Again? Really?! More media misinformation on Facebook in Japan


Here we go again. Yet another report (mis-)using SocialBakers stats to create the unfounded narrative that Facebook has serious troubles in Japan 1. Taylor Beck over on Fast Company’s Co.Labs blog writes “Why the Japanese Love Twitter But Not Facebook“:

Facebook […] is proud of the 21 million users it claims in Japan. Despite alarming reports in June–derived from Facebook’s own self-service ad tool–that Facebook in Japan had declined by 19.5 percent in half a year, Facebook Japan’s new director told the daily Nikkei on August 14 that its numbers are fine: 86% of the 21 million Japanese are using the mobile service (versus the global average 71%), and 72% of mobile Facebook users in Japan use it daily, much higher than the global average, 57%.

The “alarming reports” he mentions are based on SocialBakers figures (in turn, based on Facebook’s ad tool, as he says).

Taylor goes on to cite another source for good measure:

No independent data are available for Facebook’s latest performance in Japan, but The Guardian, among other media, have reported recent declines in Japan and other markets, especially on Facebook’s desktop use.

But it turns out this new source is the same as the first. Here’s an excerpt from that article from The Guardian:

In the last month, the world’s largest social network has lost 6m US visitors, a 4% fall, according to analysis firm SocialBakers. […] Users are also switching off in Canada, Spain, France, Germany and Japan, where Facebook has some of its biggest followings. A spokeswoman for Facebook declined to comment. (bold is mine)

Nevermind that SocialBakers actually criticized The Guardian (twice) on its own blog saying that the figures are estimates intended for marketers, not journalists:

The numbers are from Facebook’s ad interface, and Facebook unlike other companies, updates this data on a pretty regular basis. No other company does that – they give you rough estimations on an irregular basis, which is not enough in todays moving social marketing world.

SocialBakers used to have charts for country user numbers (Japan’s charts used to be here), but they have now been removed because of stuff like this. The Next Web has more on the matter.

So I hope that puts it to rest. If you build alarmist Japan-hates-Facebook narratives with this particular building block as your cornerstone, you’re going to have a bad time 2.

Facebook does indeed have challenges ahead in Japan, with the meteoric growth of Line – and on this front the article had lots of good points. But overall, I don’t see any evidence of Facebook having significantly more issues than Twitter, as the link-baity headline suggests.

  1. Just to be clear, I really hesitate to do these little ‘media police’ posts. But on this site we work pretty hard to try to make sure that people understand what’s happening on the Japanese net. And while we’d like to stay positive, sometimes addressing stuff like this is necessary. Tedious, but necessary.

  2. Regarding Taylor’s peripheral assertion halfway through his piece that Twitter has caught on in China, he regrettably cites a Forbes article that is based on a very questionable Global Web Index report. I’ve already addressed that whole mess here.