Whatsapp can be powerful as far as utility for small-businesses is concerned. It is a communicating platform; hence has higher propensity to be opened in any given period than social media apps. That means quicker viewership of your content, in line with text messaging rather than social media apps. Whether people are in the elevator, waiting for a bus, sitting through a meeting, or taking a break, there is a chance of quickly glancing through Whatsapp in those few seconds. Engagement with hundreds who may be on-the-go, with faster viewing/response time than social media platforms, creates faster awareness for your product. People can engage with each other in Groups to understand your product better. Easy sharing tools gives scope for word-of-mouth recommendation. It can drive users back to your website quickly, where they can inquire further. Yes, it allows only 256 people per group, hence being effort-intensive is a challenge. But the bigger challenge is to understand what may work, and not work, on Whatapp.
Your content should be so specific that it excites
People skim through Whatsapp, rather than read fully. They prefer specific messages rather than long yarns. The idea is to get them excited in those few seconds. If he gets really interested, he will click the link to view the website for further information. Rather than an expansive message on a new car, just the specifics of what makes it better will suffice. Rather than generic news, crisper notes on trends may suffice. Just the highlights of a destination will do, or the offer-of-the-day for a retail chain. The strategy should push specific, short content.
You should reach users who are not customers
Many say social media is for engagement with existing customers first, new customers second. But given the hyper-competition in the market today, most businesses need to add new clients constantly. Use Whatsapp to connect with those who are not your clients; and make your existing clients profit by helping you achieve this. Reward them if they add a certain number of new names to your Group. Reward them if they forward your message to their friends. It may be tough to track this; but they can make a new Group for their forwards, in which they add you. It would help create word-of-mouth recommendation for such prospects. Client referrals are a large source of client addition. But this also presupposes the existing client is a happy one.
Perception of privacy means more chance of sharing, but provided the content is tweaked to grab their attentionI
If your client database has profile information, you can build Groups based on profiles, and can customize your content accordingly. People perceive Whatsapp to be more private than other social media. When people share on Whatsapp or write in Groups, only the number/name is displayed and others cannot click on any profile link to know more about you, or stalk you. Due to its perception of more privacy, there is a higher chance that people share interesting stuff, often which describes them closely and shared with similar profiled-people ahead. But the content has to be slightly customized to capture their attention in those few seconds, by showing some relevance/advantage which grabs the attention of that profile-type, so that chances of sharing/engagement increases.
Use text so that he does not have to wait long
Marketers debate using images instead of text in social media, as the visual medium captures the user’s interest quickly. But the speed of data connectivity in most developing countries is a challenge. For instance, in my country India, Akamai’s 2016 Q2 State of the Internet report showed broadband speed at 3.6 Mbps vs. 6.1 Mbps globally; and mobile internet speed at 3.3 Mbps vs. 11.8 Mbps globally. It may be better to limit images and place text, since the slower network may mean more time to download and wait. The user may lose his interest in that waiting-time, and you a potential customer.
The power of Groups
Balance the number of messages you send, since you cannot spam peoples’ mobiles. This is where Groups provide a benefit, since it becomes a discussion platform for users to engage amongst themseves with an interested audience, instead of being over-loaded with your messages only. Making Groups thus helps engage people, without you messaging constantly.
Make the user answer, don’t just push messages
Engagement is two-way. Just one-way information flow can be counter-productive in a world already over-loaded with information. Engage with your audience through Q&A, surveys, games and feedback. Do you need feedback? Do you need to collect findings? Do you want your users to give an opinion or share experiences? Are you sharing a contest? Are you using gamification for scenario-building? The user should not be reading, but also thinking, sharing, answering and asking, if only for a few seconds. Only that builds true engagement and brand-recall, while reducing chances of distraction. Two-way flow also gives you inputs to hone your strategy in line with what your clients want.
At the end, every platform has its own pros and cons, and you have to decide what works for you. Whatsapp is seeing rapid adoption globally. But you need to take cognizance how to use it more effectively to drive visibility of your business!