Instagram is the fastest growing social media platform in the world. Businesses of all sizes are using Instagram, from small pop n moms shops, independent designers, to large and established companies listed on stock exchanges.
The power of Instagram lies in the unique content that brands produce and share with their audience forging long-lasting and strong relationships. On the other hand, consumers flock to Instagram as they recognize this effort as they are featured by the brands, as their voice and opinion is translated in the offering of the brands, being more and more personalized.
Brands who are committed to Instagram and made them achieve great business results understand that they need to win the hearts of their audience. Brands need to speak their language, connect on a personal level and praise their unique lifestyle and choice. This approach across the globe, including Japan, inspires consumer action and increasingly becomes a key business driver for continuous business growth.
In this blog post, I am going to share with you data that will answer your question “Why you should use Instagram”. I will describe in short how Japanese people use Instagram, share few personal stories and observations from my time living in Japan and finish with the top 10 Japanese domestic brands that are active on the Instagram platform.
The value for you after reading this blog post will be a better understanding of the opportunity that lies ahead for Japanese domestic brands, the current adoption/use of Instagram on the Japanese market and who are the leaders you should watch and learn from.
Table of contents:
If you are reading this blog post, I am guessing two things. You want to learn more about Instagram and you are thinking about implementing it more proactively i.e. making it one of the most important activities for your company.
Let’s first look at some statistics. After all, they will make the business case for the marketing department of your company. If the numbers say you should start using Instagram then it will be much easier to bring everyone on board and start working on implementing these activities.
Before presenting the numbers, the short answer is YES. You were supposed to start from yesterday. However no worries, there is no late start except that you have missed on some opportunities, you still have chances to make up and reach the level of the current top 10 Japanese brands currently on Instagram.
To genuinely connect with your audience and customers, brands have to have a presence on the social media platforms that have their audience in the first place. Instagram provides that opportunity and businesses increasingly become aware of the platform’s popularity and increased reach compared to other social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
So without further ado, here are the main stats that show how much popular Instagram has become and why businesses increasingly start using it to connect and engage with their audience.
Adding Instagram stories, the option to have shoppable photos, the voting and swipe feature have skyrocketed Instagram use across the globe. Even in my social media circle, I noticed the changed and how everyone shifted their attention to Instagram. All of sudden if it’s a photo, chances are that it will be first posted on Instagram.
Now if you are business, and you are always thinking, I should be there where my audience is, where my ideal customers are that’s great. Now that you know how much Instagram has risen and how fast, it will be easier for you to accept the fact that it will be for your own benefit to start being more active on Instagram and open a business account.
Another powerful indicator for you to act is the 500 million daily active users, reported by Tech Crunch back in June 2018. Finally this April, Instagram announced that its bringing shopping on Instagram in 44 countries including Japan.
Bonus tip: Create an Instagram Business account. Instagram analytics (via Business profiles) can provide you with data about impressions and reach per post, as well as follower demographics, which shows how your posts performed and what your audience is like.
If you use Instagram ads, you’ll also have access to data about how your ad performed. These Instagram stats are important to know so that you can create posts that your followers will like and respond to.
Instagram wrote a blog post, one year after introducing Instagram Stories where they shared some amazing data. This was last year, August 2017, although a bit not up to date, they told everyone that Businesses and Brands are part of the reason for increased usage among Instagram users.
We now know that, in one month, more than 50% of Brands on Instagram created and shared an Instagram Story. There are 2 additional interesting findings such as the fact that one-third of the most popular Instagram Stories are created by businesses. Finally, one in five organic stories from businesses gets a direct message.
This means even people who are not aware of your Brand can see your posts and Instagram Stories. This is a great opportunity to add more followers to your Brand and to connect with them on a daily basis.
For example, you can add hashtags or locations to your Instagram Stories i.e. you will need to learn everything about hashtags and how to use them to reach your goals. When an Instagram user is searching for businesses that might be using certain hashtags to associate their products and services, the Instagram Stories with the hashtag will appear at the top of the feed i.e. making you discoverable.
Bonus tip: There are many software tools available to businesses that help them find the right hashtag. Hashtags label your content, allowing it to become more easily discovered by an audience.
Instagram allowed the option to add a swipe up link to Instagram Stories last year. It was a powerful booster driving more traffic to businesses websites or blogs. If your Instagram Business Account is verified and has +10,000 followers you can include the outbound link by activating a “swipe up” option on Instagram Stories.
