What Makes Twitter Tick in Japan?

  • Date Published
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Twitter now surpasses 45 million monthly users in Japan. Learn about unique user behaviors and what really makes Twitter tick with Japanese audiences.

It’s hardly a secret that Twitter is one of the most popular and widely-used social media platforms in Japan. With around 36% of the country’s population logging in on a regular basis, it is the second-largest market for the social media giant behind only the United States.

With so much of the country’s population actively using the platform, for brands looking to grow their presence in Japan, Twitter is a highly attractive channel.

Behind Twitter’s Popularity in Japan

T’was after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that usage in Japan soared as people turned to Twitter and other social platforms to try and reach out to friends and loved ones. One hour after the quake hit that day, a reported 1200 tweets were posted every minute.

In 2012, Twitter usage was so en masse that the entire service crashed worldwide because users in Japan were sending New Year tweets at the exact same time.

Today, the number of Twitter users in Japan has skyrocketed – second only to the messaging app Line. As of June 2019, the number of monthly active users on major social platforms in Japan were:

  • Line (messaging app): 80 million
  • Twitter: 45 million
  • Instagram: 33 million
  • Facebook: 28 million

Twitter’s popularity in Japan appears to come down to a mix of the anonymity of the platform, the ease of receiving and sharing information, and also its usefulness as a tool for communicating during emergencies.

But there are a few things about Twitter use in Japan that brands should understand.

User Behaviour

The platform is now mainly used to share information about daily life, train delays, the weather, comment on the news, gossip about and follow celebrities, catch up on trends, and comment during sports games late at night.

Twitter user behaviour is all about keeping up and sharing, so brands that need to report information and update their audience often may benefit greatly from the platform.

Some of the biggest Twitter accounts in Japan reflect this need for communicating and exchanging information and news. Fashion Press, which produces an online fashion magazine, the Japan Meteorological Agency and Tokyo Metro all publish news and information to engaged audiences and are the largest accounts in their respective categories

What Works and What Doesn’t

There are great differences between user segmentation and user behaviour across all the major social networks in Japan meaning that success on Twitter isn’t just about throwing something online and waiting for people to notice and interact with it.

Posts that you might expect to perform well on other platforms like Facebook or Instagram are not guaranteed to do well on Twitter, so brands need to do more than just cross-posting something that did well on another social platform expecting similar results.

For Twitter particularly, unless content is share-worthy or at least useful to people in a major way, it will likely perform poorly. This is of course, unlike Instagram where browsing for inspiration, visual gratification and discovering lifestyle trends and new products is what most people are there for.

One way of increasing engagement on Twitter is to encourage the audience to share their opinions, thoughts and views. Use Twitter polls and ask open-ended questions and ask questions of the audience that tap into the collective curiosity of those interested in the same space.

But don’t leave it there – share poll results or retweet the most interesting responses.

An example of a brand doing great work on Twitter Japan is Nestle’s Kit Kat Japan account. It builds on the brand’s popularity by keeping its followers updated with the latest news relating to Kit Kat and engaging users with polls about Kit Kat flavors, for example, asking followers what their favourite flavor is, their favourite memories of eating Kit Kat, and what new flavors they would like to be launched next.

Advice for Brands

For brands looking to utilise Twitter in Japan, one of the worst things to do is rely entirely on organic reach and empty hashtags that do nothing to help reach the target audience. It’s a painful fact that organic reach on Twitter has plummeted close to the depths of Facebook’s measly 6-10% over the past few years.

So going all-organic will involve a lot of trial and error to see what works and what doesn’t. Periodic measurement and optimization are essential to figure this out.

Because Twitter is all about gaining quick access and sharing information that’s relevant and useful, it is imperative for brands to evaluate their position and voice on Twitter and decide what specific service they are providing to their audience – and why their audience would want to share/talk about the brand and their content.

Not doing the requisite homework to understand the audience is another rookie error. Just because there are tons of Twitter users in Japan doesn’t mean they are all just sitting around waiting on a brand to post.

So while the potential to go big on Twitter is there in Japan, putting in the work to plan shareable content and understand your purpose on the platform is still essential to making the most of the platform for your brand.