Introducing LINE, an Emerging Social Network for Mobile in Japan

Contributed to by:  Taro Kaji of Covario

Unlike other countries, in Japan there is an emerging social media network that is drawing public attention.

In Japan, Facebook, Twitter and Mixi are still the dominant social network services (SNS). However, LINE is a growing mobile SNS worthy to consider using for online promotion.

Mixi certainly has been the dominant locally-born SNS with more than 20 million members, but it is LINE that has captured the hearts of many with global membership in excess of 100 million as if Jan. 18, including people in Japan, other parts of APAC, the Middle East, Africa, South America, and Europe.

Japan 1


Growth and Statistics
Since its launch in June 2011, LINE has had phenomenal growth with its global membership of 100 million, of which 4.1 million are in Japan.  It only took LINE 399 days to achieve its first 50 million members, while it took Facebook 1,325 days and Twitter 1,096 days to reach the same number. The growth trend for the three networks is shown on the graph below.

Japan 2


Female smartphone users in their teens, 20s and 30s are relatively active in their use of LINE.  They use it as a daily communication tool with their friends and families. Among female smartphone users, 73 % of teens and 64.8% of those in their 20s use LINE as shown on the graph below. At the same time, use by male business people and older generations is also on the rise.

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Some 85% of LINE users access the platform through smartphones or feature phones as shown on the graph below. While users can also access LINE from PCs, the majority opt to do so from their smartphones.

Japan 4


Key Features Free phone and text messaging (image #1) have been the key features of LINE, which accounts for why the service has been so popular among teens and students in their 20s. Because of this trend LINE has been actively used among friends, families and close acquaintances.

Stamps (image #1) are also a well accepted, especially in Japan.  This feature allows users to communicate their emotions more accurately, instead of using just pure text messages.

Japan 5

At a corporate business level, LINE@ is being used actively. With this feature, messages can be sent to up to 10,000 registered members. Companies usually send out promotional campaign information and coupons (image #2) with pop-up notifications to the members’ phones, which are easily distinguishable compared to other promotions they receive through email. The fee currently stands at 5,250 JPY monthly.

There is another service called LINE official account, which is used mainly by large organizations but has similar type of features. The set up fees are more expensive than LINE @.

Japan 6


Case Studies There are some interesting case studies from the LINE official accounts. A popular convenience store Lawson sent out a coupon to 1.5 million members for its fried chicken called L Chicken, which resulted in 100,000 people visiting the stores in just three days to use the coupon. About 70% of the coupon users bought other products as well.

For LINE @ accounts, the female apparel store LIP SERVICE promoted its LINE @ account and gathered 4,000 new friends during the first week. The sales promotional push on LINE @ led to a 50% sales revenue growth compared to the previous week. You can find the other case studies presented in Japanese from the LINE @ accounts on their website.

Competitive Environment Apart from LINE in the mobile application market, Kakao Talk and Comm also provide free phone and emotional stamp features. However, they both fall far behind LINE in membership. That said, Kakao Talk’s key feature of group phone capability of up to five people and Comm’s high phone sound quality may prove to be their respective competitive edge for further growth against LINE.

Summary LINE is a growing social media network that global marketers should keep their eyes on.  There are no signs of a slowdown at LINE. In fact, its momentum for further membership growth globally continues on the rise.

If you have noticed your marketing tactics stagnating in Japan, LINE may be a valuable new solution for you.

Actionable Insights Consider including LINE in your media plans to expand your global reach, especially in Japan, if you are facing either of the following challenges:

  1. Need to increase engagement with new potential customers who are interested in your services and/or products.
  2. Need to increase customer engagement.

Resources LINE @ account

LINE Official account

LINE to launch business account at 5,250 JPY monthly

LINE, Twitter and MIXI – Review and future strategies

Mixi membership trend

The trend of LINE, Kakao Talk and Comm in the free messaging service category

LINE strategy for LAWSON

LINE users at 100,000,000 globally and 41M in Japan

Teens are heavy users of LINE mainly from smartphones

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Lorie Watson



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Lorie Watson