Synthesio’s Social Media Usage Series Part 4 (See parts 1, 2, and 3) The Tokyo 2020 Olympics may seem far away, but it’s right around the corner. The event makes the world stop and watch, and its international stage captures the eyes and attention of millions worldwide. To give you an idea of the scope, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) stated that 3.6 billion people watched at least one minute of the 2016 Rio Olympics. That’s about half of the worldwide population of 7 billion people! On top of that, the Olympics is expected to bring 10 million more visitors to Japan next year. Companies, especially sports companies, need to take advantage of the enormous reach of the Olympic stage and boost brand visibility into the country. But marketers need to master one thing: social media usage trends in Japan.

The Where of Social Media Usage Trends in Japan

To understand Japanese consumers, companies need to understand social media usage trends among the nation. Among the 9,000 participants surveyed in 10 countries, respondents in Japan reported the lowest frequent usage of social media. See the social media usage trends of the following platforms for yourself.


In Japan, Twitter is the most popular platform, followed by Facebook and Instagram at a close second and third, respectively. Platforms like WhatsApp, LinkedIn, and Snapchat, on the other hand, are not widely used. These basic statistics tell us that marketing efforts should be concentrated on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and not on WhatsApp, LinkedIn, and Snapchat.

Social Media Usage Trends on Twitter

Twitter’s reach in Japan is astounding. In 2018, 64% of the population in Japan logged on to Twitter. Of the 10 surveyed countries in our report, social media users in Japan have the second-highest rate of frequent use of Twitter (behind Mexico). Our report found that 28% of respondents post at least once a month on Twitter. 

Much like the rest of the world, Twitter is often the first place that people in Japan head to for breaking news. The platform is also popular due to its anonymity and ability to choose a screen name. (Instagram, LINE, and Facebook all have a personal touch, where users generally post about their real lives.) Users feel comfortable expressing their honest opinions without fear of judgment.

Brands need to take advantage of Twitter’s surging popularity in Japan to round out the consumer profile of their target audience. It provides a wealth of information for companies who want to analyze the opinions and thoughts of the general public. Twitter users offer honest, real-time feedback, which can alert brands about what products or features are working well, and which ones aren’t. Positive, adverse, or lackluster reaction to a specific campaign is also telling of what resonates with audiences and what isn’t. Furthermore, Twitter also allows you to track and analyze the performance of your competitors closely.

In short, the insights and benefits are all there. Brands just need a way to take a step back and analyze the opinions of the Japanese public. This is where social media intelligence platforms step in to give companies the ability to understand the constantly-changing picture at a glance.

Social Media Usage Trends on Instagram

We know that Instagram is highly popular for social media users in Japan, but we’re more curious about how it helps businesses. Ipsos, our parent company, looked at the impact of Instagram on Small and Medium-Sized Businesses (SMBs). The survey examined the attitudes of over 3,000 Instagram users and 500 Instagram Business users.

In Japan, SMBs see Instagram as an invaluable tool for building relationships with customers. Here are some of the key insights from the report at a glance.


The younger generation in Japan embraces Instagram as a place where brands gain exposure and build relationships. Notice how over half of entrepreneurs under the age of 35 agree that their business is stronger because of Instagram, compared to only 36% of respondents over the age of 35. If existing companies have already seen such a high return on investment from Instagram, new entries into the market should be quick to follow in these footsteps. 

Keep in mind that Instagram is a largely visual medium. Industries with a visually attractive product may find the platform more accessible. Brands with products that do not fall into this category, however, must craft a visual story that resonates with Instagram users.

For example, this short ad for NTT DoCoMo, a telecommunications company, used fun puppets to express amazement at the company’s new mobile payment feature. Short, intriguing, and fun videos capture the attention of audiences on Instagram. This process begins with understanding the values and interests of your target audience. Know what will make them stop and watch.

What about LINE?

We’re taking a brief moment to address LINE. Companies operating in APAC are most likely familiar with this popular app. In the first quarter of 2019, LINE had over 80 million monthly active users in Japan, which is nearly twice as much as Twitter (at 45 million users). Mostly dominant in the markets of Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, and Indonesia, the free app provides users with messaging, news and current events, mobile pay, games, and even ride-hailing capabilities. Another popular feature is the “sticker” packages that users can purchase in the app.


The all-in-one nature of the app appeals to almost all age groups in Japan, not just young adults. According to LINE, 22% of users are in their 40s. That’s equivalent to nearly 75% of the population of 40-something-year-olds in Japan! It doesn’t stop there. Over half of the people in Japan in their 60s are on LINE. On the other end of the spectrum, almost 85% of the teenage population in Japan use LINE.

The majority of almost every age group uses the app or, at least, has exposure to it. LINE’s immense reach across multiple generations solves the problem that many countries face, namely the fact that companies often ineffectively reach older populations.

Establishing a presence on LINE for communication

However, before you jump on the bandwagon, companies need to understand how people in Japan use LINE. The main feature of LINE is the messaging feature, where users message friends individually or in group chats. That means that its primary function actually does not incorporate the “sharing” aspect that we associate with social media.

At the end of the day, the way that an app is used in a country should dictate how companies should approach the platform. So, we think that LINE is an excellent tool for companies to use as a communication and PR tool. When a user follows a company page, they opt in to messages from the company. The messaging aspect presents companies with a valuable opportunity to humanize brands and build personal relationships with users. Think of it as a personal chatroom between the user and the company account, where announcements (i.e. a new launch) can be posted. When it comes to the content being shared in the app, strong and memorable content is necessary, as frequent or unhelpful content can be easily seen as spam.

Low Social Media Posting Rates Call For Market Research

Now that we know where social media users in Japan like to go and where businesses are having the most success, we still need to look at how usage varies. Our survey found that while LINE, Twitter, and Instagram boast many users in Japan, many of them may not actively post.

In our survey, 60% of respondents report never posting on social media.


This leaves us with a perplexing conundrum: you know what platforms your audience uses, but, because of low posting rates, you don’t know much about them. Without first understanding your audience, it’s nearly impossible to craft an impactful ad or a marketing strategy. In situations where social media data on consumers is limited, market research is necessary to gain a thorough understanding of your target audience. Survey data and robust analytical tools can accurately pinpoint consumer values, preferences, and needs in the market. And, even in cases where social data is available, market research is a necessary part of knowing what will stick with your target audience, and what won’t. Make the most of your marketing budget. Start by understanding the social media usage trends of the audience you’re reaching.