Article by Dylan Kohlstadt – ShiftONE
WhatsApp is going to kill local cellular service providers, you know that, right?
Why pay for phone calls when you can call over Wi-Fi or use ever-cheapening data? Except that there’s still nothing more annoying that receiving a WhatsApp phone call. When I see an incoming WhatsApp call, I am immediately annoyed.
So, there are still miles for them to go in perfecting WhatsApp calls. But soon the lower atmosphere of Earth will be blanketed by balloons and low-orbit satellites courtesy of Google, Facebook and Elon Musk, the gods of free Wi-Fi, so I guess we will just have to suck it up until then.
The WhatsApp invasion
WhatsApp calls, WhatsApp chat, WhatsApp Stories… WhatsApp is no longer just a convenient way to communicate with your friends and family. It has fast become the best way to discuss business with your co-workers, especially since nobody has time to chat by the water-cooler anymore. It might help if we had a water cooler, but who has time to drink water?
WhatsApp has replaced all other chat apps and earned the prestige of being the most invasive and annoying app on my phone.
This takes some doing, especially since my 6-year old daughter enabled push notifications from the myriad of apps created to fill in as digital playmates and parents for kids her age [insert guilt here].
100% of all WhatsApp messages get opened. That is a 100% guaranteed delivery rate, because if you’re like me, you don’t like any of your messages marked as unread. They must all be read – it must be neat and tidy.
It’s the first thing I check every morning, and the last thing I check every night.
It’s replaced Facebook for me, in many ways, which is ironic since it’s owned by Facebook. It’s where I go to see photos of far-flung nieces and nephews and their dogs and chooks (that’s Australian for chickens). Does that make it another social media horse to ride? Oh yes, it does – just a strange and tricky one at that.
It’s also my go-to platform for urgent client communications, quick check-ins and voice note rants to broad-shouldered friends – luckily status updates on Facebook don’t accept voice notes, yet.
Text messages are now the realm of spammers, leaving WhatsApp relatively spam-free. I think that’s because most marketers and entrepreneurs haven’t worked out how to use it for business yet, but it’s only a matter of time before Zuks works out a way to show us adverts, even though he promised he wouldn’t.
So, your fingers are itching to use WhatsApp as a new channel to spam your clients with your incredible offers. But can you? And if so, how?
Here are a few ways to use WhatsApp in your business
1. Client Groups
If you sell a product dedicated to helping first-time moms with newborn babies, then it might make sense to create a support group for them using WhatsApp.
Here are the rules:
- People have to indicate that they want to join this group. You can’t just add them in.
- You cannot, cannot and will not post one single post about your product or services on this group. The mere fact that you’ve created this helpful group is good enough to create a sense of bonhomie. Remember, this is all about creating trust.
- You will naturally, as per all social media channels, have 10-20% of the group actively chatting, 50-60% lurking (reading but not commenting) and 10-20% permanently annoyed at the level of chatter filling up their inbox. You’ll need to manage the over-communicators, make rules clear, give warnings to people who break the rules (privately first) and remove any negative posts.
- You’ll need a full-time chat group monitor once you hit full-steam, as things can escalate quickly if left too long. The monitor can post jokes, helpful content and ask questions to keep conversations flowing. Just remember that WhatsApp is more invasive than other platforms and you always stand the risk of spamming users.
Now that you have these groups you could divide them into cities and organise meet-ups, which is another great way to involve your brand, non-invasively, in their lives, building loyalty.
2. Broadcast Messages
WhatsApp gives you the option to send a bulk message out to all of the people on your contact address book. But here’s the problem: it’s impossible to think of something that everyone on your address book is interested in.
Organise your contacts into types. You can insert ‘MOMMY’ in front of their name. That way your contacts will automatically sort by type, making it easier to select the recipients of your great message. Overpriced branded kids clothing is now 50% off? Yes! Count me in. But I’m a mommy who cares about what her kids look like when they leave the house. Colours must match, dammit.
3. WhatsApp Status
WhatsApp Status gives you the option to create short, disposable content updates, giving your contacts another way of engaging with your life or your brand.
In order for your customers to see your status, you will need to be a saved contact number on their phones.
- Have a shop? Encourage customers to add your cellphone number into their phones to stay up to date with your latest offers and specials.
- Offer customer care or have a call centre? The above applies, but this time advise that they can receive notices of services downtime or notifications.
- Humans love freebies, therefore they love competitions. You could use your status to post competitions, and send out a broadcast message telling your customers / prospects to watch out for status updates from your brand.
- Customer Service
Some brands still don’t understand that social media is just another channel for your call centre to manage and oversee. It’s the same as email, the same as phone calls – some clients these days prefer to make their complaints public so that other people see them.WhatsApp can also be used as a channel for customers to lodge their complaints:
- Create a unique cellphone number for your business to manage WhatsApp complaints.
- Load WhatsApp Web and connect your phone by following the prompts. WhatsApp Web allows you to manage WhatsApp on your browser, which is much easier than using a phone to type. You can now copy and paste from your service tracking system into WhatsApp Web, saving time and reducing errors.
A conversation about the pitfalls of WhatsApp (or any group messaging platform) would not be complete without the story of Margaret van Wyk, and the unfortunate situation that caused this mother of two to consider switching careers.
I think it goes without saying: never share inappropriate content on any social media channel, whatsoever – you can never take it back.
Here are a few more negatives to be prepared for:
- You could discover that it’s not always good to be accessible 24 hours a day on your mobile device. Some customers expect an immediate response, even over weekends.
- You may find it hard to distinguish between social and business communication, hence the need to create a separate number for your business, if you’re going to use it.
- You might receive a lot of negative feedback from customers who were added without their permission, or who forgot that they gave you permission.
- It could become more of a distraction to your everyday life than an asset.
Whichever way you look at it, WhatsApp is the future of communication, and like all new platforms needs to be approached with caution until it is fully understood.
Just don’t spam, and you’ll be fine.