It is also popular as a business to tag other businesses or influencers in your Instagram Stories so you can applaud them with a big shout out. It’s an awesome way of nurturing relationships but also growing your following. For sure those Instagram accounts will probably return the love back and there you go, you just have increased your visibility and reach.
Bonus tip: You can promote exclusivity, by sharing sneak peeks into “what’s going on behind the scene” you can connect with your followers closer. Most of the people love to feel special so by doing this you elevate that feeling among your audience and at the same time you increase the value of the “thing” you are working on.
By showing people ‘what you’re working on’, and giving them ‘sneak peaks’ of what’s happening behind the scenes shots gives a sense of exclusivity. Everyone loves to feel like they’re special – and you’re also creating a bit of hype behind what you’re working on.
If you are starting with Instagram, there is a lot to be learned. Because of its popularity more and more businesses are trying to compete for the same audiences so working with influencers, Brands can achieve two things.
You can embed the Instagram Influencer tactics and strategy within your marketing strategies if you choose to work closely. In addition, you should expect to increase your reach and engagement which as a rule of thumb will lead to higher revenues. Businesses can send direct messages to influencers that they think are ideal for the niche market they are trying to reach.
Last September, Instagram announced that it reached another milestone, 2 million businesses are actively using ads on Instagram. As per Instagram statistics, time spent watching video on Instagram has increased by 80% YoY while the number of videos produced increased by 4x compared to the previous year. Instagram also emphasizes its new feature such as Instagram Stories. As per Instagram, businesses who use Instagram Stories and Live are finding more opportunities to connect with their audiences.
One of the many perks that come with an Instagram Business profile is the ability to include contact information that isn’t available for personal profiles. The information that you as a business can include is business phone number and address. In order for you to be able to go from an Instagram personal profile to an Instagram Business profile, you’ll need to have a Facebook page for your business.
Based on Instagram data, 80% of users say that they follow at least one Instagram business account, with 60% hearing about a product and service through the platform. As of March 2017, over 120 million Instagram users visited a website, got directions, called a business, emailed or direct messaged a business.
It is safe to say that most of your Instagram followers can be considered as leads as each of the activities taken by your Instagram followers represents some level of interest, how much, that depends on you.
According to Marketer, Instagram is the third social media network by users in Japan.
Facebook and Instagram have been battling for second place. We expect Instagram will surpass Facebook by the end of 2019, with nearly 42% of social network users in Japan using the platform at least once a month.
What is interesting about Instagram is that is the fastest growing social media network in Japan, with a 43% year-over-year increase of the users. This is the biggest user increase amongst the other networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
Continue reading below to learn more about the demographics and usage of Instagram in Japan.
To understand better what is the current usage of Instagram among different countries we decided to use a reliable source such as Statista. When looking at different sources of data, we had two criteria, it had to be reliable and it had to be recent for the data to make sense and to be useful for our readers.
Source: Statista, as of July 2018
As we can see from the graph above, Japan currently sits at the 7th place worldwide with 24 million active users on the Instagram platform. If we compare the relative usage, when we factor Japan’s total population of 127 million, we get 19%. If we do the same math but this time we take the UK with a population of around 60 million, we get 38%. This means that although Japan has around 1 million active users more on Instagram platform compared to the UK, it’s relative share compared to its total population is only 19%, half of UK’s 38%, signaling a huge untapped market and potential for Japanese domestic brands.
For understanding the major audiences and demographics that use Instagram, Nielsen has conducted a detailed report and their results are the following:
42% of the Instagram users in Japan are female and 58% are male.
In addition, the highest increase rate by gender age was 114% increase for female 50s, then 64% for male 40s, 55% increase for males under 29 years old.
There are relatively few studies available online that point to the shopping behavior of Japanese consumers that brands can leverage to inform their decision making. However, those that can be found are promising i.e. +25% of Instagram users, in Japan purchased products they first saw on the platform. The most recent one comes from Facebook IQ, published this May 2018. It starts with this bold statement:
It’s official: Instagram is part of Japanese daily life. With 1 in 5 Instagrammers checking their feed and stories the moment they wake up, the Japanese it appears are increasingly #instaready
Now let’s deep dive and extract the most valuable insights. For starters, let’s analyze the Instagram usage during the day. As per Facebook’s study, Japanese Instagrammers check their feeds when they have “down time”: when relaxing at home (59%), commuting (31%), watching TV (16%) and waiting for someone (16%), and this holds both for man and woman.
