In a world where the messaging app space seems to be getting more and more crowded by the day, there is one grandaddy that reigns supreme at the moment: WhatsApp. Unless you’ve had your head in the sand with regards to tech news, you know it was just acquired by the 800-pound social gorilla known as Facebook for a whopping $16 billion dollars. So what exactly does it do that makes it so valuable?
It’s a fairly basic premise: it’s a cross-platform messaging app, meaning you can seamlessly chat with all of your friends, regardless of whether they’re on iOS, Android, Blackberry, or Windows Phone. And because it works via your smartphones already-existing internet data plan, it bypasses SMS fees. Moreover, it allows users to quickly create groups, send photos, videos, and audio messages, as well as share their locations at any time. It’s become so popular that it shared a daily record of 64 billion messages in just 24 hours. That’s a lot of chatting!
With such a large and growing number of users, it’s obviously a platform to be taken seriously by digital marketers. But, what exactly are the best ways to penetrate a private messaging network that famously doesn’t sell ads?
For a look at what is possible, Absolut Vodka leads by example. They ran an ingenious WhatsApp campaign for the launch of a their Limited Edition Absolut Unique collection. To raise awareness, they decided to throw a very exclusive party — so exclusive that there were only two tickets available for the general public. To secure them, users had to try and convince “Sven,” the company created fake bouncer, via WhatsApp why they should receive invites to the party. Absolut came away with 600 new contacts who created more than 1000 unique audio, video, and image messages.
Another very inventive use of the form was evidenced by Klik, an Israeli chocolate brand. They advertised their phone number on other social channels, encouraged fans to add them as WhatsApp contacts, and then proceeded to engage them in a Simon Says style game that drove engagement in real time.
In addition to these creative uses of WhatsApp as a marketing tool, there are some who argue that it should become the go-to customer service system, instead of Twitter, which currently dominates for many brands. Reasons for this include WhatsApp having a user base almost double that of Twitter, having 70% of its users return daily (vs. 46% for Twitter), and the fact that it’s signing up new users at a much more furious pace than Twitter. So the potential reach for a company is much greater via WhatsApp than Twitter. Moreover, WhatsApp allows a CS rep to tailor more private content since it’s not public the way Twitter is. Additionally, WhatsApp has much better multimedia functionality integrated into the product, meaning you can interact with customers in a variety of ways. Imagine sending a brief video or photo instructions to help troubleshoot, for instance, all without having to worry about a 140 character limit.
We’re obviously in the early days of marketing via WhatsApp, but it seems likely to become a more dominant force in the space as users grow and marketers become more skilled at using the service. Brands like Absolut and Klik have already shown that it can be a very effective tool for the creatively inclined, and the direct access it can provide between a customer and a business is certainly a powerful opportunity for all involved.
So, what do you think of WhatsApp?