By Barrett Ishida

With around 211 million monthly active users and over a half billion registered users, LINE is a big player in the messaging app world and one of most noteworthy startups coming out of Japan.

While still fairly young in the US, its widespread popularity in Asia has pushed its valuation to be right in the mix with Snapchat and Pinterest.

Mobile web startup valuations pyramid via Digi-Capital

Mobile web startup valuations pyramid via Digi-Capital

Not only is LINE a messenger, it's also rapidly building out a mobile ecosystem. LINE Games, mobile payments through LINE Pay, taxi-hailing via LINE TAXI and recently a music streaming service called LINE MUSIC, to name a few.

This all leads businesses to ask the question: "How do we use LINE for marketing?"

Marketing on LINE

Unlike other popular social networks, there are different levels of business accounts on LINE.

LINE@

Aimed at small to medium-sized businesses. Usage is free up to 1,000 text messages/month and you can create account, PR and timeline pages as well. Paying a $50 monthly fee allows you to send 50,000 text and media-rich messages/month, with it being $0.01 for every message over that.

If you don't want your LINE ID to resemble a Star Wars droid's name, however, LINE will charge you $24 for the first year and $12 for every year after that for a "Premium ID" of your choice. 

LINE@ accounts have limitations such as not being able to appearing in the LINE directory, only having 10,000 friends max, not being able to use Live broadcasting and not being able to send out sponsored stickers. Businesses sometimes will have a "Follow us on LINE" card in their shops or they promote their accounts on their other social channels.

LINE Official Account

Aimed at large businesses which have to apply and get approved. These accounts come with a hefty price tag: 8 million yen ($64,381) for the first 4 weeks or 12 million yen ($96,572) for the first 12. After the initial time period, the monthly cost is roughly 2.5 million yen ($20,119) depending on the amount of friends. Needless to say, Official accounts don't have the limitations that LINE@ accounts do.

Sponsored Sticker advertising is available on Official accounts. These can have a big impact, especially with gaining followers since many companies will offer free downloads in exchange for following them. Even artists such as Taylor Swift markets this way. Stickers come with a hefty price tag as well, however. An 8-sticker package costs 20 million yen ($160,953) and a 16-sticker package is 25 million ($201,192).

Timeline via LINE

Timeline via LINE

Messaging via LINE

Messaging via LINE

LINE in Japan

According to LINE, there are 50 million registered users in Japan and half of them are monthly active users. The company also said that Facebook has 15 million monthly active users and Twitter 10 million. Its popularity in its home country can't be denied.

From a marketer's point of view, however, it's more of a question mark. The restrictions and effort that comes with a LINE@ account, only to be restricted when you become "popular," is quite a turn off and the price tag that comes with the Official account may not be an option for most businesses. While doing business in Japan almost always requires localized, Japanese social media channels to be created and managed, consider a LINE account to be optional but not absolutely necessary.


*The information is accurate as of August 20, 2015.

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