Japanese mobile marketing research company Livigen conducted a survey of 200 students about their usage of social network applications. When asked about which social network apps they use most frequently, 65% of respondents answered Line, 29% said Twitter, and 5% Facebook (see chart below). Back in August at its ‘Hello Friends in Tokyo’ conference, Line Corporation announced that among its 230 million registered users to date, 47 million come from Japan. That’s a pretty hefty figure considering that the country’s population is about 130 million.
When asked why they prefer Line, many students responded that most of their communication with friends happens there, phone calls are free, and its an easy way to get in touch with friends. Students who favor Twitter cited its ease of use, the ability to read tweets by celebrities, and the general wide variety of information, stories, and photos. Students who like Facebook say they like to find out what friends are up to, and they also like how it helps them keep in touch with friends overseas.
Looking at the social space outside of Japan, we have seen quite a few reports this year about ‘Facebook fatigue’. This may also be true for social networks in Japan, and not just for Facebook either. Livigen asked Line users if they feel and fatigue toward using the mobile chat service. 8.5% responded that they feel a strong sense of fatigue, while 16.5% answered that they felt somewhat tired of it. That’s a total of 25% showing some weariness. As for heavy users of Twitter, 15.5% responded that they feel some fatigue, while 7.5% said the same for Facebook.
Line and Twitter are both popular among young people, but for Facebook, kids tend to open an account as part of their job-hunting process. Although kids are connected with their friends on Twitter, its ‘at-your-own-pace’ characteristic allows for a more loose connection. In contrast, all notifications you get on Line (messages, stamps, invitation to Line game, etc.) are addressed to you specifically, and people often feel more pressure to respond.
Admittedly this survey used a very small sample, but Line is undoubtedly the dominant communication tool among kids in Japan. The closed nature of this social network provides comfort and security that many mainstream users want.
Closed can be good, but is it too closed? Figuring out the right distance to put between friends is mostly a responsibility left to the social network users. For now, Line appears to have hit the sweet spot for Japanese users, but it remains to be seen whether it stays that way.
How we socialize online is, of course, always changing.