What’s Up With WhatsApp Marketing?

Are you ready for WhatsApp Marketing

WhatsApp, you’ve probably heard of it? The Facebook-owned messenger app is a crowning global success story, and a hugely popular digital messaging platform right here in Malaysia. But as well as shifting the way we communicate, it’s asking big questions about Malaysian marketing too. So let’s explore what WhatsApp could mean for marketers around the globe.

What is WhatsApp?

WhatsApp is one of the world’s most popular messaging apps, with an estimated 1.5 billion monthly users around the world, and 60 million messages sent every single day. That’s not bad for a platform that emerged from a conversation between friends during a movie night back in 2009.

What’s up with WhatsApp growth?

WhatsApp was bought by social media giant Facebook in 2014 for the eye-watering price tag of US$19 billion. That’s a whole lot of dollars for an app that helps you send messages, but when you explore a little bit about the platform’s growth, you can maybe understand the motivation.

2014 – WhatsApp Users – 450 million monthly

2017, July – WhatsApp Users – 1.3 billion monthly

2018, January – WhatsApp Users – 1.5 billion monthly

Between 2014 and 2018, WhatsApp more than tripled its global user base, with an additional 1.05 billion users. The growth from July, 2017 to January, 2018 alone represents over 15% growth in just 6 months. So how does all this look in Malaysia?

What’s up with WhatsApp in Malaysia?

It might not surprise you to know that WhatsApp is Malaysia’s most popular messaging app. In fact it’s the third most popular social media platform overall, with 68% of the population using the platform.

WhatsApp ranks as the second most popular app in the Google Play store in Malaysia, and the most popular in the Apple Store. So how do you make sure you get a bite of that apple with your marketing? And is that the worst joke you’ve seen all day? Let’s explore the answer to at least one of those questions.

Why is WhatsApp useful for marketing?

If the raw numbers themselves aren’t impressive enough, there are some other great arguments for how powerful WhatsApp can be as a marketing tool.

First up it’s a messaging platform, which basically means a platform for holding conversations. Modern marketing is (or should) be about engaging with an audience to build conversations that provide value to your customers. WhatsApp is essentially a direct and purpose-built platform for that opportunity.

What also provides an added advantage when it comes to WhatsApp, and indeed similar messaging apps, is that users are less restricted by geography and possible contract costs. Since WhatsApp is essentially a voice over internet protocol (VOIP) system, it utilises internet connectivity for communication. That means no limitations from standard contract providers or excessive costs for overseas visitors. It’s an accessible, affordable way to communicate. That’s true regardless of whether you’re sending a shameless selfie of your beach body to a friend, or a rapid response to a marketing offer.

How do you power up your WhatsApp marketing?

WhatsApp is not a tool specifically designed for the use of marketers (boo), but it is a tool designed for communication. That means powering up your WhatsApp marketing just requires some imagination.

  • Create a personaEngagement campaigns driven by a unique brand persona have demonstrated some significant successes on WhatsApp. The idea here is to run a campaign ‘hosted’ by an imaginary persona that can respond in an entertaining brand voice. Think competitions hosted by a fun character and similar such excitement.
  • Interactive campaignsCustomers speaking to a brand are often looking for product insight, so why not take that a step further with an interactive campaign that answers questions directly? Mayonnaise brand Hellman’s created a wonderful campaign where users could share images of the content of their fridges with the brand, who would then respond with insight from chefs offering tips and advice on what recipes they could make.
  • Alert promotionsEveryone likes a good promotion, and WhatsApp is the perfect platform to build a contact list to deliver those messages direct to the customer. UK e-commerce platform BuyAGift has been successfully running a similar campaign for years, building a signup list that not only extends their communication opportunities, but provides a real-time ability to update customers with offers and promotions.
  • Loyalty group communitiesWhatsApp groups can be a powerful opportunity to not just link up with your customers, but also link them up with each other. Creating targeted brand groups offers a real opportunity to build loyal communities through special offers and promotions. Imagine a fashion brand that hosted special ‘valued customer’ groups for lunchtime events, offering promotions and discounts that build a community that are bonded around your brand?
  • Social campaignsWhatsApp has the unique potential to give a voice to communities that are often left without one. That makes it a powerful tool for social campaigning and not-for-profit organisations. The BBC used WhatsApp as an outreach tool to present a series entitled Young, Angry and Connected, using the global connectivity of WhatsApp to enfranchise the voice of youth across Africa.

The downside of WhatsApp marketing

WhatsApp marketing is not without its limitations, and while talking about the opportunity is great, it would foolish not to understand the hurdles that the platform presents.

First up – messaging can be an extremely time-consuming affair. Depending on the type of campaign you opt for, the resourcing required to interact with customers may well be substantial. Fair enough if you’re just receiving messages and entering them into a competition, but if you’re engaged in some sort of marketing which requires (and in which customers expect) rapid and personalised responses, be aware up front of what sort of monster you might be unleashing.

Secondly, and this one can be quite a downer, WhatsApp Groups have a member limit. Don’t ask me why, but 256 people is as far as you can go. That means any mass communication you attempt using the groups function can only ever be limited to that many users, or will require multiple groups.

These aren’t insurmountable hurdles, and WhatsApp can still provide a welcome opportunity to enhance your marketing efforts. Just make sure you know what you’re getting into before you start.

Is WhatsApp moving more towards business?

The recently launched WhatsApp Business App indicates that the developers are exploring new solutions to empower business use of WhatsApp. This new app is aimed primarily at small businesses users, providing a business-focused account that includes automated tools to sort messages and interact with customers.

While it’s currently only available in a limited number of countries, it seems unlikely that this wouldn’t be rolled out further after a successful trial. That means a whole lot less hassle, and a whole lot more opportunity when it comes to WhatsApp marketing.

So what’s next on your WhatsApp journey? It’s time to consider whether the opportunity is one that fits your business. If it does, there are 1.5 billion users out there just waiting to connect.

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