trends: Social media in Japan comes of age

January 4th, 2012 by Sandra Barron

2011 was the year that social media came into its own in Japan. When phones went down on March 11, Japan connected with Twitter, mixi and Facebook in record numbers. Social media went from being a curiosity to a lifeline. Connecting online wasn’t just for the users, either; in 2011, the social media sites started friending each other.

Mixi and Twitter announced a partnership in November, possibly to shore up against a rapidly growing Facebook. With growth spurred by the movie “The Social Network,” Facebook was named the no. 2 “hit product” of 2011 by Nikkei Trendy magazine. While earlier in the year it looked like Facebook was getting left behind by Japan’s own social media sites, a November Nielsen report showed Facebook pulling ahead in the last quarter to surpass Mixi for the first time with some 11 million users. However, Mixi quickly issued a statement saying it actually had about double the 8.4 million active users that Nielsen had reported, since many people access the site from their cellphones, which the Nielsen report didn’t track.

As before, mobile remains a major access mode for online content in Japan. Whether or not Mixi actually feels threatened by Facebook, the tie-up with Twitter suggests it’s watching its back.

In another partnership, Google+ partnered with pop idol juggernaut AKB48 and its regional versions, for a total of almost 90 individual accounts. The performers have swamped the top 100 most popular users list in Japan, leaving only a handful of spots for other idols and Japanese tech gurus.

Two of the largest social networks in Japan are mobile gaming sites. GREE and Mobage Town have over 20 million users each. Mobage Town’s parent company DeNA has been making acquisitions in international markets including China, the U.S. and Chile, again showing the importance of collaboration for social sites.

Social media came to the forefront after the disasters of March 11. Much attention was given within Japan and around the world to the speed and scope of emergency information shared in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami. In the first hours, many people were able to use social media sites to find each other. As the after-effects continued, people kept up with breaking news and planned power outages and also used social media to coordinate volunteer efforts. New users stayed on after the immediate danger passed, and they settled into more recreational uses: In December, Japan crushed the previous tweets-per-second record during with a coordinated Twitter storm during a TV airing of beloved anime classic “Laputa.”

In flash marketing, Groupon started the year with a severe stumble in Japan, offering a deal on the special osechi meal Japanese people typically enjoy on New Year’s Day. The meals, which arrived late, soggy and overpriced — when they arrived at all — kicked off the year’s first PR disaster. The company pulled back in 2011 from the previous year’s ubiquitous banner ads. Different surveys show markedly different overall numbers: a survey by goo Research and japan.internet.com  found about a quarter of respondents had purchased something through a group deal while mediba put the figure at seven percent. Both show rapid growth for Ponpare and a slowing for Groupon.

LinkedIn launched in Japan in October of this year and followed in Twitter’s footsteps by partnering with Digital Garage and opening an office here, too. Next year, look for more jockeying for the top spot and more game integration in mixi and Japanese Facebook. It remains to be seen if location-based services will grow or wither. Until now, the big social media stories have been about U.S. products making inroads in Japan. Watch for things to start moving in the opposite direction, from Japan to the rest of the world.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.


Recent Posts

  • J-blip: Ipsa’s Face Melody

    Every face has a name, a story and . . . a song? That’s the idea behind cosmetic company Ipsa’s newest creation. We should, uh, take it at face value, but the company claims that its Face Melody program can measure the user’s appearance and write a unique tune based on their attributes. The application […]

  • Japan celebrates the GIFs that keep on giving

    GIFs — which stands for graphics interchange format, don’t you know — have made the Internet an even more enjoyable place than before, and we have the receipts to prove it. These digital designs were technological wonders back in the days of AOL and Netscape (Google it, kids). But they eventually went from high-tech animation […]

  • Smart absolutions: Send off your sins with just one click

    The two-step method to purification.

  • Attack of the plant hunters, green carnivores and fleshy girls

    Never promised you a rose garden, but how about a fleshy plant or a stag-horn fern?

  • Make 12th-century art using 21st-century tech

    The Choju-Giga, the famed animal caricature ink paintings displayed Kyoto’s Kozan-ji Temple have been captivating people for centuries. The four scrolls, which date to the 12th and 13th centuries and depict rabbits and monkeys getting into mischief, are often cited as the first manga comics in Japan’s history. Now art lovers can create their own […]

  • Fuji Rock bound? Make sure you survive in style

    A few items that will help you stay dry and happy during Fuji Rock Festival’s unpredictable weather.

  • Pokemon ages ungracefully with middle-aged ‘Ojisan Monsters’

    “Ojimon” is a new mobile game where players can catch middle-aged pocket monsters and make them do their bidding.

  • The new face of Japanese beauty products

    A wise woman once said that beauty is pain, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be boring. With designer face masks, even the simple act of skin moisturizing can become fun. Face masks rose to popularity after the 2011 Korean BB Cream craze. Over the past four years, the “lazy girl” alternative to […]

  • Dominique Ansel caters to Tokyo’s (semi)sweet tooth with cronuts and s’more

    Long queues will mark the spot where Dominique Ansel wil be serving a vast array of creative desserts and, of course, his famed Cronut.

  • Load up YouTube because it’s morphin’ time!

    Summon your Megazord because the Power Rangers are heading to YouTube — and it’s all in Japanese. “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” was a hit children’s show back in the ‘90s that featured campy acting, ridiculous monsters and possibly the best theme song of all time. It was actually based on the long-running “Super Sentai” TV […]