When it comes to social media platforms, it can be tempting to stick with the big names you already know, but no one wants to miss out on the next big thing. Look, we don’t want to spark your FOMO but have you heard of KakaoTalk?

Whether you’re familiar with this popular social messaging app or not, there’s a good chance you’ll start paying attention to it. KakaoTalk is not only secure, but can be important in your digital marketing plan.

What is KakaoTalk?

KakaoTalk (or KaTalk) is a popular messaging app in South Korea. It’s a free mobile service that offers text messaging, voice and video calls, group chats, and more.

Although similar to Line or WeChat, KakaoTalk has actually been around for 12 years. But its popularity has exploded in recent years, with an increase of more than 8 million users worldwide between 2015 and 2021.

Table of active users worldwide on KakaoTalk

Graphic statistician.

Do you know how common it is to say “Let me Google this” when you think of searching for something? KakaoTalk has reached this level of prevalence, with South Koreans often using the word “Ka-Talk” as a verb (i.e. “I’ll talk to you Ka-Talk later”).

According to eMarketer, 97.5% of smartphone users in South Korea used the app as of December 2020. That’s over 3x the number of users on Instagram, the second most popular app.

Mobile messaging apps used by mobile messaging users in South Korea, December 2020

Graphic eMarketing.

KakaoTalk has become an ingrained part of South Korean culture, but you can use it anywhere in the world. You just need the app and an internet connection. KakaoTalk is also surprisingly popular in the Netherlands and Italy, and it’s only a matter of time before it catches up elsewhere.

The platform can connect businesses to an enormous base of potential consumers around the world. Your KakaoTalk marketing campaign could extend far beyond South Korea.

How can you use KakaoTalk for business?

So there is untapped potential, but how can you use KakaoTalk for your business? Let’s take a look at everything you can do to strengthen your brand on the platform, whether it’s Cocoa ads, Cocoa shopping or customer service.

KakaoTalk Channel home page

Example of KakaoTalk Channel home page.

Create a KakaoTalk Business Channel

Free to create and easy to maintain, the KakaoTalk Business Channel is a great call for business owners looking to get on the platform.

With this tool you can create a searchable hub for your brand. You can also keep your followers updated with photos, videos and status updates. Perhaps best of all, you can use the built-in smart chat functionality to communicate with your customers in real time.

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KakaoTalk's official chatbot logo

KakaoTalk’s official chatbot logo.

Update your customers

There are many ways to advertise your brand on KakaoTalk and they are all worth your time. You can send direct messages to people in your KakaoTalk Business Channel. These can be used for anything from brand notifications to coupon discounts or other special offers.

Cocoa Sync for Business

Reach new customers

If you want to expand your reach even further, you can access Kakao BizBoard. This standalone B2B service allows businesses to share content across a variety of platforms.

With BizBoard, you can create highly targeted ad campaigns using Kakao Sync.

Design custom emoticons

Like any social media app worth its weight of likes, KakaoTalk has a strong expressive presence. The main stars are the incredibly cute Kakao Friends. They are so popular that they even have their own branded retail stores in South Korea.

Kakao Friends retail store

Via Kakao Friends retail store universal beijing.

Of course, you’re unlikely to find anything iconic like the beloved lion Ryan. However, you can still contribute to the KakaoTalk collection with custom emotes. To design emoticons that represent your brand, simply sign up for Cocoa Expression Studio.

Cocoa Expression Studio star expressive character

Custom emoticon examples in the KakaoTalk store.

Selling food directly (if applicable)

Some brands may benefit from using KakaoTalk Order, where the app takes on popular services like UberEats or Doordash.

The food ordering service also has a solid patron center. It helps store owners manage their menus, create discount codes, and stay in touch with their customer base.

How to start using KakaoTalk for business?

KakaoTalk is both intuitive and easy to use. However, there are some difficulties if you want to open a KakaoTalk Business Channel. Let’s go through each step to set up your KakaoTalk account.

KakaoTalk Messenger app store

Download the app

Because it’s predominantly in Korean, KakaoTalk is probably tucked away in a deep corner of your app store, but you’ll find it there.

