We’re excited to see what developments 2019 brings for marketing in Japan. Below are some interesting ideas and trends that could change the face of influencer marketing in Japan.
Virtual YouTubers (VTubers)
Virtual YouTubers, generated using voiceovers, motion capture and 3D, are now becoming popular in Japan. The reason for this growing demand in virtual YouTubers is their flexibility. They can talk about various topics without issue and even topics which general people find difficult to deal with.
Kizuna AI is the best known virtual YouTuber in Japan with 2.4 million subscribers. She’s popular not only in Japan, but also among people around the world.
AIが一言物申す！ - YouTube
Virtual characters can now operate across various media channels due to the development of lifelike CG technology. The Japanese Instagram influencer in the picture below is virtual model called “imma”. It’s very hard to distinguish whether she is the real or not judging only by her appearance.
A post shared by imma (@imma.gram) on Jan 10, 2019 at 1:21am PST
Live commerce, is a service that combines live video streaming with the ability to interact with sellers, this could be in the form of selling a product during the stream or receiving support from an online community. In China, live commerce is already widely accepted and it’s catching on in Japan. In Japan some users have already gained several hundred million yen revenue from live commerce.
メルカリチャンネル紹介動画【メルカリ公式】 - YouTube
One of the main benefits of live commerce is the real time communication, which is almost impossible to experience with regular e-commerce. Also it’s easy to analyse consumers sentiment because comments can see be seen and recorded on screen.
Live commerce in Japan is still a new type media, and we expect to see more growth in 2019, especially if more functions are added to the Live streaming in Instagram and Facebook.
Acceptance for varied ideas and personalities have improved over the last several years in Japan, and influencers have led the spread of this trend.
Naomi Watanabe is a comedian and is also known as the number one instagrammer in Japan, with 8.6 million followers. She has a unique view of the world which shines through on her Instagram. Her confident attitude encourages people to express and to recognise each others individuality.
A post shared by 渡辺直美 (@watanabenaomi703) on Aug 2, 2016 at 7:49pm PDT
GENKING is an another popular Instagrammer who has 955k followers. Originally, she worked as unisex model because her biological gender is male. However, she was reborn as a woman in 2017 and made it public. This act changed understanding of LGBTQ for many in Japan.
A post shared by GENKING (@_genking_) on Nov 30, 2018 at 7:10pm PST
Naomi Osaka, the professional tennis player is also a symbol of diversity. She has dual nationality in both Japan and America, but she’s officially registered as a player of Japan. She’s already won two grand slam titles and has been ranked Number 1, the first time for an asian player.
In addition to the above, many kinds of diverse creators can be found on YouTube which has a strong influence for the younger generation. We expect this trend to gain further momentum in 2019.
2018 was the first year of the “Esports era” in Japan. According to Gz Brain Inc. report, the Esports domestic market in 2018 reached 4.83 billion yen (approx. £33.8 million). This figure is thirteen times as much as in 2017 and will further expand in 2019. This is all due to higher tickets sales, sponsorships, broadcasting rights and other various other revenue drivers. In 2019, various kinds of esports competitions are planned to be held, mainly involving popular titles such as PUBG and Fortnite. Thanks to the Esports movement, games culture can be enjoyed by not only playing, but also by watching, in a similar way as other sports.
The “Street Fighter” series is one of the most popular games played as Esports in Japan. The legendary player for this game is Daigo Umehara. He’s won a tremendous number of titles and is a pioneer of creating the Esports trend.
Also, the genre called “Let’s play” is also very popular on Youtube, this is where a lot of people enjoy playing and sharing games with each other. Similarly, live streaming platforms, such as Twitch which is specialised in computer game live streaming, also contributes to the ecosystem. VR and AR technology will become more accessible for games in the near future. So let keep our eyes on Esports in 2019.
Influencer Marketing in Japan can be as much as 9 times more effective than traditional advertising. However often measuring success is more difficult than traditional marketing. Businesses are often spending large budgets on campaigns, so understanding a return on investment is good to know.
Here are 4 easy ways to track ROI for Influencer Marketing.
1. Trackable Links
On Instagram (which is Japan’s highest engagement platform) they now offer stories, which makes utilising trackable links easier than ever. It’s very important when working with influencers to use trackable links so you can measure traffic, engagement and conversions on your website. Make sure each influencer has an unique trackable link but all links should land on the same campaign landing page, in this way you’ll know which influencers to continue working with! It will help you become lean and allow you to build a team of all star influencers.
2. Set Your Engagement Goals – Measurable KPIs
Engagement is everything for Influencer Marketing. Do the Japanese audience you want to reach already know about your brand or is this going to be first time exposure? Always set engagement goals for your initiatives. When you are getting more awareness, loyalty and social actions, Engagement metrics (including views, clicks, likes, shares, mentions, reach) will help you work out your cost per engagement.
