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  • Megan Ellis

Secondary social media platforms: WhatsApp for Business explained


We’re excited to share with you our second in a series of blogs that will explore some secondary social media platforms. As much as we love the big four, we think that there’s room for a few more seats at the digital marketing table. This week, we’re talking WhatsApp for business, and how it can be used for marketing. If you want to learn how your business can utilise this, then keep reading. 

Welcome to the second in a series of blogs that will explore some of the undervalued and/or up-and-coming social media platforms that can help improve your digital marketing game. If you’re interested in building engagement and building community for your business, there are a few ways of going about it on bigger apps, but today, we’re focussing on one that you likely weren’t aware even is a social media channel, WhatsApp!

How It Started…

WhatsApp was founded by an ex-Yahoo! employee in January 2009. Initially its intended use wasn’t to be a vehicle for all local gossip through friends group chats or where you’d snoop your Tinder dates ‘last active’ period.

Founder Jan Koum saw a gap in the booming social space for short, snappy status updates from your address book. No profile, picture or email required. Think MSN personal messages (R.I.P) but without the need of creating a personal profile. This quirky means of communicating led to the creation of the brand’s name, ‘What’s up?’ or ‘WhatsApp’ … get it?

He saw a potential in the – at the time – new ‘push notification’ feature and created a fun way to let all those who have your number know what you’re up to. Its roots have similarities to the BBM ‘broadcast message’ for all zillennials reading, but less intrusive and doesn’t involve the ‘adding via BBM pin’ aspect. You’d simply update your status to ‘at the gym’ or ‘grabbing a coffee’. It differentiated itself from other social platforms as these updates couldn’t be misconstrued as a vanity metric, seen as they cannot be liked, commented or shared.

Users liked the idea of logging in with just a phone number and not having to input an email address – this was even more sacred at the time given that email marketing was rife and socially we weren’t used to distributing this information for things that are so second nature now, like online shopping or creating a social media account.

However, creators noticed that users were beginning to update their statuses to have personalised conversations. ‘Wanna grab a drink after work Tony?’ would spam their whole contact list. And thus was the birth of WhatsApp’s 1 on 1 instant messaging service.

PAYG phones are now seen as a dying service, but they were still in their height of popularity when WhatsApp was launched. Because of this, the appeal of contacting friends and family through the internet/ Wi-Fi as opposed to their SMS plan was attractive. Although the excuse of not replying to someone’s text because you’ve ‘ran out of credit’ still has its appeal. Revolutionary for its time, it was free to message contacts oversees on WhatsApp; now capturing the attention of PAYG and contract customers alike.

With WhatsApp being a free service (ignoring the $1 per year short stint that was scrapped in 2016), it was entirely ‘give’ with no ‘receive’ to the user, it’s no wonder it made the top 20 downloaded apps in only its second year of trading.

How It’s Going…

All good things must come to an end; similarly, all good things must be bought by Meta. WhatsApp have however stayed true to their word and remained a strictly no-ad platform: surprising seen as Meta made near $115 billion in ad revenue last year and the average human is exposed to around 5,000 marketing messages in a day.

Facebook bought WhatsApp due to their push of Facebook Messenger as its own entity, which really gives Messenger a Florence Foster Jenkins energy: if you can’t win over your target audience, buy them! WhatsApp users have proven to know where their loyalties lie though, as now it sits as the most popular messenger app in the world, ahead of Facebook Messenger and China’s dupe, WeChat. In 2022, there are 2 billion active users in over 180 countries. This also makes it the world’s 3rd most utilised social media platform, behind Facebook and YouTube (sorry Instagram!).

In 2016, following the Facebook acquisition, WhatsApp became fully encrypted and launched on Windows and Mac PCs. Since then, classic Facebook touches such as two-factor authentication, display pictures and 24h status features were introduced. Video calls, group chats, and media sharing has also been optimised making the WhatsApp experience objectively seamless.

So it’s just for the public then is it? 

Here’s where this all starts to make sense. ‘What’s this got to do with the price of cheese?’ you are likely thinking. Say what you like about Facebook, but they worked wonders on WhatsApp without damaging the integrity of the app. They made it business friendly with the launch of ‘WhatsApp for Business’ in 2017. This proved to be an excellent tool for SMEs and MMEs who didn’t have a budget for CRM teams.

The feature allows businesses to create a profile for free, add links to their profile that redirects the user to either a website or social media page. There are also advanced tools such as auto-responses and WhatsApp payments (which is only in India only unfortunately but watch this space).

