How to Use LINE Advertising in Japan

Posted By Caylon Neely This page is currently only available in 英語.

LINE is Japan’s most popular social network and its most popular messenger, all built into one app. And while messaging apps haven’t caught on as a strong marketing tool in the west yet, platforms such as LINE and WeChat (another popular app in Asia) are hugely popular among marketers in the region.

With the app installed on over 70% of smartphones, LINE serves as an amazingly effective tool for creating genuine and useful connections with Japanese consumers. So if you’re looking towards the Japanese market, it’s impossible to ignore its potential.

In this article, we explain how to get started as a business on LINE in Japan — highlighting some of the basics around getting set up and building a content marketing plan that works well with this platform.

Important Facts and Statistics about LINE in Japan

Acquiring over 4 million users since the beginning of 2020 and now catering to over 70% of the population (85% of which are active daily users), LINE is the messaging app of Japan.

Its major role is connecting users through a quick and free messaging app (much like WhatsApp) and providing people with a channel of communication that literally anyone can access regardless of their phone network or contract (as long as they have WiFi).

As such, the way the platform is built and how it functions is based around direct interactions between users, rather than the sharing or consuming of content, like other platforms like Instagram are. This can make it slightly confusing for new brands who are unfamiliar with marketing on a channel like LINE to get their head around how the whole marketing process even works.

However, there are actually several ways that businesses can tap into the incredible user base and engagement levels of this platform, which almost guarantees you’ll be able to find your Japanese target audience here.

Demographics on LINE

  • The platform has an even distribution of users between males and females
  • 75% of users are above 30 years old – not shocking for a society that is rapidly ageing
  • Over 90% of teen males (and 85% of teen women) use the platform every day

Monthly Active Users By Platform

*Tap or Hover on the graph below to see details.

Sources: Insta Lab

Here’s how LINE compares to other platforms in Japan when it comes to monthly active users. The data speaks for itself really…

Types of LINE Ads

Example of LINE Stickers used for LINE advertising in Japan

There are several different ways to reach users with LINE advertising in Japan, as well as some specific best practices that must be paired with each of these options.

HB Pro Tip: If you’re completely new to the platform as a marketer, we would definitely recommend using it first as a user to understand how the interface functions and the role that different digital “spaces” play in the overall user experience.

Talk List / Chat Log / Talk Head View

One of the most frequently visited parts of the app is the page that lists the user’s existing chats with friends. Ads can be displayed at the top of the list in the same format as the chat windows. Tapping these ads will take you straight through to the landing page of your product or service. However, only one company is allowed to display an ad at the top of the chat screen each day, so you

Timeline

Similar to other social media platforms, LINE users have a feed of updates from friends and accounts they’re following. You can advertise on this section of the ad using image and video ads, with clickable assets that can funnel users to your site. These ads are also shareable and likeable, so can gather even more exposure if you produce some really engaging and share-worthy content.

HB Pro Tip: Avoid choosing what’s familiar just for the sake of it. While the timeline function might seem closer to what you’re used to when advertising on SNS platforms, it’s not the platform’s primary function or most used feature of the app. Many Japanese users only use LINE as a mobile messaging app.

Direct Messages

Perhaps the option that most traditional social media marketers aren’t that familiar with is direct message ads. Essentially, using this feature as a marketing tool involves one party (the brand) talking directly with another party (the target audience/user).

Once users add a company’s account as a LINE friend, they will automatically be able to receive messages from that account. Users are then sent messages directly from the brands they like, which could include promotions, deals, offers, announcements or other engaging pieces of content.

LINE is a casual form of communication for most users, and branded communication should be similarly “relaxed”. It’s crucial to write content that is personalized for the kind of users you are talking to and genuine enough to not feel like a hard sell that someone will immediately want to delete you from their chat history.

HB Pro Tip: Staying in someone’s contact list is hard. The challenge is regularly producing content that is relevant enough to not be dropped, while only contacting your customers if you have something original and engaging to say.

LINE News

Woman enjoying new content and brand content from LINE advertising in Japan

LINE NEWS is an incredibly popular source of information in Japan. Many users will browse articles related to their interests here as well as search out specific stories that are trending. Ads published through LINE NEWS will feature at the top of the new tab, as well as in the article listings page within the app.

Advertisers can also benefit from being featured on over 300 partner media accounts and news feeds, increasing total exposure substantially and opening up access to new audiences.
To learn about the Japanese consumer mindset and user interests, take a look at our popular blog: Marketing in Japan? 10 Important things You Need to Know About Japanese Consumers

LINE Stickers/Stamps

LINE Promotional Stickers/Stamps are a big thing in Japan. Many users enjoy browsing new stickers and characters to send to their friends, just as they now do on social platforms like Facebook. Brands who want to tap into this craze and inherent love for cute mascots and charming cartoons can develop their very own set of stickers to feature in the sticker shop.

These stickers can also be given away for free to increase exposure, but companies must understand that this is probably the most demanding strategy for LINE advertising in Japan. The national standards for things like this (cartoons, anime, manga etc.) are incredibly high and you’ll have many other sticker collections to contend with.

There are now four different types of stamps offered by the site, with varying costs associated with them depending on what you want to do with them.

