Japan’s Twitter is different


Translator: Taichi Imanishi
Editor: Bjol R. Frenkenberger

Twitter is a must-have for every trendy Japanese person. The social
messaging service attracts many users for all sorts of purposes: friends
use it to share their every day, to communicate with each other, and
businesses employ it as an advertising tool.

However, from a financial markets perspective, Twitter seems to be in a
slump. This article aims to shed light on how different Twitter appears
when comparing Japanese usage numbers and stock market capitalization.

Twitter for Sale

At the beginning of autumn 2016, Disney was rumoured to buy Twitter.
Google and Salesforce had also been named as possible buyers.
These rumours led to a significant rise in share prices. Twitter’s market
cap increased from 13 billion to 20 billion US$.

In the end, Twitter remained unsold. When this became apparent, the
company’s shares lost almost 20% of their value in a week. This signifies
a decrease in 2 billion US$ in terms of market cap. This was just the latest
episode of a generally bearish stock price development. The Twitter
share price declined by more than two-thirds since its high in January 2014.

Twitter’s Japanese Galapagos Syndrome

While the financial world is losing interest in Twitter, Japanese usage is
on the rise.

The graph below visualises three years of MAU and app possession numbers from 2013 to 2016:



  • Data Source: App Ape Analytics (based on 30,000 android devices/Active numbers were estimated by App Ape).
    MAU (Monthly Active Users: number of users who have opened the app at least once/month).
    Possession number: The number of users who have the app installed at a specific moment in time. This is
    different from the installs number as the installs number indicates the total installs since the app launch.

There is little change until 2015. However, Twitter is definitely
growing impressively from the second half of 2015 onwards.

Twitter stands strong in Japan and its user base is increasing. This is in
contrast to its weaker evaluation on the global financial markets.

Japanese and Twitter

Why might this be the case?

Language seems to be a possible reason. Twitter’s word restriction is 140
characters per post but rather than hindering communication the restriction
appears to encourage users to communicate effectively in Japanese.

In comparison to English, Japanese allows for highly economic sentences
in terms of character count.

Let’s have a look at a tweet by Hitoshi Matsumoto, a famous Japanese


“An arrogant man and an annoying woman. When I imagine what they looked
like when they were little… for some reason it makes me chuckle. Maybe they aren’t that bad after all.”

There are 142 characters in the English translation compared to only 58 in
Japanese. This discrepancy allows for more content when communicating in
Japanese. The use of Chinese signs (Kanji) which can often indicate a
complete noun while only counting as one character makes this possible.
English users would have to use more space to express the same.

Summary – And now?

Even though Twitter‘s market cap is decreasing, the Japanese user
numbers imply a positive trend. Besides language, further reasons for this
geographically limited success may be located in Japanese culture.
Twitter should examine its Japanese success, understand its own
appeal and use this knowledge to become more successful in other markets.

For this article, we used App Ape Analytics.