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What is LINE? Japan’s super app explained

LINE, the social media super app, is an essential part of life in many Asian countries. With a domestic monthly active user base of over 96 million people in Japan alone (70% of the population), LINE represents a great opportunity for marketers to reach users where they are.

LINE was initially created as an emergency relief app that helped with communication challenges during the Tohoku Earthquake in 2011. It later added features such as free calling and stickers that helped it evolve into a popular app, reaching 10 million downloads within its first six months. Since then, it’s continued to grow in popularity to what it is today. China’s super app, WeChat, can be considered comparable in relative size.

In this guide, we’ll explore LINE in detail, what makes its users tick, and how easy it is to market on LINE. Read on for more.

What is LINE?

LINE is an instant messenger app operated by the LY Corporation. Originally developed as an emergency solution during the Tohoku Earthquake in 2011, the app has evolved into a multifaceted messenger app for everyday use.

Today, LINE is recognized as a “super app,” just like China’s WeChat and South Korea’s KakaoTalk. Its capabilities extend beyond messaging and calls, as LINE has integrated a range of services including communication, entertainment, lifestyle, fintech, and gaming.

Who Uses LINE?

As of March 2023, LINE had a total of 198 million monthly active users (MAU), with primary markets coming from Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, and Indonesia.

The app attracts a large number of younger audiences but also has plenty of older users. Not only do such users utilize the app to stay connected with family, friends, and colleagues, but they can also transfer money, enjoy music, and even consult with healthcare experts via the app.

Besides personal accounts, LINE also introduced the ‘LINE Official Account’ in 2019. This feature is specifically designed for brands and companies, equipping businesses with enhanced features such as sending general information, marketing activities, and special promotions to their customers. Such functions allow businesses to foster a closer connection with their audience on LINE, making it an effective tool for brand communication and customer outreach.

What Do People Use LINE for?

LINE describes itself as “more than just a messenger app.” It has evolved into a comprehensive platform that offers a wide range of features tailored to different user needs. Here’s just a handful of them.

Communication

At its core, LINE is a messaging app enabling one-on-one chats and group texts, along with free voice and video calls. It enhances communication with cute stickers and colorful themes. Additionally, its OpenChat feature allows anonymous users to create chat rooms for various purposes, including fan discussions, knowledge sharing, and commerce.

Entertainment

Users can read comics, listen to music, and watch shows on the app:

  • LINE Manga: Exclusive to Japan, digital comic service allows users to read manga and novels on their phones.

  • LINE Music: A popular music streaming service offering access to trending song tracks, music videos, and a sing-along feature.

Lifestyle

Beyond texting and entertainment, there’s lots of additional life-improving functions to get to know:

  • LINE News: The app delivers the latest news, catering to user interests, trending topics, and local information. LINE News Digest summarizes key articles selected by the editorial department, while LINE News Select offers personalized topic-based articles.

  • LINE Baito: a convenient part-time job information service within the app, enabling job searches and applications by filters such as job type, working hours, and location.

  • LINE Doctor: A telemedicine service offering appointment bookings, virtual consultations, and payments all within the app.

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