The Japanese spend a lot of time commuting, and mobile devices are an essential part of the journey. Commuting accounts for 28 percent of mobile-device usage time in Japan, with social-media consuming a hefty chunk of it.
Nine months ago, nearly everyone on my daily commuter train was using Twitter, which now has 20 million users in Japan. But most of have since switched to the homegrown platform, Line, which was launched in 2011 by NHN Japan after the Tohoku earthquake. The name refers to the lines that formed outside of public phones after the disaster.
Driven by strong advertising support and celebrity endorsements, the app, which provides free IM and calling via smartphones, tablets and desktops, is now the world's fastest-growing social network. It recently reached 50 million followers in just 399 days. In January 2013, Line's total number of Japanese followers hit 40 million; and a whopping 60 percent of Japanese women in their 20s and 30s, Line's research shows, use the platform every day.
Line and its parent NHN (which also owns Naver, Korea's largest search portal) have monetized the network by motivating users not only to follow brands but to take action, which has made Line incredibly attractive to marketers in retail. According to research commissioned by Line, more than half of female users follow official brands. In addition, 63 percent of all users read brand messages, 32 percent have used a coupon delivered via Line, and 27 percent have clicked on a link.