The popular messaging service WhatsApp made international news in 2014 when Facebook acquired it for a reported $19 billion—yes, with a B. People in the United States may have been surprised by the news—many of them had never used the application—but it wasn’t as much of a shock for the rest of the world. More than 400 million people were already on the platform.
WhatsApp enables nearly-free communication similar to SMS texting. It also allows voice-to-voice calling, even across oceans. More people joined WhatsApp within months of the Facebook acquisition, and today the platform hosts a whopping 900 million active monthly users—most of them 25 to 34 years old.
Getting Started With WhatsApp
WhatsApp can be accessible through both your desktop computer and smart phone that’s linked to a telephone number. It’s free for the first year and $0.99 per year after that for every user on the platform—including businesses. If you’d prefer to use it on your desktop, go online and follow the login instructions. If you’d like to use it on your phone, download the app and create an account.
When you log on for the first time, you’ll have the opportunity to connect to other contacts in your phone. Once it’s set up, you can use WhatsApp to text or call anyone on your contact list. Unlike Twitter, which limits users to 140 characters, WhatsApp doesn’t have a length limit for messages, and it allows you to send videos, web links, and photos.
Best WhatsApp Practices for Small Business
WhatsApp is an excellent tool for small businesses, but it’s important to note that the platform doesn’t allow advertisements since it was created specifically for personal use, and not necessarily for business purposes. Even so, entrepreneurs are smart to use the tool to connect and engage with their clients.
Here are some great ways to use WhatsApp for your business:
- Customer support. Instead of offering a phone number for disgruntled customers to call, try using your WhatsApp number and hiring customer service representative to manage that channel. Many small businesses have found customers prefer swift, short communications through WhatsApp, rather than being on hold with traditional customer service call centers. Note that this works best for small businesses with a limited number of customers, since it may be difficult for companies who manage thousands of clients.
- Team collaboration. Are you sick of long email chains within internal departments? Ask different departments to start a WhatsApp group and communicate that way.
- Announce promotions and events. While it isn’t a good idea to spam your customers with product-specific details since they have the ability to block you on the platform, small business owners can use WhatsApp to announce upcoming sales and in-store events. Open up the lines of communication after your announcement for any questions from customers.
- Following up. Give out your WhatsApp number freely and tell your customers to use it whenever they need to. Instead of following up on a sale over the phone, send your customer a WhatsApp message to see how things are going.
Measuring Success on WhatsApp
Measuring the success of WhatsApp is up to the individual small business owner. Check in with your customers to see how much they like using the platform for communicating and hearing announcements. Send out surveys to see if your customers may have been turned onto your company based on your accessibility through WhatsApp. You can also post your WhatsApp number on your Facebook page to alert people that your company is using the platform.
At just $0.99 per year after the first year, it pays to at least try WhatsApp for your business. When a small business utilizes WhatsApp correctly, sure to see an increase in customer engagement with your brand.