WhatsApp could be the greatest marketing opportunity and business-communications tool in history. The simple messaging app; now owned by Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB), claims to have one billion users.
Despite that, many entrepreneurs refuse to use WhatsApp for marketing or business communications. One reason for this is the hostility of WhatsApp creators Jan Koum and Brian Acton to advertising. The two famously posted a quote from Fight Club outlining their hatred of ads on WhatsApp’s official blog.
That could be changing, because Mark Zuckerberg wants to turn WhatsApp into a tool for ecommerce. The Facebook chairman; who paid $19 billion in cash and stock for WhatsApp in 2014, posted this message on February 1: “Next, we’re going to work to connect more people around the world and make it easier to communicate with businesses.”
It sounds as if Zuckerberg wants us to use WhatsApp for marketing and business -but what opportunities has he created? The messaging solution has recently added a few business friendly features; at least two of which can be used for marketing.
WhatsApp Networking Tools
The most interesting of the new features from a marketing standpoint is Broadcast Lists. The lists allow you to send a message to a number of contacts at once. Theoretically you should be able to send to send one to hundreds or thousands of WhatsApp users at once.
That could be a tremendous opportunity because WhatsApp is the most used SMS solution in many countries. Data collected by Statista in the fourth quarter of 2014 shows that WhatsApp dominated the messaging market in some nations.
Percentage of mobile phone owners using WhatsApp by Nation:
- South Africa – 78%
- Malaysia -75%
- Argentina – 74%
- Singapore – 72%
- Hong Kong – 71%
- Spain – 70%
- India – 69%
- Mexico – 67%
- Italy – 62%
- Netherlands – 61%
- Germany – 57%
- Brazil – 56%
- Saudi Arabia – 56%
- Turkey – 49%
- United Kingdom -34%
WhatsApp is the mostly adopted mobile communications solution in a variety of countries, with diverse cultures and political systems. The numbers show that a broadcast list could reach hundreds or thousands of people in several different countries. It could very well be a low-cost means of global marketing or establishing a worldwide sales or business communications network.
An entrepreneur might even be able to create such a network for free because WhatsApp itself is now free. The network members would use their own existing phones and mobile services. WhatsApp is a cross-platform solution that works with a wide variety of phones including Android devices, iPhones, Blackberries, Windows Phones and some Nokia products. Such networks could be used to coordinate business activities or to distribute digital products such as videos, music, recordings, and even books or other written documents in PDF form.
Another WhatsApp tool that could be used for network and team building is group chats. Venture Beat reported that up to 256 people can now participate in a WhatsApp chat. This means a chat could cover an entire company or sales network.
WhatsApp Business Tools
Some other recent developments have greatly enhanced WhatsApp’s potential as a business resource. The most intriguing of these capabilities is end-to-end encryption, on April 5, 2016, Acton and Koum announced that all data transmitted through the newest version of WhatsApp would be completely encrypted.
WhatsApp itself would be incapable of cracking the encryption and unable to require to court orders and other official requests to do so, the American magazine Wired claimed. If these claims are true, WhatsApp is now an excellent low-cost means of transmitting business and professional information.
Critical data such as sales plans, business strategies, confidential client communications, contracts, financial records, sales reports and accounting data could be sent via WhatsApp at no cost. Unfortunately, this data can only be sent in PDF form, and only 100 megabytes of information can be sent at a time. That means documents will have to be short and converted to PDFs before transmission.
Another means of sending documents would be to simply take a photo of them. WhatsApp will transmit pictures and video with end-to-end encryption.
WhatsApp can also be as a low-cost cloud storage solution; Android users can back up all the data on their phones in Google Drive. iPhone users can also send data to solutions such as Drop Box via WhatsApp, but Android users cannot use solutions besides Google Drive at this time.
Free Instant Communication with Employees
It is possible to create an interface between WhatsApp and desktop, laptop and tablet computers with a solution called WhatsApp Web. WhatsApp Web is a browser that lets you access a WhatsApp account from a regular computer and like the messenger, it is free.
All an entrepreneur would have to do to create a fee communications network connecting the company’s computer system to employees’ existing phones is download WhatsApp Web. That would give a manager in the office instant communication with employees with phones and WhatsApp without leaving her desk.
The manager would be able to share a wide variety of information with the employees and vice versa. WhatsApp Web could even give a manager or owner free instant communication with employees, contractors, customers or franchisees in other countries.
WhatsApp could be the most disruptive business communications tool ever created. Anybody with access to a phone could use it to create a sales, marketing or affiliate network that covers the entire globe.