In Japan, there’s a very interesting phenomenon that happened contrary to any nation elsewhere: Facebook becoming a professional social media platform of choice. How did that happen?
Many of you may already know of the professional SNS platform, Linkedin, which was recently acquired by Microsoft. It is of no surprise, as it boasts a global user base of 690 million as of today. However, in Japan, only 2.4 million people, which is approximately 1.9% of its population, has an account on the platform. The active users are expected be far less.
Although it is growing slowly, the current platform that is used in place of it, is Facebook. Yes, you heard that right. It may be hard to imagine, but when you are in a business setting and a professional asks you to exchange contacts, 95% of it would be through this service (the rest being LINE).
There’s a few reasons for this:
- The number of users
- Other alternatives for ‘fun’ social media
- The factor of being able to stay “anonymous”
The Number of Users
Compared to Linkedin, the user base of Facebook amounts to a number much higher, being around 24.3 million people. This statistic is expected to continue increasing.
When dealing business in Japan, there’s a very high chance that you’ll be speaking with someone above 40, and these people are not too keen in exploring new SNS platforms. Hence, Facebook, which took off before Linkedin, was able to acquire these professionals, with them never having to look back. A series of “Oh, I don’t use Linkedin, but do you have Facebook?”, led to an exponential increase in Facebook, instead of Linkedin.
Other Alternatives for ‘Fun’ Social Media
For most of the nations around the world, it is likely that the main SNS platform used for entertainment purposes, is Facebook. It has been here a very long time since its release, and has successfully expanded to be popular in almost every place in the world, except Japan. Well, not literally, but in the context of entertainment, it hasn’t been able to catch the people’s attention. Instead, Twitter has become the main source of output for silly posts and humorous content for the Japanese. Yes, this alternative does exist for other nations too, but there’s a key factor that you should take into consideration, accessibility.
In Japan, only 70% of the people use smartphones, and the rest still uses older feature phones. Twitter is the only SNS that allows usage from those older models, where as Facebook, instagram and the likes made it impossible to do so. Not to mention, 40% of active Japanese users were above 40 years old, amplifying the necessity of keeping it accessible for past devices.
Feeling of Comfort Gained by “Anonymity”
In general, most of you would likely use your real names for your twitter accounts, or for any platforms that you use for entertainment purposes. This is not the common case for Japan, as many times, you’ll see people using nicknames for their accounts. The main cause of this, is the sense of comfort that they can say whatever they like, without having to be judged in their real life. It allows for a sense of freedom, hence why there seems to be a comparatively large number of cyberbullying happening in Japan.
However, for Facebook, it requires real names, and because of this fact alone, it loses its appeal as a fun SNS platform, and becomes something that the people have to be responsible for. Hence, naturally, it led to becoming a service where people are using it for business purposes. Recently, the old custom of trading 名刺 (mei-shi), or business cards, have slowly started to change to exchanging Facebook accounts instead, as it’s easier to manage the connections digitally.
For the reasons above, Japan has welcomed Facebook as being its main social media to manage business related connections, much like Linkedin. However, there is a great possibility that we may see a user base shift in the future, with the increase in foreign expats, new startups, change in generations, etc. It is definitely something to look forward to!