Image | Álvaro Ibáñez
Six hundred million people look at Whatsapp at least once a month. This was announced by Jan Koum in August, along with such impressive numbers like 700 million photos shared every day . It’s the application that almost all of us have on our mobiles – not only in Spain but also in emerging countries with penetration rates of up to 78% – and people dedicate a great deal of time to it. Hence, it is only natural to ask whether the companies can leverage it in some way.
Well, some already have. Toyota, for example, used it to launch a competition/campaign: they promised entry into a weekly prize draw to everyone who changed their profile status to a phrase that would promote the Toyota campaign.
Before this, Pringles had also pushed a competition through Whatsapp in which users had to send witty messages. Even radio stations give out their Whatsapp numbers for their listeners to contact them instead of using the phone.
Business use of Whatsapp is not just limited to advertising and marketing: Openbank, for example, launched a customer service channel on Whatsapp to ease customer communication. In the end, Whatsapp is a communication media that can be exploited without an excessive number of authorisations.
The fact of the matter is that Whatsapp terms and conditions do not appear to be very compatible with these kinds of practices. They explicitly prohibit any use that is not personal. That means you cannot use them as an advertising or customer service channel, at least in theory. An altogether different question is whether Whatsapp chooses to be strict about applying the rules or to look the other way.
Other message applications do allow themselves to be used as marketing platforms and some even encourage it. Line is an example of this, having hooked up with Salesforce to allow sending advertising messages to users.
In any case, these app creators have created platforms that facilitate customer interaction. This is the case of Instaply, which is trying to take advantage of the current fad for mobile messaging to change customer service systems.
Another question altogether is if users want to have advertising intruding on a space as personal as Whatsapp, an app they use to communicate with their friends. The very fact that companies have not been able to push their adverts through Whatsapp might help to explain its success. For that reason alone, it remains an advertising channel to explore with caution.