by Kay Mathews
You might have used it with friends to organize a weekend getaway. Or you dabbled with it when your boss wanted to communicate with the team during a conference. WhatsApp isn’t just a fad; the mobile messaging startup is here to stay, but how does its functionality apply to B2B businesses?
WhatsApp, founded in 2009 and sold to Facebook for $19 billion, has a massive user base of 600 million and services 64 billion overall messages every day. It gives businesses many sharing options in addition to sending text messages free – even internationally – across platforms. It includes voice messages, videos, pictures, your location (GPS location can be sent to an interactive map), and contacts. WhatsApp can also send an entire text conversation history, including photos and videos, via email. SMBs wishing to send surveys, promotions, etc. to customers can take advantage of the “Broadcast Message” feature. \
The partnership between WhatsApp co-founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton produced what Forbes calls a “messaging phenom.” It’s not just hyperbole. It’s a n app that can be extremely powerful when used smartly.
First, let’s break down in an easy list what’s up with WhatsApp:
- Cross-platform real-time mobile messaging service for smartphones
- Users exchange messages without paying for SMS
- WhatsApp Messenger is internet-based and uses internet data plan customers already have
- Free downloads of WhatsApp available for Android, iPhone, Windows Phone, Blackberry, and Nokia (including Symbian)
- Ability to send messages between any smartphone
- Users can create groups and send each other unlimited images, video and audio messages
- Users can tell if recipients have read their message – If you see two blue check marks next to your sent message, then the recipient has read your message. In a group chat or broadcast message, the check marks will turn blue when every participant has read your message. But note this feature can be removed
- One year free trial period after which service can be purchased for $0.99 USD/per year
- WhatsApp does not sell advertising
- With the exception of your telephone number, WhatsApp does not collect personal data
Regarding the ad-less app, Acton told The Financial Times, “Neither Jan or I is a big fan of advertising. I saw maybe too much of it when I was at Yahoo.” Koum thoroughly explains his position on avoiding ads in this blog post.
The reason WhatsApp does not collect users’ personal information is also rooted in Koum’s life experiences. On the WhatsApp blog, he recalls growing up in Ukraine, which was part of the USSR at the time, and states, “The fact that we couldn’t speak freely without the fear that our communications would be monitored by KGB is in part why we moved to the United States when I was a teenager.” Koum emphasized the point when he wrote, “Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA, and we built WhatsApp around the goal of knowing as little about you as possible: You don’t have to give us your name and we don’t ask for your email address. We don’t know your birthday. We don’t know your home address. We don’t know where you work. We don’t know your likes, what you search for on the internet or collect your GPS location. None of that data has ever been collected and stored by WhatsApp, and we really have no plans to change that.”
WhatsApp Applications for SMBs
Tech Cocktail notes that e-commerce companies around the world are using WhatsApp to interact with customers through surveys designed to get feedback and improve products, advertise promotions and new products, improve customer service, and improve work organization through better communication and task updates. In New Delhi, India, WhatsApp is being used by bakeries, boutiques, saloons and grocery shops to “connect and establish a personal rapport with their customer base,” The Economic Times reports. Social Media Week’s list of “4 Ways to Use WhatsApp for Your Business” also suggests making a WhatsApp Group to inform people about company events and for team communication, stating, “It’s great for teams that travel and work from mobile devices more than desktops.”
WhatsApp is often used internally, as opposed to pushing out alerts or announcements to clients. Within your office, you can message your colleagues to announce a meeting, call for feedback on a report, begin a conversation that can’t wait for email, and so on.
“Using WhatsApp for customer interaction is not widely spread in America and UK,” writes Tech Cocktail. That fact is acknowledged by Sequoia Capital which stated, “Those less familiar with WhatsApp and its wonderful product will marvel at how a young company could be so valuable. Many of those people will be in the U.S. because there’s no other home grown technology company that’s so widely loved overseas and so under-appreciated at home.”
Sequoia Capital asserts, however, that tomorrow WhatsApp will be a household name like YouTube and PayPal are today. Small and medium-sized businesses may wish to jump on the WhatsApp bandwagon today because, as Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO, said,
“WhatsApp is on a path to connect 1 billion people.”
As WhatsApp fiddles with functionality and features, your business can take advantage of the best and simplest group-messaging service in order to boost productivity and keep conversations flowing in just one hub.
Photo by Sam Azgor