The State of Social Media for Anime Fans in 2018
J-List has been around for 21 years as of last October, which is a ridiculously long time when measured in Internet years. Over that long period, there have been several changes in the ways we interface with our customers through social media.
Once I realized that the best thing J-List could do to bring Japan closer to fans around the world was by blogging about the country — this realization happened after I saw the infamous American Godzilla film, which was released in Japan on July 11, 1998 — the method of getting my words to where my customers could read them became important. For years we had a text-only mailing list, which eventually gave way to proper HTML formatted emails, and eventually the current mobile-friendly design. Eventually, the focus would shift to the social media-dominated world we currently live in.
The “big three” social media platforms are Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, though in the same way that anime isn’t just limited merely to the mecha, idol, and moe harem genres, there is a myriad of other choices for anime fans. Let’s walk through each platform, and I’ll give my impressions as the owner of J-List.
Facebook is like Microsoft products in the 90s: you have to deal with it if you’re in business, period. With the Cambridge Analytica data scraping issue still fresh as of this writing, it would be easy to trash the platform here, but the fact is that Facebook is enjoyable to use and offers a lot of value to its users in many ways, as long as they manage their privacy expectations reasonably. I can keep up with people I went to high school with and follow what far-off family members are doing, like my sister-in-law who raises pigs and sheep in Georgia.
But is it a good place for anime fans? Not so much.
There are two issues. First, there are the endless algorithm changes that seem to be designed to keep any useful content as far away from its intended audience as possible, to force Facebook pages to pay for eyeballs. J-List’s Facebook page has 1.7 million followers, yet our posts are only viewed by only 3-5% of people, unless we get really lucky with a viral post. Since we’re a shop, it’s not totally unreasonable for us to pay for advertising, but what about not-for-profit pages like our friends over at Anime Trending? The only way they can keep their readership from dropping is by hoping fans engage with every post they see, liking or commenting constantly. If fans don’t engage every day, they stop seeing the posts, which has to be very stressful for the staff of that page.
The other issue is that, as Facebook tries to “do the right thing” going forward, it’s becoming increasingly hostile towards any community that likes slightly sexual imagery, like almost every anime fan I know. Admins of the J-List Facebook page have received 30-day bans for extremely harmless posts, from off-color anime screencaps to a gif of an amorous deer, as if these were the same as hardcore pornography. I believe communities will self-regulate, deciding whether panty shots or off-color anime memes are appropriate for that group of people, but increasingly we’re forced to self-censor our posts, which isn’t fun for us or for our users.
There are also other frustrations like automated copyright takedowns for memes, and Facebook’s policy of accepting any claim from anyone as accurate, like the time we got in trouble for sharing anime videos by a licensor who owned the rights…but only for Australia.
If you’re on Facebook, find our Facebook page here.
J-List Cool Rating: C+
We got serious about our Instagram account only fairly recently, in 2015 or so. It was good that we got in when we did, because the algorithmic changes that made Facebook a lot less desirable for interacting with fans also hit Instagram, and our likes are essentially frozen at 148,000. Instagram has the same issues with forced censorship of posts that Facebook has, and images that are in any way suggestive can be removed. In protest, we replace any sexy anime girl with pictures of vanilla ice cream and recommended that our readers get Twitter accounts if they want to follow us without a lot of silly censorship bullshit.
That said, I do still enjoy using Instagram. It’s a nice way to interface with a certain kind of casual fan. Because there’s no way to save the pictures you see, it becomes a stress-free experience, since you’re just enjoying the pictures others have posted, rather than trying to save them to your meme folder.
J-List Coolness Rating: B