Differences between University Students in Japan and the United States in the Use of Social Media

March 4, 2013

Among university students in the United States, there is a high level of interest in using photo-sharing services such as Pinterest and Instagram.

News2u Inc. conducted a study about the differences between university students in Japan and the United States in the use of social media.

1. What social media sites do you have accounts on? (multiple answers allowed)

In the rankings for the social media most used by university students in the United States, Facebook was an overwhelming favorite, as 94% of students have a Facebook account. Ranked second was YouTube at 74.66%, followed by Twitter and Google+.

The results were very different for university students in Japan, Twitter was the most widely used at 74.5%. Ranked second was the much talked about LINE with 68.11% of the students using it. Following these top two services were, in order, Facebook (65.5%), Nico Nico Douga (56.8%), and mixi (47.8%).
This seems to suggest that, in Japan, university students prefer to use Japanese social media sites, with LINE, Nico Nico Douga, and mixi ranking at the top.

2. Which social media do you use the most? (only one answer)

In Japan, Twitter is used by 40.2%, and in the United States, Facebook is used by 63.8% of students, making them the top social media choices in each respective country. It appears that the social media sites with the largest number of users (Facebook and Twitter) are the most widely used between the two countries.

3. Which social media do you use least frequently? (only one answer)

In the United States, Google+ was used least among 16.1% of the students. However, there does not appear to be a particular site that is used least of all among American students, as the responses to this question were somewhat evenly distributed.
While 34.6% of university students in Japan said that they used mixi least frequently, a very significant portion of the students (30.1%) said that there were no sites that they would say they used significantly less than the others. This suggests that the desire to use social media is still extremely high overall.

4. Which social media services would you like to use in the future? (multiple answers allowed)

At 39.40%, Facebook is the social media site that university students in Japan are most interested in using in the future. Together with Twitter, LINE, YouTube, and Nico Nico Douga, the desire to use these top five social media sites is around 30%, demonstrating a very high level of interest in the more established services.

On the other hand, university students in the United States are most interested in Pinterest and Instagram, demonstrating a high level of interest in new photo-sharing services. In addition, there was a major difference when compared to Japan in that LinkedIn, a site primarily designed for business users and which used to be low-ranking within recent usage trends, entered the list in fourth place.

5. Within social media, have you ever come across wrong information about a company? (yes, no)

In terms of university students coming across wrong information about a company over social media, nearly half of the students in the United States responded positively with a high figure of 46.23%, whereas in Japan, only 27.40% of students responded positively. As the use of social media increases, we can expect more cases of people coming across wrong information.

6. Have you ever re-tweeted or liked the wrong information over social media? (yes, no)

In terms of an actual user having posted wrong information at some point, 32.4% of university students in the United States answered positively, compared to 21.9% in Japan. Taking this information into account with the findings of Q5, we can see that more than half of the students who have come across wrong information are passing it on to other users. This indicates that in future, it will be necessary to be more careful with regard to the reliability of information that is transmitted via social media.

7. On Twitter, have you ever followed a fake account instead of someone's official account?

More than 70% of university students use Twitter in both Japan and the United States. Within those, the percentage of students who had at some point followed a company or brand thinking that they were following official accounts amounted to 20.2% in the United States, and 18.6% in Japan. This shows that even university students can end up following a fake account or the wrong account.

8. Having used a variety of social media tools, do you have a favorable impression of companies that send out information? (yes, no)

With regard to companies that send out information over social media, approximately 70% of university students in both Japan and the United States indicated having a favorable impression of them.

9. Do you think that the companies and brands that you are interested in are proactively using social media? (yes, no)

In terms of the companies and brands in which university students are interested and that use social media, a staggering 83.4% of students answered positively in the United States, compared to the slightly lower figure of 69.1% in Japan. As the number of social media users increases, we can expect Japanese companies to increase their usage too.

10. Do you feel you want to follow as many social media accounts as possible of brands that you are interested in? (yes, no)

In terms of university students who would like to gather as much information as possible from a variety of social media on companies and brands, the majority of students responded positively in Japan with 57.4%, whereas in the United States, this figure was only 27.3%.
As more and more new social media are created, companies will need to consider carefully which platforms they should use to distribute their information.

11. For the companies and brands that you are interested in, rather than just obtaining official information, would you like to also receive unofficial information as long as it is reliable? (yes, no)

In both the United States and Japan, more than 60% of university students indicated that, as long as they could benefit from it, they did not mind whether the information was official or unofficial. As a great amount and variety of information is disseminated over social media, companies will need to take into account the content of not only their official accounts. But also other individual accounts that can distribute company and brand information.

12. What are the reasons why you want to obtain more information about companies over social media? (multiple answers allowed)

Information that university students hope to obtain from companies over social media appears to revolve primarily around “product offers and free gifts" in both the United States and Japan (78.2% and 66.6% respectively). Other reasons for the students’ social media use included "to find out about new trends in the company or brand" and "for job searching." The interest of university students in company accounts is strongly linked to their hopes to receive some sort of benefit from them.

13. Do you think it would be useful if there was a service that would allow you to verify if an account is a company's official account? (yes, no)

80.65% of university students in the United States, and 78.00% in Japan, indicated that they thought it would be useful if there was a service that would allow them to verify if a company account was the official account or not.
Based on the fact that some students have come across wrong company information, as found in Q5, we can see a great interest from university students, in both Japan and the United States, to find out whether an account is an official account and whether the information is reliable.

14. Have you ever proactively searched for the official account of a company that you like or are interested in? (yes, no)

Approximately 50% of students in both Japan and the United States indicated that they have proactively searched for the official account of a company or brand in which they are interested in order to obtain reliable information.

Survey Summary

■U.S.A

Survey Length
- January 24th to 29th
Survey Target
- 367 University students in the United States
- Ratio of men to women is 1:1

Type of survey - Online

■Japan

Survey Length
- January 28th to 31st
Survey Target
- 310 University students in areas around Tokyo
- Ratio of men to women is 1:1

Type of survey - Online

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News2u Inc. was founded in February 2012 as a subsidiary of News2u Corporation.

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