After Facebook scrapped the $1/£0.79 per year fee, they turned to the WhatsApp for Business feature to replace subscription as their cash cow. The WhatsApp for Business API can be sold to LME such as banks, airlines and ticket booking organisations to integrate with their own systems to send confirmation messages to customers through the app. Ultimately though, WhatsApp isn’t a hugely profitable service and Facebook in the end made the decision to buy due to the value in the behavioural data and personal information it provides on users. Your phone number, information about your location, user habits and your contacts are all shared with Meta, likely to improve their ad optimisation on Facebook, Instagram etc. though this has been denied by Mark Zuckerberg. Don’t worry, you’re not that interesting, they ain’t spying on your day-to-day conversations, but more on this later.

So how can I use it for my business? 

Presuming you own a SME and already have at least 1 of the big 4 social media platforms in your social strategy, here’s how WhatsApp can work for your business.

It was created with small business owners in mind, first tick. It remains a free service for CRM, second tick. Another benefit is its relatively equal age demographic distribution. All age cohorts sit between a 13%-27% split on the platform, with 26-35 year olds being its largest generation, and 56+ being its smallest.

Practical benefits of the platform include elevating your customer service through quick replies. You can save FAQs as templates and set up shortcuts in your brand TOV, taking monotonous tasks off the workload. If this is tickling your fancy so far, you can learn more advanced features such as using labels to mark the tickets urgency and recognise returning customers. You can then set personalised greeting messages to returning customers such as ‘Welcome back!’ which adds a personal touch. Customers expect a high level of transparency from businesses these days, therefore if you are OOO, you can set away messages with details on your return date.

Aside from CRM, you can also create a business catalogue. This can store up to 500 products/ services and allows you to add an image, title, price, description, product code and link to your website. And it’s not just customers you can communicate with. 79% of professionals use WhatsApp as a messaging service, with clients or colleagues. PDFs and files up to 100MB can be sent over the app. To network with other professionals, you can download WhatsApp for Business on your PC and commandeer video calls through the app.

So, to set up this slick piece of CRM software, on your phone/ PC download ‘WhatsApp Business’ on The App Store or Google Play, agree to the T&Cs, enter the phone number associated with your business and then fill in your details – business name, profile picture then category that describes your business. There’s then an optional tutorial on how to learn things like setting up a product catalogue or automated messaging, alternatively you can skip this and go straight to settings. Here it’s recommended you add a little more about your business for the users benefit- such as opening hours, websites and addresses. Then that’s you good to go - congrats!



Two photos of a WhatsApp catalog - the first photo shows the business account description for 'Sandra's Cakes' , while the second shows a list of the cakes on offer, to show how the catalog works-

Aren’t there already apps that do things like this? 

Close but no cigar! Facebook Messenger would be a direct competitor, although displaying ads in Messenger can be invasive and annoying to some… /most users. WhatsApp’s strict stance on its no-ad policy is akin to its success.

Another benefit of WhatsApp is the trust that users have in the app compared to say Facebook Messenger, which has association with the Cambridge Analytica scandal. WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption ensures that only the sender and receiver can read/ listen/ view any messages, meaning that anybody out with the conversation can’t read the messages i.e. WhatsApp themselves, hackers, Government bodies. This makes the platform a great tool for sending classified information from businesses to customers such as one time passwords (OTPs), order and dispatch information and personal information such as address/ email.

‘But what about iMessage?’ I hear you say. Ah, well WhatsApp has the attractive ‘last seen’ feature, showing contacts status’, which iMessage does not. Also, iMessage disregards Android users, who are slowly working towards overtaking Apple users each year!

And WhatsApp have recognised that socially we prefer text > calling and has given us ways to emphasise and nuance our language over text, through font formats such as bold, italic, score and underline.

And finally, WhatsApp has low data feeding. It uses low data when comparted to competitor messaging apps. When you send a large file, the app compresses it before sending to the receiver. The low data feeding is ultimately what gives WhatsApp its bread and butter – the unarguable quality of the voice and video calls on the platform.

Wow, this sounds great. You’ve totally convinced me! Thanks!

Love to hear it. We believe that WhatsApp is invaluable to start-ups and with some time dedicated to learning and finessing skills on the platform, it can grow with your business. It really is what you make of it. Happy CRM’ing and remember… no butt dials!