Muji has had online shopping for some time now but little in the way of a prominent social media presence. Rather than suddenly stepping into the uncharted waters of SNS, the brand has gone a different route, expanding its online store this August to include a social community, my MUJI.net.

Users can sign in via their Facebook, Twitter or mixi (the Japanese equivalent of Facebook and the biggest of the three) accounts, and then start browsing the 7,000 items in the online store. They can build up their own lists of products they already have or those they want, and add reviews and notes. Other users then can respond to this and you can acquire followers internal only to the my.MUJI site (i.e. they don’t become your Twitter follower or Facebook friend). Essentially, it is one giant community inside Facebook or mixi, though integrated to Muji’s e-commerce operations: clicking on items reviewed or recommended by users of course takes you nicely straight to the page where you can then buy it.

The site, which is designed in typically Muji-esque plain colors, ends up being a portal for praising Muji products. In the hands of other brands this might seem a bit narcissistic, though with Muji it is more focused on the functional, minimal design of items, and thus manages to get away with it without seeming too self-congratulating. Muji also achieves the rare feat of getting its own customers to promote its products to each other.

It also has some nicely localized touches which are typically Japanese and which foreign SNS giants like Twitter and Facebook might want to take note of. For example, there are buttons to “like” something but rather than use a direct translation (Facebook uses “ii ne”, which means “it’s good”) the site has “naruhodo,” a Japanese expression often rendered into English as “that makes sense” or “that figures.”

Muji’s ventures into digital media are highly curated and planned. Designer Kenya Hara himself has taken a hand in this, commissioning an iPad notebook app for the brand, ideal for a company known for its stationery, and which Muji recently released onto the iPhone as well.