3. Referrals – The easiest thing to look it up
Social engagement is something that’s very easy to access. You can even do this by looking at your own social accounts and seeing any changes such as ‘follower numbers’. Also analyse to see if your website has any new traffic from a specific market, such as Japan. If you see any increase in sales or inquiries directly after influencer activations this can also be measured.
4. Coupon Codes – Not for everyone but it can work.
In some cases you can provide unique promotion codes to your influencers. This is a direct way to track sales conversions generated from your campaign effort. You will be able to see which influencer are able to drive most conversion. Some brands and influencers don’t want to have discount codes associated with their brand or profile, in that case, just simply stick to trackable links. However coupon codes can serves a pretty good purpose: conversion tracking and customer incentive.
ROI in Influencer Marketing is going to be a key trend for 2019. We want to see measurable results from the campaigns we run. We know that Western businesses prefer a quicker turnaround for return on investment (brands love to see measurable results!) much more than Japanese businesses — which tend to be a little more relaxed. Let’s make sure to equip ourselves with some of these methods for the coming year!
We mentioned a little bit about TikTok in a previous post. To recap, TikTok is a video sharing platform enjoyed by over 500 million monthly active users in over 150 countries since the launch in 2016 (WOW!). In Japan, some say that more than 70% of teens know or have used the app. It’s predominantly popular among young generations in most of the markets.
The app itself is a bit like Instagram’s Stories (or IGTV) and Facebook’s Lip Sync Live. TikTok allows users to upload appx 15 second long videos with songs, some stamps and other features. Videos are shared with hashtags and can be enjoyed by other users. It has functions such as follow other users, comment, like, all the usual stuff we’re used to doing on other platforms. The main difference is that users are presented with music choice first, sometimes with “challenges” and users can just follow what’s been presented to them on the app and film themselves “pretending to sing or dance” to it. This is the standard style of most videos on TikTok. Having a set way of creating content makes it easy to get started and users are not really required to be so creative. They can just go with the flow and end up with fun content every time. The “Challenge” section of the app offers fun ideas and this encourages users who don’t really know what to do to create good content (ie. You can’t be off trend if you just follow the challenges). The number of followers and likes are much more easily gained than, for example, on Twitter. This is due to the type of audience (young, less serious audience) the app attracts, and the fact this app gives a good satisfaction level in terms of getting feedback on your own content from others.
As for a business use case, Japanese drinks giant, Suntory, has created video content for a Social Media marketing campaign for their new product “Pepsi J-Cola” using TikTok. The campaign was called the Pepsi J-Cola “Pepsi Omatsuri Remix”:
ペプシ Jコーラ『ペプシお祭リミックス』 Part.3 KenKen Fischer's-フィッシャーズ- 上坂すみれ DJ RENA｜サントリー - YouTube
They created a Pepsi J-Cola’s original song and got celebrities to dance to it. Well it’s Suntory so they used some big names and perhaps some unexpected ones to give Japan’s favourite “surprise value”. They have done 12 videos in total and streamed in 3 phases from April into May 2018. The Pepsi Omatsuri Remix got picked up by the public and there were more than 20,000 users posting their versions of the campaign videos.
TikTok offers high potential for rapidly spreading viral videos thanks to its user base. The Japanese users are interested in uploading new videos that others will like and comment on. This would be a perfect platform if you’re looking to target younger generations, mainly teens.
Time flies so fast – we’re already entering into the final quarter of 2018! Now is a great time to review major social media platform trends in Japan including one of the biggest marketing trends, Influencer Marketing. Looking ahead will allow us to plan for 2019, so let’s look at progress and prediction by social media platform.
It’ll come as no surprise, but the number of Instagram users in Japan is continuously growing. Instagram is the platform that holds the highest engagement of all. Traditional adverts are not reaching so many millennial hearts anymore. Instagram is increasingly being used for Influencer Marketing in Japan, just like other markets because it can generate higher engagement rates than other platforms. Japanese Social media users love to interact online and are digitally savvy, so engagement is key to influence potential customers for your business. It’s not all about the numbers though, quality of engagement is becoming increasingly important as so many businesses are using the same platform to reach their audience. If you can’t afford premium influencers then micro influencers with a moderate amount of followers are also able generate high engagement and gain good quality conversation. It’s important to find appropriate influencers and to work closely with them to generate the highest quality conversation, this will help your brand stay in the minds of the audience.
Our Prediction for 2019:
Instagram Japan will continue to grow it’s user base and will again be the favourite choice for Influencer Marketing. Rather than focusing only on simple single sponsored posts featuring products, we will see more creative ‘continuity’ spread out among Instagram Stories, Instagram posts and connectivity with external pages via links (on Stories). Instagram used to be a difficult platform to use when it came to sharing branded content such as video. Instagram Stories helped to overcome this issue so we expect the platform to be used more regularly by brands and businesses.
