Social media snapshot: China vs Japan

How do these digital powerhouses approach social media?

Published by 

Alexis Pratsides


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In our last social media management London team blog post, we touched on 6 countries which have banned or restricted social media. This piece will also cover international social media marketing with a few key insights into the Asia Pacific region.

Navigating the social media landscape in a foreign country is a resource-heavy commitment. Whether you have in-house employees or hire an agency all companies are susceptible to mistranslating language or crafting some cringe-worthy cultural blunders. But with a few key moves companies can access audiences in every corner of the world.

Rising memberships prove that social media is a powerful global phenomenon. Despite many social media platforms sharing similar features, there are a few distinct differences in the way that cultures adopt them. The following article will give you a snapshot of Asia Pacific’s key social media platforms and how individuals use them.

Chinese social media culture

China has one of the most complex and advanced social media ecosystems. This is partly due to the government regulated, corporate ownership of the top 10 major platforms. With major owners Baidu, Sina, Tencent and Alibaba accounting for over 2 billion users throughout China.

An absence of universal search engines means that Chinese netizens are reliant on social channels for informative news, content, entertainment, and shopping. Social platforms exploit this dependence and tactically merge the gap between social media and e-commerce.

Take WeChat for example, the instant messaging app has a business-focused messaging app like slack, news updates, video calling and file sharing. But that just sounds like Facebook? Well… WeChat users also pay for utility and transport bills, split dinner with friends, order taxis and food, search and pay for holidays and even share their unique WeChat QR code instead of handing out business cards.

With apps like WeChat, Weibo and Tencent QQ pushing China towards a cashless society there is a massive opportunity for entrepreneurs and digital marketers to utilise big data on consumer behaviour.

Another notable social media phenomenon in China is that of Wang Hong, or internet celebrities. Wang Hong monetises their social media following through endorsing products.

What sets these online celebrities apart from Western counterparts is that they outperform actors. Take Zhang Dayi, Chinas premier Wang Hong, she reportedly earned £35 in 2015, more than twice as much as top Chinese actress Fan Bingbing.

Many of the audiences are drawn to the approachability of the audiences with Wang Hong frequently engaging in live streamed Q&S.

In 2016 Maybelline sold 10,000 units in China thanks to a live broadcast on the video sharing app Meipai. The cosmetics giant enlisted Angela baby — one of China’s foremost media personalities — to host the event. Maybelline also offered VR experiences within the event that could be shared via a special HTML5 page on their WeChat account.

Taobao Weitao has incorporated a Pinterest style board to share your favourite products with friends. What sets Taobao Weitao apart from Pinterest is simple one-click purchases. These examples only brush the surface of the e-commerce in China.

Japan social media culture

The Japanese were an early adopter of cell phones, even surfing the web in the late 90’s. With long commute times and grossly overcrowded public transport, the Japanese have amongst the highest daily use of cell phones worldwide, some statistics show that a staggering 90% of Japans entire population is online in one way or another.

The Japanese also use social media differently compared to western counterparts.Take Line, with 50 million monthly active users (40% of Japans population). Created after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake for friends and families to communicate line now has a focus on paid games and selling emoji-like stickers, which display a range of emotions.

The Japanese’s have a strong connection with Twitter, often creating a storm of posts during significant events. One example of this is when Japan played Cameroon in the 2010 world cup when the Japanese team scored a goal there were a record 2,940 tweets per second.

Another example is from anime director Hayao Miyazaki’s movie Castle in the Sky Laputa.” There is a famous scene in the movie which implores the Japanese to tweet “Barasu”, in one 2013 screening there were over 143,199 “Barasu!” tweets per second.

It also worth noting that Twitter lets users have fake names and avatars, anonymity is important to the Japanese as it gives them freedom to express emotions. This makes Twitter a lot more favourable for many Japanese users as Facebook does not afford them the same luxury.

But that doesn’t mean that Facebook has been entirely shunned. The authenticity associated with Facebook accounts has turned into an excellent place for job hunting and networking.

Linkedin has been slow to catch on in Japan this is a cultural difference, whereby the Japanese would not want to boast about individual accomplishments.

Instagram’s user base doubled between 2014 and 2015 and continues to rise at a steady rate. Japanese users have been slow to adopt hashtags which presents an issue for businesses trying to tap into targeted segments, they instead must rely on brand endorsers or established groups to access their audience.


Make sure your keep your eyes peeled to emerging social media trends and campaigns so you’re the one who rides the wave.

MintTwist offers a range of social advertising services to ensure your campaigns are optimised in the UK and abroad.

Created by

Alexis Pratsides

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