A basic guide to WhatsApp marketing by Nafisa Shafiq - On Twitter as @f154
Whats App Review
What it is?
Nafisa Ali Shafiq. @f154
Calderdale Council’s Digital Communications Officer
The WhatsApp Storyteller project
A Brazilian collaboration between an advertising
agency, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) and a
The mechanics were simple:
1. A book shopper was invited to read part of a story
that was recorded as a WhatsApp voice message,
sent from the customer’s own smart phone.
2. The next customer continued the story at the
point where the last shopper stopped, and
eventually the stories were put together into an
audiobook for children in care.
3. The bookstore and the NGO captured the
storyteller’s WhatsApp ID (their mobile number),
which in return was used to send special offers,
coupons, and – more importantly – information
about how they could provide support to the NGO.
This is just one example…
WhatsApp in numbers
- 1 BILLION active users worldwide
- 28 MINS average spent online per day
- 70% average open rate of messages
- 30 BILLION messages sent daily, worldwide
But what does this mean for the local authorities?
BDO’s WhatsApp-ening in #LocalGov Social Media? reveals:
- 74% of local authorities want to develop or maintain a strong social
- 2% of councils use WhatsApp
- Over the next 12 months, more local authorities will use WhatsApp as
an extension of their internal or external communications
How can you use it?
There are 3 options to send image, short video, audio or text
1. Personal 1-1: This is time-consuming for organisations, brands
and so, not very scalable. However, if you have the resources,
it can be effective for personal selling or customer service.
2. Group Chat: All messages are shared to all of the group,
including the full list of participants. As each can see the
other’s replies, it is not really used for marketing purposes.
3. Broadcast Lists: The same message is sent to everyone, but
each list member does not see if someone else got the same
message or any replies. This is the most common scalable
marketing use case.
Remember: WhatsApp was designed for personal communication,
not large-scale broadcasting or commercial pushes. The lack of
business level accounts makes it harder to market from.
Top 5 Pros
• Cost-free and algorithm free
• Message alerts for high engagement
• Scalable yet private conversations
• Uncluttered environment
• Extremely loyal subscribers
Top 5 Cons
• High user involvement opt-in
• Broadcast list limits
• WhatsApp belongs to one mobile number
• Mostly manual impact measurement
• Smartphones and internet access are
Who’s using it and how?
Using WhatsApp For Language Learning
- Set-up a Group Chat for the class
- At the end of the school day, the tutor sends a WhatsApp message and records a
simple audio question like “What did you eat for lunch today?”. She models a
response in text and in audio too
- Students have until the beginning of the next class to write and record their
- Everyone in the group chat can see and listen to everyone’s responses. Students
can receive extra credit for either asking another question or responding to an
Oxford Mail’s daily mail shots
• UK’s Oxford Mail has been trialling daily mail shots to its followers, with
digestible news stories and clickable links back to the paper’s site
• A morning message contains links to stories chosen by the editorial staff
• In the evening home time headlines reflect the most read stories of the
• According to the paper, “WhatsApp brings in a four or five times greater
conversion rate to page views than our daily email bulletin, and it’s six
or seven times greater when compared to Twitter.”
BBC News, 2014 Indian Elections
• BBC used Whatsapp to engage with their audience during the election period
• The first messages included stories in Hindi and English, an introduction to users as to
how the app process would work and an invitation to share thoughts, comments and
experiences of the campaign as well as their pictures and videos
• BBC continued to send content that linked back to their website, engage with the
audience and source user-generated content
• BBC kept a limit of three messages per day
BBC, Ebola campaign
BBC launched an Ebola public health information
service on WhatsApp, aimed at users of the service in
The service provided audio, text message alerts and
images to help people get the latest public health
information to combat the spread of Ebola in the
Content was limited to three items a day, and the
service will be in English and French.
Combined WhatsApp Ebola Crisis campaigns achieved
over 25,000 subscribers
BBC: WhatsApp First Approach
• Leveraging on past experience, BBC launched “Young, Angry and Connected”, a series of
stories about young Africans who are using the app to get their voices heard.
• The daily three-minute long video clips are section of a larger documentary, which only
become available online at the end of that week.
• With 2,000 subscribers anticipated for the new series the BBC has a solid approach to
• But they are building lists of interested, engaged audiences and after the series is done,
discarding them to WhatsApp oblivion as the mobile number becomes inactive when the
series ends. Making the user do the work to sign up for the next series may reduce the
effectiveness over time.
British Vogue: Live Event Coverage and More
• The publisher used WhatsApp to send out the latest runway looks and fashion news to
• Images and videos from runway shows were broadcasted within an hour of them
happening, creating initial engagement.
• Since then two posts per day of high quality, exclusive news, have been sent to subsribers.
• Vogue commented that both early sign-up numbers and user engagement have been
“impressive” but due to limited analytics they couldn’t give specifics.