In general, Japanese people tend to shy away from creating videos of themselves talking straight into the camera and uploading to Instagram Stories, even influencers!. Whilst the world outside of Japan will focus on video content for promotion, it will be interesting to see how global campaign localisations will be done in Japan. For brands and agencies, in our opinion, it’ll be crucial to have specialists who really understand the mind of Japanese people. It’s best to collaborate with Japanese influencers to create content that actually works within the market and audience, rather than just pushing content that already worked in other markets, but might not be effective in Japan.
Twitter is still one of the most popular social media platforms in Japan, a place where users can gather useful information in real-time. For brands and businesses, this platform will remain as a useful tool to spread the word, especially when there are links to videos or articles to share. In most cases, we use Twitter as supportive platform, almost as an add-on. However for some specific topics such as live gaming, Twitter can be used to connect brands and audience.
Will remain stable. Twitter has become an essential tool for rapid information distribution for Japanese users and is considered part of the infrastructure. It’s a great platform to spread the word. On the other hand, negative sentiment can also happen on this platform and people in Japan are quick to pick it up. So make sure to monitor conversation around your brand, so you can act fast if anyone is saying anything negative. The Japanese media is often quick to report on flare ups, so if you handle it in the right way, it could lead your brand winning more trust from the public even if at the beginning the experience wasn’t so positive.
3. Blogs: Micro blogging platforms such as Ameba, LINE Blog
WordPress is a globally used blog system, but in Japan, Ameblo and Livedoor Blog are known to be the popular blogging platforms. LINE launched a blog site in 2015, and it was originally available only for celebrities. Ameblo is also used significantly by celebrities as well, but many have been shifting from Ameblo to LINE Blog. In 2016, LINE Blog made it’s platform available for everyone to use. Even though the number of users are still much lower than Ameblo for example, we’ve been seeing an increase in the number of popular celebrities making the transition from Ameblo to LINE Blog. More traditional bloggers seem to stay on Ameblo and other platforms such as Livedoor Blog. Nearly all the major Japanese blogging platforms have limits on what type of embedding can occur on their sites. So be mindful when it comes to tracking your campaign.
Will remain stable. There is currently no real mega international brand competitors for blogging platforms. Perhaps in the future when a service becomes popular that allows users to get paid, then local Japanese platforms will reduce in popularity. We don’t really believe the older Japanese platforms will all of a sudden open up their systems to brands & businesses, allowing the adding of pixel tracking and other analytical tools — so it will remain difficult. It’s a good idea to consult with specialists to help come up with different KPI or ways to measure. Currently Japanese blogging platforms are getting left behind when compared to other platforms who can provide useful analytics. However they are still many influential and very good long tail KOLs on these platforms.
Domestic monthly active users: 28 million
Facebook has had a tough year with privacy issues. Facebook is used more by people aged over 30 in Japan, and in particular, by those who want to set up or expand their businesses to reach a wider network. The algorithm makes it very difficult to distribute sponsored content unless you’re working with influencers who have a very high engagement rate on every post.
Decline in use both privately and for promotion. Although the platform has many loyal users, Facebook has become quite a lonely place. There always seem to be more ghost users who don’t interact with the posts on Facebook but just browse to see who’s up to what. We’re all waiting for Facebook to change something so the content will reach more users or add some great features that Japanese users will find fun to use. To be honest, no one wants to use Stories on Facebook, they just want to use it on Instagram.
I know we are excited to see “LINE” here but we have to tell you LINE is more widely used as a messenger app just like Whatsapp! When you have so many apps that need social updates, its unsurprising that people in Japan aren’t really updating their LINE timelines. However we do see some efforts from brands in and outside of the country trying to reach users. Mainly LINE is useful for brands and businesses due to the fact that we can send each follower push notifications directly into the pockets of their target audience. It’s great if you can build a huge follower number, but it’s quite tricky as the LINE platform doesn’t assist for free. The Social Media part of the app, which is like Facebook’s timeline, isn’t so actively used and it’s hard to gather followers from inside of the app. Followers must be obtained from outside of the app using other platforms and basically giving audience some reason to follow. Typical bait for getting followers for LINE business account can be, vouchers, funny stamps, daily horoscopes, interesting information and others.
It will remain a popular app in the Japanese market, but it will not give your business the high engagement you might see on Instagram. Although the content you upload might gather some likes, Facebook might still give you more comments and better penetration into the conversation (if done right). Much like Facebook becoming a place for “brand chat” for businesses, LINE will remain popular for push notifications and 1 on 1 chat with brands. However content you upload onto LINE will probably be something similar to the Facebook timeline, which means it’s very difficult to get good engagement. Advertising opportunities are still there. If you’re based abroad, you will need an agency’s help with this.
