/ September 21, 2018/ Advice, Apps, Commentary, free stuff, messenger, Mobile, Strategy, Uncategorized, whatsapp/ 0 comments

A decade ago if you would have told me that the biggest communications tech would be named after this skit, I would have laughed at you. WhatsApp has become the workhorse of millions of people around the globe. A freind of mine in Canada says she only bought a phone so she could “whatsapp her mom.” So what really is up with WhatsApp and as a business owner why should you care?

A Brief History of time wasted

In 2019 WhatsApp will be a decade old. Do you remember when you started using WhatsApp? I actually don’t. I never even used BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). My use of mobile chat apps started with Apple’s “Messenger app” Which in reality was the SMS app, the caveat was if you messaged another Apple user and you were using EDGE data, the message was free.

When Blackberry phones started their eventual slide into obscurity, WhatsApp was there to fill the gap, but not before Trinidadian’s experimented with different text messaging alternative apps such as Tango, Skype and the one that became popular for a brief period, Viber. Whatsapp’s initial adoption rate was held back by its strange “payment plan”. You could download WhatsApp for free for the first month. . . but then you had to pay $1 per year to continue to use it. But on the iPhone, the app was free without any of this “subscription” nonsense. Eventually the “subscription” model was abandoned, I don’t know anyone who actually paid for a Whatsapp subscription.

A diagram describing how WhatsApp uses a public key to encrypt messages on its server

WhatsApp boasts some serious encryption so you know your messages are secure

But why WhatsApp?

But I digress. Whatsapp is simple in its execution, learning heavily from the pioneering work of Blackberry, now a footnote in the history of mobile phones. Why Trini’s gravitated toward whatsapp is a mystery, to me. Its not big in the US and Europe, iPhone messenger and Facetime was the leader. Whatsapp is heavily used in other nations, India being the top. So you have local WhatsApp users and expat WhatsApp users circumventing local phone charges and text charges for the last decade. It was bound to happen that phone companies would try to crack down.

Digicel tied, and failed, to put a cap on third party messenger services usage at its service level. This did not go down well with customers and seemed to be one of the few things the company has done to anger its customers. In fact they also ran afoul of the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad & Tobago, because you can’t simply put restrictions on your service without first getting TATT approval. Eventually Digicel decided to tie WhatsApping (yes it has become a verb) to its data plans. So all is well again in the world.

WhatsApp and your business

Currently WhatsApp is one of your essential tools for business. If you are using an android phone you can switch your profile to a Business Account. This enables you to access tools to automate, sort, and quickly respond to messages. I’ve heard okay-ish reviews of people using the service, I myself have never used it, being an iOS user. But even if you are just using WhatsApp using the “broadcast” option is quite fine in getting your message out there, even though its only to 256 members.

Whatsapp groups are also a great way of building a core audience of loyal brand follwers, only 256 of them though. If you add the right kind of customer (say those that have bought multiple times from you) you can add them to an “exclusive” group when you share new product updates or coupon codes just for them. This, in conjunction with a well crafted WhatsApp visual that they can then forward to their own lists, is marketing without spending a dime.

So you have your whatsapp contacts, that you’ve got from people clicking a link on your website or Facebook page, and you’ve created your lists for those “influnecers” now you need to create a well crafted WhatsApp post.

Whatsapp posting do’s

Do keep your notifications short. “*Update* We’ve got new stock in and you’ve got first dibs! Check out the link for more info”, “Morning faithful customers! I’m offering you all the first chance to get a 3% discount on these products! AND MORE! Check out the website for more, use coupon code “Frenz”” are just two examples of how you can grab the attention of your audience. Remember you’re competing against other WhatsApp posts and some of your followers would have muted the group for whatever reason.

A screen grab of my template from photoshop showing the "Text safe areas"

You can edit my template in Photoshop

Do use images instead of just a simple update as above. If you can’t create a simple little video you could create a photo post and share that. I have created a template for WhatsApp image posts. WhatsApp does something funny to image posts when its shared in the conversation window. It crops the photo so unless you opened the image you wouldn’t see all of it. My template, that you can download and share from here, will enable you to put the important info in the place that people will see it, regardless of mobile device. So you will guarantee that your message will be seen immediately

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WhatsApp text style Shortcuts:

  1. Bold: Add asterisks to either side of the text (*bold*)
  2. Italics: Add underscores to either side of the text (_italics_)
  3. Strikethrough: Add tildes either side of the text (~tilde~)

[/pullquote]

Do use voice notes, these days voice notes seem to be the rage, so you could send a voice note of your beautiful voice announcing your product or you singing your jingle. Anything that makes your customers feel that you’re personally speaking to them. Obviously you’re not making a 10 minute monologue about what you had for lunch and the state of the country, 30 seconds to a minute is fine.

WhatsApp icons in a pile

Don’t believe everything you read on WhatsApp

Concluding this post with some advice: People generally don’t like being added to groups so always ask before adding. Also add the right kinds of people, people who you know will support your business and are repeat customers. This is what you get from having a one on one with customers through email, Facebook messenger, and of course WhatsApp. Try to refrain from over posting, keep it to important offers only and let customers ask questions. Respond as quickly as you can and don’t leave people hanging.

Lastly monitor the group, there will be those that like to share the “good morning prayer” posts and forwards. Be especially aware of people spamming the group as well as don’t forward messages until they are verified. There is a lot of fake news being spread these days on WhatsApp, in fact most of the mischief plaguing our society comes from voice notes that purport to warn of criminal activity and disasters. Always verify where the information originated before forwarding.

WhatsApp can be a powerful tool, it helps businesses connect real time with their customers. But it can be abused if not used correctly. Let me know in the comments your experiences with WhatsApp for business. If you’ve used my template please show me how, would love to see how it worked for you.

Ian is the owner and primary content producer for this website. He is a designer but loves technology. Let him help you with your online presence and business. Get in contact here

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