Japan’s political parties flock to Line after ban on Internet election campaigns is lifted

Japan’s political parties flock to Line after ban on Internet election campaigns is lifted

There’s more evidence of the rising importance of messaging apps in Asia after Line announced (Google Translate) that ten political parties in Japan have opened official accounts on its service in a bid to increase their engagement and communication with voting members of the public.

Line recently passed 150 million registered users, but its home country of Japan is its single biggest market with more than 45 million users. The country also accounted for 80 percent of the service’s $58 million revenue during the first quarter of 2013 but — more than money and users — it has become a core communication platform for society, as evidenced by today’s news.

The parties have opened Line accounts after a bill allowing political organizations in Japan to use the Internet during election campaigns was passed, ending the ban on the use of social networks, blogs and other Web-based mediums.

The accounts allow Japanese users of Line to opt-in to receive messages from each of the political parties. The communication isn’t solely one way, however, and each party can use the service to solicit feedback and comments from their followers. That’s hugely significant and it could help them to develop policy or solicit feedback on manifestos or other strategies.

This isn’t the first time that Japan’s politicians have tapped social networks to increase engagement. Former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his rivals took part in a series of Google+ Hangouts last year which gave voters in the country greater access to top politicians.

The difference this time around is that, by being opt-in, Line gives the political parties a direct avenue to their supporters. The deal also underlines the growing importance of mobile messaging apps.

As we’ve said before, apps like Line are challenging Facebook, Twitter and other social networks for attention — particularly in Asia — and Line is shifting gears as it develops its service into a content platform. It already enables users to play games and buy virtual items (such as stickers, aka rich emoticons) and it is preparing to move into music and shopping this year.

If you’re a Line user in Japan (the accounts are not available overseas), you can now reach the following political parties by searching for their official accounts:

Liberal Democratic Party (LINE ID: @ jimin)
Democratic Party (LINE ID: @ minshu)
Restoration Society of Japan (LINE ID: @ jprestorationparty)
Komeito (LINE ID: @ komei)
Your Party (LINE ID: @ yourparty)
Party of life (LINE ID: @ seikatsu1pr)
Japan Communist Party (LINE ID: @ jcpline)
Social Democratic Party (LINE ID: @ sdp.japan)
Green wind (LINE ID: @ midorinokaze)
New party reform (LINE ID: @ shintokaikaku)

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