People in Japan love YouTube and videos are great way of telling stories. There are a few characteristics of Japanese YouTube users worth noting.
1. Younger audience: YouTube Japan generally attracts a young audience in Japan.
2. Anonymity: Unlike other Social Media platforms popular in Japan, often users who comment have no content on their account, which gives a greater sense of anonymity. Once someone makes a negative comment, it can easily catch fire quite quickly so monitoring is important.
Although view counts and subscribers may be much lower compared to YouTube channels from English speaking countries, if you’re targeting a young Japanese audience, YouTube is great. Many channels in Japan though do tend to create walls between the creator and viewers just because it’s not as casual and spontaneous as other Social Media platforms. Often natural endorsement can be tough to achieve on YouTube Japan. Japanese YouTube management agencies often drive up the price and as a result if you want to work with individuals with a high amount of subscribers, prices are quite high.
If you’re running YouTube ads, do make sure the target is right as there’s nothing more annoying than having completely irrelevant content auto-played.
It will stay popular as a great long tail platform. Video content can be very informative and effective. However there are competitions popping up such as Instagram stories, Instagram TV and other streaming type apps.
Linkedin has seen some growth in Japan. The platform is mainly popular among users in their 20’s and 30’s followed by 40’s and 50’s. There seems to be more male users than female users, male users take up about 60-70% of 20’s, 40’s and 50’s. 30’s have 42% female 57% male split which is not too bad, but this illustrates the workplace environment in Japan!
We do want to see more growth for Linkedin to be honest as it’s a great platform. We’re seeing more and more BtoB content getting circulated in Japanese and it’s becoming a good BtoB platform to get some buzz going.
Rising star “SNS”
Also known as Douyin in China, TikTok is a Chinese music video Social Media app launched in late 2016. Users watch music videos and film themselves singing along to music. It’s one of the leading short video platforms in Asia and has 500 million monthly active users as of June 2018. The owners of TikTok also acquired Musicaly.ly, taking over the global audience and making it the world’s largest music video community.
The Karaoke loving nation, Japan, quickly discovered TikTok and teens are loving it. TikTok spread rapidly among the younger generation as they ran what Japanese audiences called “annoying ads” on YouTube which featured a series of users singing. They were so annoying that the audience loved talking about them, essentially helping them join the movement.
To utilise this platform we’d need to run a campaign collaborating with users with a high follower numbers who are also above the age of 18. The Younger generation responds well to trends, so it’ll be essential to come up with some creative ideas to get to these youngsters’ hearts.
Thanks for reading and remember If you need any help with your Japanese social media or influencer strategy, then please get in touch!
You might think #PR is only an English word, but in Japanese it very common and it’s pronounced ピーアール (piーaーru) and is understood by Japanese Social Media users as an indication of promotional activity. It’s often thought in other countries that the hashtag #PR gives negative sentiment to sponsored posts, making them seem “too sponsored” and therefore not authentic. Recently brands have used many creative ways to make sponsored posts seem less obvious, whilst making sure that they pass local red tape, so they don’t get into a trouble. However in Japan it’s different.
Today we’ll talk about what people really think of #PR in Japan, which of course applies to #Ad, #Partnershipwith and other Japanese counterparts.
Japanese influencer #PR activity in Japan
During a recent interview Buzzfeed Japan, the Japanese influencer Haachu mentioned that she gets frustrated when ad agencies and influencer agencies ask influencers not to use #PR (which is the most popular promotional hashtag in Japan rather than #ad). Also she mentions that some influencers just don’t care and don’t use #PR. This is not only about Japanese instagram users, but in general, users want to know whether trusted influencers are introducing something because it’s a job, or it’s because they just want to. Haachu also says in the article that she’s never felt like #PR affects the post performance, compared to non-sponsored ones.
We’ve seen some influencers who’ve had to close their comment section or delete some sponsored posts due to the negative responses in Japan. These included followers pointing out the lack of the #PR hashtag and posting similar products (all sponsored posts) within a short amount of time. Japanese people do not like lies, they love authentic and heartfelt content.
We don’t want anyone to get into a trouble so we usually use “#PR” which is most familiar to all parties including influencers, the Japanese local authorities and very importantly, general followers.
Japanese #PR activity compared to China
It’s interesting that when Japanese businesses run Influencer Marketing campaigns in China, they are often encouraged to run campaigns without the #PR hashtag. Chinese users on Weibo tend not to be big fans of seeing promotional content such as posts & videos with a PR notice. In general users in China are not as sensitive as the Japanese audience when it comes to caring and recognising which content is sponsored. Of course, it still doesn’t make it ok not to tell followers that it’s a PR post in China. Everyone should be treated fairly to ensure a long term business relationship.