Sponsored Stamps A stamp that can be posted on the stamp shop and bought by anyone. Flat Rate
Sponsored mission

stamp

A stamp that can be downloaded if a questionnaire is first answered. Flat Rate
Direct stamp In-house distributed stamps that are not posted on the stamp shop but can be used for marketing purposes by your team. Flat Rate
CPD stamp A stamp with an upper limit on the number of downloads. This can be capped at a certain amount by the brand and potential offered to customers on a first-come-first-served basis. Pay-As-You-Go

The cost of the different flat rate plans can vary, singing salty depending on the kind of reach you want to have with your stickers and where you want them to be featured. If you’re interested in this advertising option, we recommend you contact LINE with an inquiry to get an accurate quote.

HB Pro Tip: You’ll need an excellent concept and design team to execute a viral sticker campaign, which will need to blend overall aesthetic appeal and quality with some kind of connection to your brand and services. But despite the effort, and if you get this right, it’s an incredibly effective way to build a large following on LINE and spread your brand further. Interestingly, LINE now also has a plan to appoint creators to your brand to help you develop a sticker on your behalf.

LINE Blog

LINE has a blog platform that features thousands of notable bloggers who regularly publish content, such as celebrities, thought leaders, artists and interesting Japanese public figures.

It gets a decent amount of traffic from users looking to learn more about certain topics and get to know what their favourite influencers have to say on certain issues. Blog posts basically integrate with LINE’s timeline and ads will appear within the LINE Blog app.

LINE Points Club

Another promotional option for LINE is the LINE Points Club. This is a service that allows users to collect points for completing certain tasks and missions within the platform. These points can be used to buy stickers, themes, and other customizable items within the app. Marketers can create multiple ad types that are featured on the LINE Points page.

LINE Shopping

Yes, LINE also has a shopping section… You’ve probably figured out by now that the variety of features on this platform is far more diverse than just the messenger app alone. And while you can limit your ads to simply the direct messenger feature or the timeline alone, you also have the option of featuring in places like LINE’s ecommerce shopping platform.

If you’re interested in Japanese ecommerce, we’ve got a great blog for you: Getting into Ecommerce in Japan? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

LINE Manga

Did you know LINE operates one of the most popular online comic services. For those wanting to tap into the millions of manga fans in Japan, this is one potential avenue. However, there is a certain amount of pressure to make sure your branded ad fits in with the overall look and feel with the LINE Manga app, which differs from the primary LINE Messenger app.

Important Considerations for Running LINE PPC Ads

Woman communicating with LINE friend and browsing LINE advertising in Japan

It’s an obvious one but worth reminding yourself of now and then — LINE is mainly used for communication. While many users (especially Japanese teens) will clock up a serious amount of screen time using this app, it’s not the place where people typically just come to browse.

Perhaps for this reason, it’s considered somewhat harder to create successful conversion-focused ad campaigns through the app than it is to simply spread the word about your brand and generate a buzz.

This is similar to the way you must adjust your approach on TikTok, by changing your approach to fit in with the overall look and feel of the app and its primary functionality, rather than simply repeating the strategy used on other platforms.

HB Pro Tip: While the access to Japan’s total population is impressive with LINE, its targeting features have been known to be less sophisticated than those offered by Facebook and Instagram (although this is currently changing as the platform introduces new targeting parameters). So while you could be reaching more people with your ads, you should first check that you can control exactly who sees these ads as well, so that you can guarantee the effectiveness of your campaigns and ROI.

How to Start Using LINE Advertising in Japan

In order to start using LINE advertising in Japan, you must get an official LINE account from LINE Business.

Basic Official LINE Accounts

Starting a basic line account (formerly called LINE@) is free, but it does come with certain limitations. For instance, the number of friends you are able to connect with is capped at 10,000 and the number of messages you send per month is capped at 1,000. However, you do have the option to upgrade your account if you want to pay a little extra, such as topping up your maximum message volume.

These basic accounts will let you do the following things:

  • Create an Account Page
  • Post content on LINE Timeline
  • Send batch messages to followers
  • Chat in one-to-one messages
  • Share coupons and announcements
  • Conduct surveys
  • Track statistics
  • LINE Points
  • LINE Game Services

Price Plan for LINE Official Accounts

 

Free Plan Light Plan Standard Plan
Monthly fixed cost free 5,000 yen 15,000 yen
Free message count 1,000 mails 15,000 45,000
Additional message fee Impossible 5 yen ~ 3 yen

Source: Linebiz.com

HB Pro Tip: As an easy first step to LINE, we recommend going to LINE’s website and setting up a free LINEaccount so you can familiarise yourself with the interface and features before moving up from there.

Premium Account IDs

When you open an official LINE account, you will be provided with an auto-generated account ID consisting of random alphanumeric characters. This is how people will be able to search for you and connect with you as a friend on the platform. If you want a more personalized ID, you will need to pay a separate fee for what they call a “Premium ID”. This will cost 100 yen (excluding tax) monthly or 1,200 yen (excluding tax) annually.

Choosing which Platforms to Advertise on In Japan?

Let Us Help You Decide!

Final Notes

Mother and daughter laughing at LINE stickers and LINE advertising in Japan

We find that many people’s aversion to using LINE as a digital marketing and advertising tool is the fact that it’s primarily a messenger app. This requires brands to learn some new rules and adapt their approach — and admittedly, when you’re just entering a new market, this might not be the first thing on your to-do list.

Yet, given the huge user base that LINE has and its various connected services and features, it does provide some powerful routes to engaging your audience, making it something worth considering as your marketing matrix develops and you start to integrate more touchpoints into your omnichannel strategy.

If you’re unsure about anything we’ve mentioned in this article or want some personal advice on whether your brand should start investing in LINE advertising in Japan, feel free to get in touch with us!

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