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Line, WeChat: Asian social networks move to conquer Europe


Move aside Facebook and Skype. Asian social networks, already hugely popular on their continent, have set their sights on Europe where they could prove stiff competition for their U.S. rivals.

China's WeChat and Japan's Line, which let users make free calls, send instant messages and post funny short videos and photos, take attributes from Facebook, Skype and messengering application WhatsApp and roll them all together.

Last week, Line executives traveled to France and Italy for a public relations offensive aimed at raising awareness of the mobile app, which already counts some 230 million users around the world including 47 million in Japan alone.

The social network has already taken root in other parts of Europe.

In Spain, for instance, Line has forged heavyweight partnerships with football clubs FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, brands such as Coca-Cola or tennis star Rafael Nadal.

FC Barcelona, for instance, has a home page on the app where it posts photos that has already drawn more than 8.2 million friends.

Line even has a permanent office in Spain, where it counts some 15 million users already.

A French version of the mobile app, meanwhile, is to be launched before the end of the year.

One of the main selling points for Line, which was launched at the beginning of 2011, is its "stickers" -- funny, cartoon-like figures that express emotions in a way deemed far more original and fun than traditional emoticons.

On WeChat, users can post figures that move about dancing, blowing kisses or punching the air. Both social networks also supply a selection of "stickers" that users have to pay for.

"We're betting a lot on this new form of communication with stickers," Sunny Kim, assistant director general of Line Europe and America, told AFP on a trip to Paris.

This part of the business represents 30% of Line's overall turnover and in July alone, users bought eight million euros ($10.8 million) worth of stickers.

The company makes the rest of its money on the sale of games integrated in the mobile app (50 percent) and from partnerships and products on the side.

Line's logo is green with a conversation bubble inside, and looks remarkably similar to the icon of WeChat, which began in January 2011.

Already translated into 19 languages, the social network has 500 million users, including 100 million outside of China, and plans to launch in France toward the end of the year.

While Line has Real Madrid, WeChat has enrolled the help of Argentinian soccer star Lionel Messi, who has become ambassador of the brand and has filmed a commercial for the social network.

But WeChat -- which belongs to China's web giant Tencent -- is also banking on the huge Chinese diaspora to expand.

"The French of Chinese origin or the Canadians of Chinese origin, for instance, are the bridge between China and the rest of the world," said Renaud Edouard-Baraud, who heads up an Asia consulting branch of the BNP-Paribas bank and advises WeChat.

Many brands keen to tap into the giant China market also have a presence on WeChat.

Companies can for instance use geolocalisation to pinpoint the exact location of Chinese users when they are visiting Europe, and send them promotional offers to lure them into their shops.

© (C) 2013 AFP

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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"Companies can for instance use geolocalisation to pinpoint the exact location of Chinese users when they are visiting Europe, and send them promotional offers to lure them into their shops."

Doesn't sound like much of a selling point from the consumer's point of view. Line is definitely the current SNS of choice, and given that both it and Kakao-Talk are both Korean the latter seems to be taking a back seat despite still being pretty successful. Still, Line can be pretty clumsy when it comes to shifting between stickers, emoticons, and regular text. WeChat will never make a serious dent.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

Cant see anyone wanting to route their "chat" via China.

3 ( +9 / -6 )

@gogogo Don't you follow the news? Can't see anyone wanting to route their "chat" via the USA.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

I don't think people in the West trust China as much they think...

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

We’re betting a lot on this new form of communication with stickers

yes with glocal issues all around us, THIS is where we are as a planet

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I personally think LINE has a WAY better chance of success worldwide, since Naver Corporation have already localized it for 19 different languages (it has become quite popular in the Spanish-speaking world) and as a result, has started to become a viable alternative to Facebook and Twitter (LINE has been available on the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store for some time).

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

I have told my cousins in the USA and they like it better than VIBER!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I fully embrace ANY telecom - we use Skype and line - that eliminate the need to throw more hard-earned at profit-gouging Aussie and Japanese scams (AKA phone companies) we used for years for international calls, etc. Love these services - long may they continue!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Too many kinds of chat. People will akways use email to ask about what others have then they uninstall them aside whatsapp

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Cant see anyone wanting to route their "chat" via China.

Yep, via NSA approved facilities is a much safer option!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I still don't know whether Line is a Japanese company or Korean. It looks like LINE is Korean in Korea, Japanese in Japan. How convenience it is in this diplomatic environment. IMO, they are still Korean, but hiding their identity cleverly. Read the following from Wiki and search Google-- I bet, you never find the truth. It may be not a matter for users, as long as it is useful, but as for me, I want to find out who is making money with LINE. (From WIKIPEDIA, About LINE) SankeiBiz the "Korean-Korean system," Yonhap It is introducing the "Korean application" is, Nihon Keizai Shimbun It is introducing a "purely domestic, Japanese-made.” Nihon Keizai Shimbun reporter was expressed as "Net Domestic and Japanese-made" It's because that was planned and developed in Japan branch" economics - the Nikkei Special future century Zipangu-boiling scene "(April 15, 2013, TV Tokyo), the Takeshi Natsuno "communication services to world-class after a long time that a Japanese produced" is originally "the LINE introduces that it "became the company was a division of the Japanese company IT company called of NHN Korea made as a wholly owned subsidiary is an independent (of 2013) from April, Inagaki Ayumi by visiting the LINE Inc. There was introduced as a "developer-inventor of LINE"(which is the title sponsor of the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, the program "economics - the Nikkei future special century Zipangu - boiling the ground"). In addition, members of the development LINE is a multinational company name has changed, from April but remains wholly owned subsidiary

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I still don't know whether Line is a Japanese company or Korean. It looks like LINE is Korean in Korea, Japanese in Japan.

Well, Naver is a Korean company. LINE was made by their NHN Japan arm. So, it's Japanese.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

How about China open themselves up to other social networks first?

And who knows how far you could say in their social network anything criticizing the Communist government? Don't bet on the Chinese company sticking up for you.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I tried Whatsapp, and it SUCKS!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Dude, whatsapp may be not good for you but millions of users in different countries still use whatsapp and they dont even know the name of Line or Kakao Talk.......

And what the hell is WeChat? Lol

0 ( +0 / -0 )

LINE doesn't work if your phone is on Willcom. Not happy.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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