Influencer marketing is essential for your business to expand into Japan. You can see how much influencer marketing is being used in these pages. However, if you’re familiar with marketing, it’s not hard to understand the importance of those. But even if you understand the importance, if you think of it in the same way you do in your own region, you’ll be setting yourself up for a big mistake. In the worst-case scenario, you could end up just losing money. To avoid this, you need to be aware of the differences between influencer marketing in Japan and other countries. Here are some of them that you must know, so if you’re a marketer looking into Japan, you should take a look at them.
The engagement rates of influencers in Japan is very low compared to those of other regions, but that does not indicate that they are less influential. If you look at the engagement rates of influencers in Japan, it’s mostly 1-2%. This number could even be considered as proof that they are fake influencers if they are in the US. But that’s a big mistake, and in fact, Japanese influencers have a lot of influential power over the Japanese people.
So you may be asking next, “What makes their engagement rates so low?” and the reason for this lies in the difference in attitudes towards social media between Japanese and people in other regions. Japanese people tend to be more reluctant than people from other countries to leave their mark on the public space of social media. Specifically, they are very cautious about liking and commenting on posts. In other words, even if an influencer has the same number of fans, there will be a difference in engagement rates between Japan and another country. If you don’t realize this and take these numbers at face value, you will be making a misguided analysis of Japanese influencers.
Influencers in Japan are quite expensive. It’s not uncommon to need ten times more than the amount of money you were expecting to spend. There are two reasons for this. The first reason is that the number of influencers in Japan is very limited compared to the demand. The second reason is that most influencers belong to talent agencies. Once you know these reasons, the price should make sense to you.
The first reason, the limited number of influencers to demand, is due to the high number of Japanese speakers and the low level of English literacy among them. There are over 100 million Japanese speakers in the world, and many companies are eager to expand into this large market and they will want to use influencers to promote their products. However, the Japanese can only be approached by influencers who speak Japanese. For example, if you ask anyone in Japan about pewdiepie, the world’s most subscribed YouTuber from Sweden, you’ll find that very few people are familiar with him. This is because they can’t speak any language other than Japanese. As such, it is difficult for non-Japanese influencers to influence in Japan, so the demand for them is very high and the amount of money needed to hire them goes up.
The second reason, that most influencers belong to agencies, is due to the weak marketing capabilities of Japanese companies. Japanese companies have long been reluctant to take care of marketing and often leave it to agencies. This culture has carried over into influencer marketing, where it has manifested itself in the form of cumbersome direct interaction with influencers. Thus, interacting with influencers through agencies has become commonplace. But it’s not all disadvantages. The advantage is that it makes managing influencers much easier. Being able to control the creators is a significant advantage in a world where many of them are unprofessional and don’t even meet deadlines sometimes. However, most agencies will just tell the influencers your instructions and control them, not tell you how to get it done in Japan. So you’ll need to look at your budget to figure out how much you can afford to pay for it. Or it would be better to work with an agency that can teach you how to promote your product in Japan.
Influencers in Japan have fewer followers than their English-speaking counterparts, but that doesn’t mean their influential power should be underestimated since Japanese influencers are more influential than English-speaking counterparts. This is because the number of Japanese speakers is much lower than that of English speakers. For example, a Japanese influencer who has 100K followers would influence 1% of the Japanese population. On the other hand, an English-speaking counterpart would only influence less than 0.1% of the English-speaking population. In this way, they have a specific influence on Japan and can be very effective in promoting your products to the Japanese.
There are YouTubers in Japan that are unique to the country like “Yukkuri” or “Vtuber” (Figure 2). “Yukkuri” is a type of YouTubers who uses characters from a game called “Toho” to read out sentences with a mechanical voice. “Vtuber” is a style of YouTuber who uses CG avatars instead of putting themselves on screen. In other words, they never show their faces. This is because of the Japanese reluctance to expose themselves on social media, which we talked about when explaining the low engagement rate of influencers in Japan, also manifested on the part of influencers. It sounds contradictory to say that influencers don’t want to expose themselves, but these styles were acceptable to the Japanese. Faceless influencers may be strange to you, but they are commonly used in promotions. It would be a shame to avoid using them just because you don’t know well, so keep in mind that there are these unique YouTubers in Japan.
When appointing Japanese influencers, you have to be aware that the procedure is strictly regulated and it takes a very long time. This is because most top influencers in Japan belong to talent agencies, and each agency has its process for accepting deals to avoid issues. Even if you try to get away with this, you will eventually have to rely on agencies, as almost all influencers above a certain size belong to them. As a result, influencer marketing in Japan takes a very long time. So, if you can contact them a month or more in advance of your planned campaign, it will make the process go very smoothly. For your reference, I’ve made a diagram of the procedure, so please have a look at it (Figure 3). You can see from this diagram how detailed the procedure is.
Differences in the Social Media Situation
There is a big difference between Japan and other countries in the use of social media. While Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram are very popular in Japan, other social media commonly used in the US such as Twitch and Snapchat are rarely used. I’ve included a survey we took of gamers on Twitter here. It shows how ridiculous it is to promote games on Twitch in Japan. Thus, understanding the Japanese social media situation is very important for influencer marketing using social media as a venue of activity.
There is no law directly regulating stealth marketing, but in many cases it actually violates some other laws and perceived negatively by consumers. Influencers are also reluctant to take on stealth marketing for fear that their image will be damaged. Even if the influencers allowed it, the agencies wouldn’t. Someone who doesn’t belong to an agency and isn’t afraid of damaging their image might do it, but such influencers usually don’t even have an image to protect, so it won’t produce much of an effect at the end. However, there may be little or no need for disclosure depending on how the promotion is done. The criteria for how to make the disclosure are listed in the guidelines in the table below (Figure 5). Many agencies follow the guidelines, so you should take a look at them. You need to follow these guidelines if you want to avoid a negative impact on consumers.
To succeed with influencer marketing in Japan, it is necessary to keep these unique Japanese characteristics in check. There are many more features than I’ve listed here, but I wrote about the bare essentials. It is not easy to get all those features, so it is better to look for a marketing partner that will support your business to enter into the Japanese market. We’re also a marketing partner as well as an influencer agency, so if you are interested in our services, please contact us and we will be more than happy to help you. Please check the next page for more information about us.