Social innovation has received widespread attention in the rural development field, especially its contribution to future rural sustainability. Social innovation revolves around social networks. Rural areas, however, can be relatively disadvantaged by their geographical peripherality. Social media, therefore, has strong potential to foster social innovation by enabling remote communication, but in rural areas, social media use may be low because of an aging and decreasing population. This study examined community-level adoption and use of social media in rural areas in Japan, with a focus on Facebook, for the purpose of sharing community information and facilitating networking with a variety of actors to promote rural social innovation. The study involved a comprehensive search and case studies targeting 139,063 rural communities and 10,922 rural joint-communities, all of which are legally designated agricultural communities throughout Japan. The search found that disadvantaged rural communities’ adoption of Facebook was scarce, and most of the communities that had adopted Facebook did not expand their social networks. Furthermore, investigation into the communities that had adopted social networking to a larger extent revealed that external supporters or migrants had essential roles in successful networking. Based on the obtained findings, this study has provided insights for future policy design.
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