What the “Internet of Things” Means for Small Businesses10 August 2014
How and why to use social media to increase traffic to your website10 August 2014
In case you don’t know what WhatsApp is, it is an instant messaging tool that is easily downloadable to a smartphone, and can be used to send text messages and other files such as video, audio and images. The app uses whatever data network you use in your phone, to send SMS messages. However, one thing that has contributed to its popularity is the fact that users are able to send messages for free. This has resulted to more people especially in developing countries, giving up their old phones and switching to smartphones so that they can enjoy sending text messages free to their friends and loved ones. This explains why emerging markets such as India, lead in terms of the number of people using the application, as compared to the US. Mobile networks in developing countries charge exorbitant rates for sending text messages both locally and internationally, thus their subscribers are therefore more than happy to have WhatsApp.
The app allows you to see whether the person you are sending a message is online. This therefore means that you may postpone sending a message to a later time, if you find that someone is offline. Additionally, the app allows you to see whether the person you are sending a message has received it, whether they are offline or not.
WhatsApp has also brought an easier way to send non-text files such as images and videos, which has actually encouraged more people to share memes, funny clips and images with their friends. Previously, mobile companies allowed sharing of multimedia files via the MMS option, but this was normally too involving and too costly for the majority of people, which explains why his avenue actually never gained a lot popularity with the masses.
The application also makes it easier to chat with someone, because it is easier to send and receive messages, unlike the normal texting which may sometimes take a lot of time, based on network issues.
It is important to note that unlike sending text messages which is free, sending and downloading media files such as video, images and audio files is not entirely free; you must have a data package subscription or WIFI.
It is easier to connect with people on WhatsApp, since it uses the contacts already installed in your phone. Moreover, it categorizes all the contacts in your phone into 3 main categories, namely: All contacts, favorites and chats.
The favorites section shows people on your contact list, who are already using WhatsApp.
On the other hand, the contacts section shows all the people in your phones contact list, whether they are using the app or not. The main advantage of this section is that you can use it to send invites to some of your friends and colleagues who are not using WhatsApp, and ask them to download it so that you can have an easier way of chatting with each other.
The chats sections contains people whom you recently sent or received a message from via the application. The main advantage of this section is that allows easy access to contacts that you chat with on a regular basis, so that you do not have to dig through a whole contact list whenever you want to chat with them.
How can businesses use WhatsApp to interact with customers?
WhatsApp allows real time conversations, especially when the parties involved are all online. This therefore means that as a business person, you are able to engage directly with your clients, and the best part is that feedback is instantaneous. This therefore brings up the possibility of chatting more with your customers, which definitely results to brand loyalty, and also convincing potential clients to join the bandwagon. Another huge benefit that the app offers is sending of rich messages, because there is no character limit while sending messages. Unlike using the normal messaging systems provided by mobile networks which are limited to 140 characters per text message, with WhatsApp you can increase the word count without any limit. This therefore provides the opportunity to promote your services and if writing more will increase your chances of turning in more customers, then this is the best avenue for you.
Since the application allows sending of images to your contacts, this may be used to market and promote your business logo, and also showcase some of your products to people, because as they say; a picture is worth a thousand words. People are more likely to buy a product which they have already seen, and this also appeals to people who do not like reading, and therefore product descriptions would not work for them. Thus, sending such people images becomes the obvious choice and the best thing is that the application has a forward option, which means that the people whom you have sent an image may share it with others who are not in your contacts list.
Another great way to use WhatsApp to Market and promote your business is through the use of videos. If you are a business person offering certain services you may create video tutorials explaining your services and showing people how you actually do it, and this will definitely turn in more customers than SMS messaging. Creativity is required while producing videos, because they have to be funny, entertaining and informative in order to resonate with people. No one will be interested in a boring video, and they would rather spend their time doing something else than watch such a video. If your video is great, you will only forward it to a few people, and your work is done; people will want to forward it to their friends and soon there will be a positive buzz around your product. However, it is important to produce videos that are not big in size, because sending a large file may be costly. Additionally, certain formats also make it hard to send or download a video, which means that most people will not consider forwarding it to their friends on WhatsApp.
- Using the Group chat: WhatsApp allows people to form group chats, where they are able to communicate easily with each other. The best thing about group chats is the fact that all messages sent by anyone in the group are accessible to everyone in that particular group. Companies may create a WhatsApp group chat with their customers, and this will make it easier to communicate with them. Since messages are accessible to everyone, organizations may also us this channel to issue updates on meetings, upcoming events, new product launches and such info.
- Using the Broadcast messages: this is yet another channel provided by the application for sending messages. Unlike group messages which are accessible to everyone, broadcast messages are different in the sense that a common message may be sent to multiple recipients, but their replies will only be visible to you. Organizations may also use this channel to interact with their customers, and the best thing is that the customers’ replies will be confidential.
Interestingly, with WhatsApp, you do not have to be online in order to receive a message. If you are offline and someone sends you a message, you will receive a notification that you have a message, and you may either check it out on the spot or at a later time. Organizations such as Banks which normally prefer sending SMS notifications to their customers may therefore use WhatsApp because it is cheap and convenient.
It is important to note that although BBM came first, WhatsApp is set to revolutionize SMS marketing, mostly because it is compatible with most phones operating systems. More should therefore be expected in the future, especially now that it is has been acquired by Facebook developers. Businesses should therefore capitalize on this, and see how they can use this application to reach out to more people.