Since the release of WhatsApp Business API in 2018 and the following announcement of WhatsApp adverts for 2020, the marketing world has been buzzing with excitement. Companies have been pining to get an official green light to tap into the power of WhatsApp advertising for years.
However, while some companies are already servicing their clients using the API and planning their WhatsApp ads budget for the coming year, others hesitate… Under the gilded advantages of WhatsApp marketing loom doubts over privacy issues and fears of becoming unwelcomed intruders.
And so, many businesses wonder: Can advertising through WhatsApp alienate their customers?
WhatsApp messaging app might seem like a perfect way to reach customers. It’s an environment where they feel at home and comfortable. But what if that’s the issue? What if WhatsApp advertising is the door-to-door salesmen everybody hates?
This article will explore both the advantages and the downsides of business presence on WhatsApp be it through API or paid ads as well.
How Did We Get to Today?
WhatsApp was officially launched in 2009 by former Yahoo! employees Brian Acton and Jan Koum who so the opportunity with the opening of Apple’s new App Store. Surfacing at a time when people increasingly complained about the growing costs of SMS, the app quickly gained a strong following.
Feature after Feature
The idea behind the app was to offer people a private space to share statuses and messages; That is without any unnecessary gimmicks and, especially, ads. Over the years, the app became famous not only for its free text messages but also a plethora of great features, including video calls, voice messages, sharing information about location, status updates and so forth.
Acquisition that Came Down in History
When the app was acquired by Facebook in 2014, Zuckerberg promised there will be no pressure to monetize the app for the first five years. And, even though a part of the Facebook empire, WhatsApp maintained a great deal of autonomy after the takeover.
Businesses all over the world noticing WhatsApp’s growing user base and communication potential. As the app’s doors remained officially shut, companies developed makeshift solutions to leverage that potential and service their customers.
Trouble in Paradise
The calm waters of Facebook-WhatsApp collaboration started to stir in 2017 when Brian Acton left the company saying Facebook was planning to monetize the app by introducing targeted ads to its then 1.5 billion users.
Open for Business
In January 2018, the world saw the birth of WhatsApp Business App, a free service that allowed brands to create official company profiles. The feature was aimed at small businesses that were hustling to provide more efficient customer support through the above-mentioned makeshift solutions. And indeed, making it official helped. Neither user experience nor user data were compromised.
Trouble in Paradise (The Sequal)
In April 2018, Jan Koum followed the steps of his former partner and left his CEO position at WhatsApp. While officially he claimed to want to take a well-deserved break from the world of technology, rumor had it his departure was related to disagreements over privacy.
Present Day Situation…
We know that since then WhatsApp proceeded to:
- monetize the app by introducing a beta version WhatsApp Business API
- announce the 2020 rollout of WhatsApp status ads
Where Does That Leave Your Business?
If you are here, reading this article and asking this question, you are at an important crossroads.
Should you get in on the action or stay away? How will your new or existing customers react to your presence in what they perceive as a private space?
With all the personal data manipulation scandals in the past years and people’s growing concern for data privacy, it’s smart to ask these questions. To answer them, we need to understand the rules and forces behind WhatsApp’s business API feature and the possible impact of the planned paid adverts on overall user experience.
WhatsApp Business API: Is It Safe?
Although WhatsApp Business API is the first attempt of the company to monetize its services, it saw almost no backlash.
Well, for one thing, its ironclad rules virtually force companies to be user-centric.
API (Application programming interface) allows businesses to communicate with their clients automatically, on a large scale. In addition to sending free replies to customer queries within the 24-hour customer service window, companies can send paid proactive automatic notifications. Something the WhatsApp Business App simply wasn’t able to do.
How is WhatsApp keeping tabs on businesses to not abuse this power?
WhatsApp Business API is not an app you can easily download and it’s not available to just any business either. To be able to access this feature your company needs to pass an application process and more complex setup. And that’s just the beginning of a winding road of roadblocks created to protect the end-user experience.
Let’s have a look:
1. Selective Application Process
Are you the right size? Since the feature is still in the testing stage it focuses on well-established medium and large businesses.
Are you in the right industry? Given the high controversy or possible negative impact, access to WhatsApp API will not be granted to government-run or political organizations; independent software vendors; real cash industries (gaming and gambling); adult content and entertainment companies; arms dealing businesses; alcohol and tobacco brands and healthcare and supplements providers.
Do you have the right intentions? The main focus of the API is to improve customer experience, deepen convenience and nurture bran-client relationships. Hence, companies interested in blunt, pushy advertising are unlikely to get approved.