Instagram in Japan – What Marketers Need to Know

APAC Instagram Feature Image

Social media continues to shape every aspect of human culture and commerce. Among today’s social platforms, the fastest-growing and most influential is Instagram, which is loved by individuals, businesses, and organizations across the world.

The marketing potential and branding power of this visual-based platform is undisputed and far-reaching. Long established in many western countries, the popularity of Instagram remains on a sharp upwards trajectory around the world. 

Asia represents the new front line for Instagram, with social media users in Japan, South Korea, and other locations engaging with Instagram like never before. The use of this platform is exploding at a particularly rapid rate in the lucrative Japanese market.

The unparalleled growth of Instagram represents an exciting opportunity for local and global brands that are ready to engage with Japanese consumers. Take a look at these numbers:

  • There are more than 33 million monthly active Instagram users in Japan. 
  • Since March 2016, Instagram has more than tripled its monthly user base. 
  • The popularity of Instagram has increased by 201% since 2017.

Social media trends in Japan

Japan is ideal for social media investment due to the large and highly mobile nature of the market. Global technology trends often originate in the Asian economies of Japan and South Korea. 

The combination of fast internet speeds, device access, and digital literacy creates an ideal environment for businesses to target and engage valuable youth consumer markets. There were 82.6 million social media users in Japan in 2019, and this figure is projected to increase to almost 89 million by 2025. Twitter is the most popular social media platform, followed by Instagram and Facebook.

People under 40 in Japan are highly active smartphone users, so mobile development is important for any business that wants to target this market. Traditional media is more expensive than comparable social media investments and less capable of reaching youth demographic markets. 

The discrepancy between broadcast TV and social media reach can be seen across Japan, including 40% to 27% exposure among males and 45% to 33% exposure among females. As the “youth platform,” Instagram vastly outweighs traditional media in terms of reach and influence.

The growth of Instagram in Japan

When it comes to social media uptake and influence, each platform provides its own challenges and opportunities. Twitter and Facebook are well established in Japan among all age groups, but Instagram enjoys much faster growth and a higher penetration rate among the young demographic. Instagram outpaced Facebook for the first time in 2018 in terms of overall user numbers in Japan. While Twitter continues to enjoy greater popularity than Instagram, its growth is much slower, and the platform is compromised in some ways as a marketing tool.

  • Almost 42% of social network users in Japan use Instagram at least once a month.
  • Instagram has recorded a 43% year-on-year increase in users.
  • Japanese users between 18 and 29 spend more than 100 million hours on Instagram each month.
  • Nearly half of all students and young professionals in Japan use Instagram every week.

APAC Japan SNS Usage by Population

Why is Instagram so important in Japan?

Instagram is a powerful social media tool with an important cultural and commercial influence on all aspects of Japanese society. Along with the raw popularity of Instagram, how people use the platform presents an exciting new way to engage with the market. The value of social media is highly dependent on the platform in question, with Instagram regularly used in Japan as a way to discover new products, services, and trends.

Not only does Instagram have a higher growth rate than other social media platforms, but users are also much more likely to engage with the platform on a regular basis. From the relevance and consistency of the messaging to the visual appeal of the delivery, Instagram is an effective way to drive commercial actions and influence long-term branding.

Instagram drives commercial action

When it’s used correctly, Instagram is a highly practical marketing weapon capable of driving specific commercial actions. Whether it’s clicking on a website link, starting a subscription, or making a purchase, Instagram drives action in a way that can’t be matched by other social media platforms. People engage with Instagram in a deeper and more consistent way than other platforms, visiting more often and integrating their feeds with other aspects of their daily life.

Japanese Instagram users check their feeds day and night, with 59% checking it when they’re relaxing at home, 31% while commuting, 16% while watching TV, and 16% while waiting for someone. These numbers are relevant for both men and women. 

Additionally, more than 1 in 3 people in Japan view Instagram right before bed, and 1 in 5 as soon as they wake up, which leads to greater intimacy and trust when it comes to making commercial decisions as reflected in the following:

  • 83% of users in Japan have taken action in response to Instagram content.
  • 61% of users feel that Instagram keeps them up to date on current trends.
  • 50% of users consider Instagram as a source of inspiration.
  • 25% of Instagram users in Japan purchased products they first saw on the platform.

Instagram influences long-term branding

Along with driving commercial actions, Instagram offers fantastic potential as a long-term branding tool. As a top-performing visual-based social media platform, Instagram is the preferred digital home for Japanese people who are highly active online. Whether it’s posting photos and videos or sharing stories and hashtags, the ability to combine media and create online communities within Instagram is second to none.

The huge potential of Instagram as a branding force in Japan was recognized in 2017 when “Insta-bae” was selected as one of Japan’s top buzzwords. This word literally means “to shine in Instagram,” referring to an image or post that is so brilliant that people have to pay attention. 

Whether it’s an enticing product, creative lighting choices, or an inspiring location, brands around the world have a unique opportunity to benefit from the growing popularity of Instagram as a branding weapon.

APAC Japan Instagram Insta Bae


How marketers can benefit from Instagram

If you want to identify trends and gain awareness, reach out and engage valuable new markets, especially the youth, and invest in a long-term branding strategy, Instagram is a powerful marketing tool in the highly competitive Japanese market. Much more than talking to friends or reading the news, people engage with Instagram daily in an active search for discovery and inspiration.

Branding is often described as a promise you make to the market. Instagram offers brands a unique opportunity to link tangible images and logos with emotional experiences and memories for the purposes of brand identity. Unlike traditional media and some other social platforms, Instagram is where people come to feel like themselves. When you reach out to people on their own terms in a place that feels like home, you have a real chance to create a lasting impression.

Embrace the power of Instagram

Are you ready to grow your audience? Do you want to benefit from the strongest social media platform in one of the world’s most lucrative markets? 

Contact us today for a no-obligation consultation on how to get started with digital marketing in Japan and other countries in the APAC region. 

About Principle

Principle helps businesses of all sizes make better decisions through data. For the better part of a decade, we have helped global brands and Fortune 500 companies turn data into intelligence and actionable insights they can use in digital marketing.

Our team of 100 employees includes experts across Analytics, Paid Marketing, SEO, and Data Visualization. We offer actionable and measurable data analytics strategies, SEO, and campaign management services that deliver the digital transformation your business needs to outperform the competition.

We recruit independent professionals who have their own personality, an established way of life, a unique skill, and can share our philosophy. With such colleagues, we believe that individuals and companies will grow together and achieve great quality and result in an unseen business world.

To learn more about digital marketing and advertising in Japan or elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, feel free to contact us at Principle.


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