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Without doubt WhatsApp is one of the big social media platforms that needs to form part of your social media marketing strategy.

One aspect that makes WhatsApp particularly interesting is that Facebook has bought the messaging service, but has decided to retain it as a stand-alone line of business even though it is investing hugely in its own Facebook Messenger.

In this article we take a look at the type of content that you can publish through WhatsApp and how to make sure that you are getting the most out of the time and resources that you are investing in your social media marketing strategy.

What is WhatsApp?

Brian Acton and Jan Koum are the founders of WhatsApp, launching the messaging service in 2009. Having built their careers at Yahoo!, Acton and Klum used their industry knowledge to establish one of the most successful messaging apps for iPhone, with its user-base growing to around 200 million users by February 2013 and then doubling that to 400 million users by December 2013, continuing to grow to 500 million by April 2014, 600 million users by August 2014, 800 million users by April 2015, and 900 million users by September 2015. India is the biggest market for WhatsApp in terms of volume of users, but the app’s user-base is global.

The Facebook acquisition

In February 2014 Facebook announced that it was acquiring WhatsApp for US$19 billion – the largest acquisition ever made by Facebook, and one of the few acquisitions that Facebook has made that was more than just a play to acquire talent. Normally when Facebook acquires a business, it takes a Borg-like approach of assimilating the people and shutting down what it has bought, however WhatsApp remains a stand-alone entity.

What’s the difference between WhatsApp and Facebook’s Messenger?

The longer term strategy of Facebook isn’t particularly clear at this stage. Facebook are continuing to run WhatsApp as a stand-alone business and a stand-alone brand, while at the same time making huge investment in the functionality and capability of its Messenger service. Both are platforms that are designed for mobile technology and behaviour so it seems that they are co-existing and between them dominating the market.

How to use WhatsApp for your business

From a business perspective, WhatsApp is particularly effective if you need an affordable, mass communication tool. WhatsApp enables you to send real-time messages, and is a particularly useful channel if your contacts, suppliers, or customers are in a different country to you. Customer service is another popular use for WhatsApp. Most service-based organisations are using some elements of social media for their customer service interactions, but incorporating WhatsApp into your customer service strategy has proven to be particularly effective due to the real-time immediacy of WhatsApp. WhatsApp is also particularly useful for group conversations, so you could utilise the platform for internal conversations within a specific team or project group.

The next steps for WhatsApp

One of the big opportunities for WhatsApp is voice calls. Industry experts have predicted that services such as WhatsApp and Skype will significantly impact the profitability of the telecommunications industry.

If you are not paying enough attention to WhatsApp then it might be time to revisit and refresh your social media marketing strategy.