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.