Japan Lags World in Social-Media Adoption

Just 58% of Japanese Internet Users Are on Social Media, According to ComScore

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The Japanese have gained a reputation as rapacious consumers of anything new that technology has to offer. But that doesn't include social media, according to a new study from ComScore.

Just 58% of Japanese internet users use social media, which is especially striking since 41 out of the 43 markets ComScore studied had social-media penetration of 85% or higher. (The only other outlier with 53% was China, which blocks access to Facebook, though local social networks RenRen and Sina Weibo are popular.)

social networking abroad

A recent Forrester report on global social-media adoption paints a similar picture, stating that just 28% of Japanese internet users visit social-media sites on a monthly basis, which is one-third the rate of metropolitan China, including Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing, where penetration is extremely high. "Only 13% of online Japanese adults visit Facebook on a monthly basis, while social-media sites such as Mixi or Twitter fit Japanese internet users' preference for anonymity and have been more successful in attracting them," according to the report.

Based on a new survey by DDB and OpinionWay, this white paper looks at the changing attitudes and habits of Facebook fans in six countries: United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Turkey and Malaysia. Attitudes toward privacy concerns as well as features such as games, Facebook Places, messaging and shopping are also explored.

Though more deeply ingrained cultural anxieties about privacy have certainly curbed social-media adoption in Japan, these latest usage numbers obscure a more nuanced picture, according to Rei Inamoto, chief creative officer at AKQA, who pointed to the fact that Japanese is the second-most-used language on Twitter as evidence of extremely high social-media engagement in the country.

"On Facebook, when I post for a Western audience, I get 10 likes; when I post or say something in Japanese, I get 30 likes or 40 likes," said Mr. Inamoto, who pointed to a deal Facebook inked with the holding company Dentsu last February as a significant move as the social network looks to expand its footprint in Japan. Under the agreement, Dentsu became Facebook's official ad-sales representative in the market and would consult on fan-page development and marketing strategies with advertisers.

Gary Klugman, strategic-planning director at TBWA Hakuhodo, noted that the data on social-media adoption also doesn't account for the fact that Japan is a mobile country and that millions are accessing social-networking and social-gaming sites such as Mobage, Gree and Mixi primarily through their phones. Mixi has roughly 23 million users, but just 13.4 million monthly unique visitors were accounted for by ComScore, which only tracked computer-based web usage.

"With Japan's near-universal internet-penetration rates, rapidly aging population and relatively late adoption of Facebook and Twitter, a little lag in total social-media participation is to be expected," said Mr. Klugman in an email.

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