When I’m asked as a Social Media Manager which channels TÜV Rheinland uses, my standard answer is: “Almost all – with the exception of Snapchat, because we can’t reach our target group there”. But that’s not really true. What many people forget: 75 percent of Internet users in Germany have installed the green app with the telephone symbol. Worldwide there are even more than 1.5 billion WhatsApp users. A social media channel that is often underestimated or even forgotten. By the way, I did too.
Although messaging is one of the big topics this year. In an international comparison, we Germans still mistrust social networks very much and therefore exchange messages in more private circles. Facebook, which had already bought WhatsApp in 2014, has now also recognized this. This became clear at the developer conference F8 at the beginning of May. The first thing that could be read on the presentation behind Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg was the sentence: “The future is private”. He wants to focus more on private messages and closed groups in the future.
Asha Sharma, head of Facebook’s Messenger, then presented what this private future should look like exactly. Here are the three most important announcements:
- The Facebook Messenger is to be encrypted end-to-end, similar to WhatsApp.
- In the future, Whatsapp and Instagram will be integrated in the Facebook messenger.
- There should be a desktop app for this messenger that runs on all devices.
WhatsApp becomes more important for businesses
This means that companies now have to deal with messaging services to a greater extent. This became very clear to me in a seminar recently when we talked about e-mail marketing and newsletters. While the average opening rate in B2C is only 25 percent, it is 98 percent for WhatsApp newsletters. What´s the reason for that?
Do you have WhatsApp? Then think about what happens when the family group is talking about their dinner plans and you see 76 new messages on your screen after the meeting (during your break, of course). 76 messages? I’ll read them later. After finishing work at the latest, you will notice that the red notification at the top right of the app has disappeared, but the 76 messages – now 120! – are still unread. WhatsApp will continue to remind you that you still have some work to do. Because whenever you want to send a message to one of your contacts, you’ll see the small number of unread messages next to the family group. So to get rid of this annoying little number, you’ll have to open the chat group sooner or later – you’ll, of course, be happy to do that with the family chat. It works the same way with WhatsApp corporate newsletters. Which is why every user will inevitably open a received newsletter, whether they read it or not.
WhatsApp newsletter and GDPR?
From the company’s point of view, that’s pretty ingenious. But why hasn’t WhatsApp arrived in the minds of all companies yet? GDPR could be a buzzword here. Of course, companies can’t just contact people on their mobile phone numbers and play advertising on them. A good way would therefore be to offer the WhatsApp newsletter on your own website. Registration always takes place when the user accepts the data protection declaration via the link and saves the newsletter number in the smartphone as a contact. As soon as the user of this number sends a “start” on WhatsApp, this is the consent and the sign (double opt-in) that he or she wants to receive the newsletter. Data protectors now criticize the fact that the user is not provided with an opt-out option and can no longer unsubscribe from the newsletter.
Normally, the app always connects to the personal phone number. This is the prerequisite for using the messenger. However, many German companies do not allow WhatsApp on their service mobile phones. With a virtual mobile phone number one can avoid this hurdle and besides, the chats can be administered then not only by the mobile phone owner, but directly by the whole team.
How else can companies become active on WhatsApp?
In 2020, Facebook wants to earn money with WhatsApp and wants to introduce so-called “status ads”, as the company recently announced at the Facebook Marketing Summit in Rotterdam. These are ads that are placed between two status story elements. For all digital natives of my generation or younger, the WhatsApp status is still a big mystery. After all, for me (us) stories clearly belong on Instagram – or Snapchat. Personally, I haven’t made a status change at WhatsApp in my life, let alone looked at any of my contact´s status updates. For me this is totally absurd. But with my mother it’s different. She’s not on Instagram, so she likes to use the story feature on WhatsApp. Well, she doesn’t seem to be alone with that. According to Facebook, 500 million people currently use this status feature worldwide. So the reach should be very interesting for advertisers. Until then, however, I can sit back, because anyone who doesn’t consume content in the status area won’t see any advertising on WhatsApp either. Nevertheless, I will continue to follow the development closely – if only because as a social media manager it is my job to always keep up to date with changes in the networks. And maybe we will soon have WhatsApp at TÜV Rheinland?
Update June 12, 2019: As Facebook recently announced, WhatsApp newsletters violate their terms and conditions. WhatsApp apparently grants newsletter senders a grace period until December 7, 2019. Anyone who then violates the guidelines will at least have their account blocked and can expect legal consequences.