For the app, you might notice some negative reviews that tend to focus on one big takeaway. Changing the phone number or email address associated with your account is difficult, so make sure you do it right the first time.

Sign up for a personal account

KakaoTalk will probably start with your phone number. Again – make sure you use a number you’ll have for a while because it can be difficult to change later. This is a personal account so you can use your own phone number, add a verified email address and use a profile picture if you want. Enable two-step verification to maximize security.

Create a KakaoTalk Channel

To start using KakaoTalk’s business features, you will want to create a KakaoTalk Channel (also known as a Cocoa Channel). If you’re not fluent in Korean, you’ll want to let your browser’s translation feature do the heavy lifting.

It’s also a good idea to have Google Translate open in another window. You can also use the smartphone app with live AR translation functionality.

When you’re ready, follow these steps:

  • Go to the Kakao Business admin page. You will be asked to log in with your personal account and enter your name. I set my name to 155 because that’s the name of my podcast I’m channeling.
  • The next page may or may not be translated automatically, but the yellow button at the bottom says “Create a new channel”.
    Kakao Business creates a new channel
  • Enter your channel name, search ID and short description and upload a profile picture (recommended: 640 x 640 pixels). You can also select categories related to your brand from the drop-down menus below.
  • Channels are set to private when they are first opened. Go to the channel visibility switch in your dashboard and click it to set your channel to public. Here you can also turn on “allow calling” and “1:1 chat” to really make your name known.
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create a channel with profile settings

This much. You have successfully created a KakaoTalk Channel for your brand and have messaging, analytics, promotional coupons and the ability to be in the user directory.

The only Kakao account you need

Upgrade to KakaoTalk Business Channel (optional)

But wait, there’s more. If you upgrade to the KakaoTalk Business Channel, you’ll be able to enjoy more benefits with a verified badge, better placement in search results, and access to the fancy BizBoard we mentioned earlier.

There are some tricks though – you need a Korean business number, a business registration card and a work certificate for the channel manager to take it to the next level. And if you work outside of Korea, this may require some special visas and lawyer visits.

If you got the number, here’s how to proceed:

  • Click the “Switch to job channel” button in the control panel (it may not be translated, but circled in red).

Kakao Business, upgrade to business channel

  • Click “Apply” in the upper right corner.

Apply button Cocoa Business

  • Fill in all fields with your missing information.

Fill in the fields to apply for job channels

Applications take three to five business days to be approved and you will be notified via your registered KakaoTalk email when completed. If you fill out any fields incorrectly, your application may be rejected. If approved, you can start using BizBoard and enjoy the other benefits of a business account.

Frequently asked questions about KakaoTalk

With a potential language barrier and the fact that it’s relatively new to viewers outside of South Korea, you may have more questions about KakaoTalk. We are with you with our KakaoTalk FAQ section.

Is KakaoTalk safe?

KakaoTalk is really safe if you use it properly. The app offers standard security features like 2-step verification to make sure hackers can’t access it easily.

However, it’s also important to note that South Korean laws allow the app to share chat history with employees, and there have been a number of slander cases involving chat logs from the app.

For more protection, you can turn on end-to-end encryption if you change the “Secret Chat” mode. You can also use a VPN to add more anonymity to the app.

How much does KakaoTalk cost for businesses?

Both services are completely free, whether you are using the KakaoTalk Channel or the KakaoTalk Business Channel.

The second service has a lot more features, but also requires users to obtain a South Korean business license and other documents.

Some features may also require a South Korean phone number. These are not impossible to obtain, but can be costly.

Do KakaoTalk accounts expire?

For security purposes, KakaoTalk usually suspends accounts if they have been inactive for a year or more. If that happens, you can get it up and running again, but it’s not foolproof. Many people complained that they lost all their chat history, so it’s probably not worth the risk.

Where can I get support for my KakaoTalk account?

If you have any questions about your KakaoTalk account, they have their own handy FAQ page, which is already available in English. You can also reach the customer service desk.

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