More than 1 in 3 people in Japan are on Instagram right before bed
Percentage of interviewed Japanese who check Instagram throughout the day
I know this is true, I lived in Japan for almost 3 years. I was doing research studies at Kobe University in Kobe and I was working in Osaka so I had to commute daily. All of my friends and colleagues from both University and work showed these patterns, I am referring to the ones that you can notice such as lunch, break time, dinner, commute, late night.
When we would go to the cafeteria for lunch at the University, everyone was checking Instagram and taking pictures. If I was in Osaka and going for lunch with my colleagues in some nice restaurant, again most of the people wanted to take a picture of the dish and share it on Instagram. And when I was commuting, taking the Hanshin or Hankyu line, people where on the phones and a large portion of them were checking Instagram. The best indicator for the popularity especially among young generation was when you meet someone for the first time. When asked which platform do you use and how would you like to connect, people preferred Line and Instagram and FB was rarely used.
The study shows that Instagram is a place for people who are very active online and is the preferred platform for posting photos, videos, stories, and hashtags. Back in 2000, Japan was the first country to add the ability to share photographs to the features of a mobile phone. The phone was produced by Sharp and released by J-Phone (now SoftBank Mobile).
The Japanese people even invented a word to describe the new economy, the one based on sharing the experience as noted by McKinsey. The modern Japanese expression of that idea is “insta-bae”, a word that combines “Instagram” with the Japanese verb haeru — “to shine”. In December last year, the word received the ultimate accolade when it won the Jiyu Kokuminsha publishing house “word of the year” award.
Yohei Harada, head of the Youth Research Centre of Japan’s Hakuhodo advertising agency, notes this with a beautiful example:
The experience economy, says Harada, is increasingly built around people going in search of experiences that are insta-bae. “Until now, it was understood that you chose somewhere you wanted to go and you would then take pictures. Now, in the experience economy, that is reversed: you go somewhere because there is a particular photo you want to take.
To capitalize on these new trends, more and more Japanese businesses are joining the rush with the SMBs leading the way. For example, when I first arrived in Japan, it was the city of Kobe, this was back in 2015. Naturally, I was used to looking at FB events to look for interesting things to see, do whenever my adventure spirit was calling me from the distance. Art first is was discovery intent, let me see what’s going on tonight, but honestly couldn’t feel any connection.
Contrast that experience with the hashtag #kobe and boom you get to see people and places instead of marketing copy and company language. By using the #kobe hashtag I was able to locate one of the best nightclubs in Japan, Troopcafe. If you are a fan of house music, it’s like finding the paradise. Each weekend they were hosting world famous DJ so it’s really true when they say about Kobe, its a modern city, famous for bringing Jazz in Japan, turns out it’s more than that.
As I was visiting the venue frequently, I got close with the staff and the management of the nightclub. Ebo who was the resident Dj and Sochi were amazing, prepping everyone with new beats, Shinji was one of the happiest people I ever met in my life and Telly the manager was talking with everyone and making us feel welcomed.
It was as real as their profile on Instagram so one night I asked Telly: Hey man, why do you use Instagram more compared to FB, what’s you comms strategy and how do people find out about this place? I was living in Kobe for a few months and didn’t know about it so I was wondering how they communicate with their audience.
“Instagram” he replied, is the most real platform, people feel like a community and its great for taking photos and sharing these glimpses of moments, it is as real as it gets. Plus he said people find us via hashtags and because hashtags are specific, they know what they are looking for so it’s difficult to make a miss. That’s how I found you, I replied, Case in point, you are right 100%.
The Facebook study follow this line as it concludes that Instagram is a place where people feel like they can be themselves. In addition to staying connected to friends or public figures, 61% believe the platform can connect them to people with similar interests while giving them a wider view of the world. They are coming back to Instagram every day because the communities they engage with there bring them joy and help improve their lives.
Top topics followed on Instagram in Japan:
Amongst the categories viewed, food-, travel- and animal-related posts saw the biggest gains of 8% compared to 2015, showing that people increasingly see Instagram as an integral part of their daily life and discovery. It’s no wonder, that photography and travel are among the top categories when you learn that Japanese people and tourists ditch their guides for Instagram when they look for the new dream destination or the next spot to capture beautiful photos.
Increasingly, Instagram is becoming the place where discovery ignites action, with 20% of interviewed Japanese searching on Instagram daily, and 42% of them taking an action afterward. When actively searching for information on the platform, 1 in 4 Instagrammers in Japan uses hashtags. Now that we know a bit the current state of Instagram usage and habits in Japan let’s look at their domestic brands.
Continue reading to learn about the top 10 brands in Japan that successfully use Instagram.
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