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Twitter on a roll, Facebook not so hot in Japan

Both Twitter and Facebook have seen a lot of coverage in Japan so I thought I would share some of the things that I've learned about these two services and how they are doing.

Twitter in Japan
Twitter seems to be all over the place in Japan. Just recently, Fuji Television made "Twitter" the center piece of one of it's newest TV series called, "Sunao ni narenakute". The TV series is about a group of 5 young adults getting know each other through Twitter. I've also seen reality TV shows and many news stations run features on Twitter like the one below.

You also see that instead of traditional ads that call for visiting a website, you're now seeing commercials that call for follows on twitter like the video embedded below.

Just a year or two ago in Japan, I think people outside the tech sector had never heard of Twitter. Now it's a commonly recognized service and everyone from the Prime Minister of Japan to local shrines and temples have entered the twitter scene.

So how successful is Twitter?

According to a recent study by Nielson Online, there are 7.5 million twitter users in Japan. This is a huge accomplishment considering that Mixi, the largest social network in Japan has a user base of 10 million. According to the same study, a larger percentage of the population uses twitter than in the United States. In Japan twitter is used by 12% of online users where as in the United States it is at 10%.

Considering this, I think Twitter and it's market entry consultant, Digital Garage have done well.

Facebook in Japan
In comparison, Facebook's market entry and adoption rate in Japan hasn't been so hot. Yahoo news recently ran an article stating that Facebook adoption rates have been slow, with Japanese users totaling less than a million.

The primary reason for the slow adoption is attributed to the fact that the Japan market is not used to using real names. Mixi, the dominant SNS in Japan does not enforce real names and in fact, the majority of my personal friends on Mixi use nicknames. Another reason is the lack of support on Japanese cell phones, and although Facebook is supported on smart phones like the iPhone, they still have a long way to go in the Japanese mobile space.

The article gave hope for Facebook stating that Twitter was last year's thing and perhaps Facebook has a chance of being this year's web sensation.

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Comment by Makoto Ishida on May 21, 2010 at 1:10pm
Thanks for the good article. Some of my friends in Japan have started using Twitter this year, but not Facebook. Certainly Facebook has a long way to go, given that there already are lots of similar services in Japan. Plus, most people use only their cell phone, not smartphone.
Comment by Scott Murphy on May 21, 2010 at 12:02pm
Update to my blog post. The current Mixi user count is 28 million users according to this site that tracks the number of unique IDs issues by mixi.
Comment by Scott Murphy on May 16, 2010 at 8:01am
@Cameron LinkedIn has their jp version but I haven't seen it catch on. Yahoo tried to release an equivalent but that also failed.

Japanese are not so keen on releasing information to the public and rather keep most things private. If a business networking site is going to succeed on a large scale, they are going to have to figure out a way to deal with the Japanese uncertainty avoidance factor.
Comment by Cameron Souza on May 16, 2010 at 1:44am
How about LinkedIn? Is it popular in Japan (it seems not)? If not, is there a Japanese equivalent?
Comment by Daniel Leuck on May 4, 2010 at 11:44am
@brian Ah - yes. I think you are in good company. The new Facebook widgets can be very useful, but they should make any changes in visibility (i.e. friends vs. public) opt-in.
Comment by Daniel Leuck on May 4, 2010 at 6:45am
@scott Nice writeup. Its certainly been interesting watching Twitter's meteoric rise in Japan. I think they benefited from the lack of a mature local microblogging platform. Facebook will have to displace Mixi, which will be much harder. Amusing side note - my first job in Japan was for Digital Garage.

@brian re: Facebook, are you referring to data they use for the purpose of targeting ads, or something else?
Comment by Jake G. on May 3, 2010 at 9:33pm
Good article!
As a regular Mixi user, I agree that facebook will have a hard time getting Japanese people make their real name visible. 100% of all my friends (My Miku) utilize nicknames and most of them do not open their Mixi profile up to the public only friends that they add. Unlike Facebook, they also have the ability to set a password on their photo albums. In my experience Japanese are still shy to open themselves up to the world, unlike Western cultures. Probably a good idea with the amount of identity theft going on right now. Facebook users in Japan tend to be those looking to make friends with Foriegners or have visited or went on an exchange program in the past. (Just my observation)

I am surprised to see the statistics on twitter usage in Japan. None of my friends in Japan use twitter that I know of so I wonder what demographic of people are using Twitter the most?

This would be interesting to go further into I think.


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