Next in line for mobile messaging: Interview with Line


By Chris Lee

As NMK reported recently, social messaging traffic could reach 69 trillion messages by the end of 2014. Facebook’s $19 billion purchase of WhatsApp is testament to the value placed by leading players in this market.

Japanese application Line is also one of the messaging market’s emerging players, although may not be as well-known as WhatsApp and SnapChat in the UK just yet. NMK spoke with Sunny Kim, Line’s Vice President of Line Euro-Americas, to learn more about how it can stand out in a busy and competitive market.

Drawing the Line

Line was launched to the public in the summer of 2011 and provides messaging services – including text, graphics video, audio, group text and free VoIP calls – to its users on PC, iPhone, Android and Blackberry. Within 18 months it had reached 100 million users, doubling in the following six months to become Japan’s largest social network in 2013 with 50 million users out of 370 million worldwide. Its other key markets include many South East Asian nations, Spain and Chile.

Line is so popular in Asia the characters from the Line’s stickers have their own theme park, stationery and TV show.

So what is Line’s appeal and how does it plan to expand?

“Line’s point of differentiation from the other messaging apps is the sheer amount of content it packs within its brand,” Kim told NMK. “Where WhatsApp offers straightforward messaging, and is now looking toward free voice calling, Line has offered this for quite some time, along with video calling, games and stickers.”

Stickers, in particular, have been instrumental to growing Line’s registered users to 370m, Kim said.

“With almost two billion stickers sent per day – four times as many as there are tweets – it’s a trend starting gaining fast traction,” Kim argued. “Facebook began offering stickers in April 2013, noticing teenagers moving away from traditional chat. As the earlier adopter of the sticker phenomenon, Line has snapped up impressive licences, including Disney, Marvel and Hello Kitty.”

Kim added that Line will be the first to allow users to design and create their own stickers and sell them in Line Creators Market, an upcoming service.

Line also offers official accounts of celebrities and brands within its closed messaging system, and heading into the UK, signs of a more targeted campaign are showing.

“Paul McCartney’s official Line had more followers than his Twitter within its first week, offering his own set of free stickers. Now he has more than eight million Line friends worldwide,” Kim said.

Notable characters from the Line sticker franchise also head up a lot of its other big output: Line Family apps. Featuring well-known mascots, Kim said Line offers a customised camera, stationery and games, all allowing users to share scores and updates on their personal profile pages.

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