Korean mobile messaging service Kakao is updating the Plus Friend advertising platform built into its Kakao Talk app with dedicated homepages and custom design tools aimed at brands and celebrities.

The upgraded version, called Plus Friend Home, is only available in Korea at the moment but points to a larger shift towards e-commerce and business-targeted user engagement features.

Plus Friend was launched in October 2011 as a way of helping users follow and interact with their favorite brands, celebrities and media companies. It’s yet to take off on an international level though; K-Pop acts such as Super Junior, Exo-K and Wonder Girls dominate Kakao Talk’s immediate search results.

plusfriend1 Korean chat app Kakao Talk rolls out Plus Friend Home to connect users with their favorite brands

Selecting any of these accounts will add the company, group or individual to your contact list with a ‘P’ symbol to next to it. Updates appear in a familiar chat dialog format, normally offering exclusive video snippets, discount coupons and trivial status updates.

Kakao now has over 400 partners operating through the Plus Friend service. Kakao Talk users seem to be taking to it too, with more than 26 million active users following 100 million Plus Friend accounts.

It’s unclear at this point whether the Plus Friend service is free for brands to sign-up to, or if there’s some form or subscription or one-off payment to gain access. Regardless, Kakao has seen an opportunity to expand the service further, increasing user engagement and its value as a marketing tool.

The most notable addition is brand homepages. Now Kakao Talk already offers a homepage, of sorts, within the international version of the app. Tapping on the brand name reveals two options, with the latter prescribed as “Visit Home”. Choosing this option brings up a feed similar to Twitter, but presumably Kakao has replaced or revamped this for Plus Friend Home.

plusfriends2 Korean chat app Kakao Talk rolls out Plus Friend Home to connect users with their favorite brands

A company spokesperson told TNW that every brand will have its own mobile homepage accesible “directly within the chat room.” It’s designed to be easy to create, edit and manage; after all, brands already have an avalanche of social networks to keep on top of. Users can find it with a single swipe, or by typing the URL into their browser.

“Brands can also link various websites, SNS channels, blogs and other external services to the page,” the spokesperson added. “By supporting a tight social relationship between the brand and the users while providing open links that enables free interaction within and outside the page, the brand home is expected to develop into a mobile hub channel for the brands.”

The homepage will be divided into a few different sections, including ‘mini profile’, ‘chatting room’ and ‘brand home’, which are also customizable using a newly introduced ‘Home Editor’ toolset. Kakao says it will also be introducing intelligent ‘bots’ to the Plus Friend chat rooms as part of the update. It will enable brands to set store finder instructions or a FAQ system so that whenever users ask a question, they’ll receive a response in natural human language.

It’s worth keeping an eye on Kakao Talk. With more than 90 million registered users worldwide and a recently unveiled partnership with note-taking app Evernote, the firm is commanding a growing interface both in its domestic market and abroad.

Image Credit: PARK JI-HWAN/AFP/Getty Images