One no longer needs to explain what WhatsApp is to German-speaking regions. It has evolved into a popular messenger among both the younger and elderly generations.
About 35 million Germans use WhatsApp to send messages and as a chat and messenger tool. Internationally, WhatsApp has about 900 million users – with the numbers increasing rapidly. Easy to use and virtually free – that is WhatsApp. But how about commercial use by and for companies?
WhatsApp’s Terms and Conditions of Use hereby leave no room for doubt: Basically, WhatsApp is only allowed for private use. The messenger is still ad-free and many users probably appreciate its services more because of this.
Nevertheless, more and more companies are now opening WhatsApp channels and using the messenger to communicate. WhatsApp is increasingly being used as a communication channel for customer service, sending of newsletters, etc. or to communicate directly with colleagues/employees.
Several studies have shown that mobile messengers are common across all genders and age groups. Even people who are over 50 years old are increasingly using WhatsApp, the critical majority has long been won over, both among men and women.
The number of press releases that are now also being sent through WhatsApp is increasing fast. Zalando and Outfittery offer styling advice via WhatsApp, different media houses and news portals e.g., Bunte, Stuttgarter Nachrichten, n-tv, and ATV (Austrian TV) are now sending news and tips to WhatsApp groups, different tourist destinations e.g., Kitzbühel offer tourist consultation services (requests, event tips, etc.) through WhatsApp chats.
Figure 1: Outfittery’s free style advice is now also available on WhatsApp
In this blog article, we want to focus on WhatsApp as a newsletter tool. We will first explain the different technical opportunities that it presents. On one hand, WhatsApp offers an ideal chance to send news/information to predefined groups without the group members knowing about each other. This is possible through the so-called broadcast lists. On the other hand, companies are already working to develop tools that will optimally address the needs of companies.
Let’s first look at the broadcast lists and how they differ from private group chats:
Both broadcast lists and WhatsApp groups can be used to simultaneously address a large number of people. However, there are several key differences:
|Broadcast list||Group chat|
|Only the list creator can see all members||Group members can be seen by everyone in the group|
|Only the list creator can see phone numbers and profiles of the members||Phone numbers and profiles can be seen by everyone in the group|
|Broadcast messages are displayed as normal private messages with the name of the sender and separate chat window||Group messages are displayed in a separate group chat window|
|Only the list creator sees the replies from other members||Replies can be seen by every group member|
|Individual replies to messages are also possible||Individual replies are not possible|
A few preparations are needed before you can start sending WhatsApp newsletters:
1. Setup a mobile device and phone number that should be used for the broadcast.
2. Inform the desired recipients of the phone number. Note: The recipients must save the phone number in their phonebook in order to receive broadcast messages.
3. Create a broadcast list and add the members you want.
4. Here, it is also important to adhere to the legally stipulated opt-in. Request the user to subscribe to the WhatsApp newsletter e.g., by sending "Start" to a specific number. Similarly, you should also include an opt-out option that works in a similar way (which should be clear for the recipient).
You must first create and setup a broadcast list. Once the list has been saved, you can always use it to send messages at any time.
You can also create different broadcast lists e.g., for different subjects depending on the target groups.
Users receive broadcast messages just like normal private messages. The recipient only sees the name of the broadcast list but not that the message was also sent to other members.
Replies to broadcast messages are displayed in a private chat and not in the broadcast list. The other members cannot see the message. This therefore makes the broadcast function also ideal for individualized and personalized requests and questions.
WhatsApp Web on PC makes it much easier to write messages, especially long broadcast messages. The web service is currently not compatible with all browsers but come in handy when you are maintaining your broadcast lists.
You can always remove or add new recipients from or to an existing broadcast list.
Initial results show that the click through rates are promising. Of course the whole idea is still enjoying a certain novelty bonus, but you can certainly maintain this you perfectly adapt your messages to the interests of your recipients.
You should carefully consider the content you send and how often you want to be sending messages to your broadcast list recipients: You can send text, links, image, and videos (e.g., in form of short teasers that then link to your website).
Wherever there is a market there are always sellers. The following companies offer corresponding tools for broadcasters. These tools simplify the maintenance of your recipients much easier:
It definitely pays off to take a closer look at WhatsApp from a corporate point of view. This can present you with a great opportunity especially if your target group largely uses mobile devices a lot for messaging, news, and information or communication with companies. At the same time, make sure you adhere to the legal provisions and observe the general acceptance of the WhatsApp total user base.
Published on 08/02/2016 by Karim-Patrick Bannour.
Karim-Patrick Bannour is founder and CEO of the social media agency viermalvier.at. Together with Anne Grabs, he wrote the social marketing best-seller “Follow me! – Erfolgreiches Social Media Marketing” (Galileo Computing). He also frequently speaks and gives workshops for organisations such as ÖHV or The Austrian Federal Economic Chamber. In 2016, he founded the Amazon agency MarktPlatz1 and together with his team supports providers and traders on Amazon.