Building communities in Asia without Facebook?

So a bit of background: We have a team in Japan, and I am having discussions with our country manager about community there as we look to grow and be intentional there in Japan and the APAC region. In recent discussions about our direction for platform, I mentioned that I was going to be using the Discourse Translator plugin to get our existing content translated for use in Japan and that I would want to move away from Facebook Groups (where current activity for community building in Japan is being housed) to our Discourse site.

He feels very strongly that the only way to build community in Japan/Asia is to do so via Facebook Groups, and cites companies like AWS who do so and how “successful” they are. I asked him to define “build community” and he responded with this:

people are able to connect with each other and when they’re talking with them about a our product and how to use it, they can click and go see more about that person in their Facebook feed which gives more connection and sense of belonging and people in Japan love that. They can also talk about things that aren’t about our product as well."

To which my response was “So, how does our current, already in use Discourse implementation not fit that bill?”

His response was:

There are no companies in Japan that I know of who utilise a platform like Discourse for community. Instead they use Facebook Groups, which has the killer ingredients for companies like AWS to be successful with their community in Japan.

He has asked me to compile companies in Japan or that have a presence in Japan that use platforms like Discourse that are successful. I went through Best Communities Running Discourse and didn’t see anything that stood out around companies that are in Japan exclusively, though there are a few listed at Discourse customers | Discourse - Civilized Discussion which have a presence in Japan.

Is anyone here aware of companies based in, or with a strong presence, Asia that are using Discourse?

Having spent quite a few years doing community, I’m not convinced that his assessment of Facebook Groups being the only way to build community in Asia makes any sense at all. I acknowledge that there are cultural differences, but the reasons he mentioned are not exclusively solved/facilitated by Facebook alone.


I feel the same here in Brazil. Facebook (and Whatsapp) groups are deeply ingrained into culture, so to make a community outside of those standard tools, you have to work 3 times harder.

For small groups, depending on their ideology and objectives, it may not make sense to pursue such a hard change.

However, for companies, the trade-off is very different, and some extras from Discourse can change the balance.

The main community for a bank here in Brazil was made by non-employee that was enthusiastic about the brand. The actual company started participating and the community was almost official and big. A competitor approached, bought the Facebook account of the owner and made the community be only about moving to their product :troll:. This is the same thing that happened to Dota forums

In Discourse you own the data, can move it anywhere, query it, restrict access to customers for some categories, monetize with ads, and all that everyone here already knows. Most companies know that they can’t expose their customers to the wills of a different company that owns their nothing.

In the end it depends if your company considers this Japan community important enough to invest time and efforts into building it into a proper platform, or if it doesn’t really matter and can be outsourced to a third party.


Strong beliefs sometimes interfere with development. “I am convinced,” and all new is lost. Even if this new one is much better. Facebook has many advantages, it is a popular platform. But the big disadvantage of this is that you have no control there. You have no control, not the slightest. It could end in disaster. For example, I have a group on Facebook consisting of hundreds of thousands of people. This seems like a good thing, but it’s too bad that if they decide to close it tomorrow, and I can’t do anything about it. All the time all the work will be wasted.

In this regard, the Discourse platform is very different. You have control. Sometimes it is really necessary.


Yeah, that’s a lot of my concern and questioning here is around the culture. My push for platforms like Discourse often does come down to “with Discourse you own the data”, but for him he has this fascination with Facebook. I personally haven’t been on FB in like 18months and I have no plans to go back, so I wouldn’t give them my data and money via ads.

I’m hoping someone else has some links to companies/brands with a presence in Asia who use Discourse that I can bring to him.


I know of a few Discourse communities that are Japanese, but none are large well known brands.

Plex have a Japanese category at

A couple of our larger clients have Chinese communities


Thanks @HAWK - I’ll keep looking too.

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