What’s the fastest growing social media network in the world ?
Move over facebook, twitter, pinterest and linkedin. Whatsapp, the mobile app created only 5 years ago, already has 700mn active users is now the most widely used social network in many markets, officially overtaking facebook messenger. As a private chat messenger WhatsApp allows users to share unlimited text, video, audio messages for free. The cost – free and the best part – the promise of an advertising free experience.
For marketers, Whatsapp has been a tough opportunity to crack. No ads, no media to buy and users not liking intrusive spam like messages means you need to work harder to generate consumer engagement.
The most critical thing about Whatsapp is that you CANNOT push messages to consumers you do not know. You need to get invited by consumers to become their contact.
With 70% engagement daily, every marketer needs to learn the 5 proven whatsapp marketing strategies that can help you grow your user base and sales.
1. Create an Engaging Brand Persona for Whatsapp
Whatsapp is a personal and intimate messaging platform where people talk to family members, connect with friends and sometimes flirt as well. Any brand that seeks to get invited into my Whatsapp phone list needs to feel like a friend. So the first step is to create an engaging brand persona or character that represents your brand with it’s whatsapp number. People don’t like to chat with impersonal company names.
This can be a real person for instance the brand Rare Pink has a whatsapp number managed by it’s customer service managers who are available at all times to engage with customers. Often busy business people find it easy to engage with this person on whatsapp, exchanging pictures of products they are interested in, asking questions and even agreeing payment and delivery terms. The brand has been selling a significant proportion of it’s online sales via whatsapp after it started sharing it’s number with customers.
The persona can also be a fictional character designed to create interest and engagement. Absolut Vodka wanted to engage young consumers with the brand for it’s limited edition Absolut Unique in Argentina. So they decided to throw an exclusive launch party but to get in you had to contact the “fictional “ doorman Sven, a guy notoriously hard to please. The whatsapp number was released in all the Absolut media and advertising and users started sending messages, songs and even indecent proposals to Sven in order to get in. Once the persona is created, he can be used again and again for different events to bring consumers in. Watch the entire case study here.
Tip – Ensure your whatsapp number and persona is crystal clear in all media where your brand is present – TV, Print, Email, Web, Social, Search.
2. Offer Great Value to build a phone database
Whatsapp will remain ad free and hence in order to build a base of users, you need to offer them something of value in exchange for their phone number. This can be a promotion, a freebie, a free service or valuable information.
A great example of this is Delhi Police. Realising the ease and popularity of Whatsapp, they decided to create anti corruption whatsapp number and placed it on all their traditional print and outdoor messaging. All users had to do was to send in images or videos of policemen not doing their duty or taking bribes. On the launch day 23000 whatsapp messages came in, taking the police by surprise and lead to the booking of 6 policemen on charges. As a bonus the police got a database of thousands of citizens’ phones for free.
Another example comes from Unilever’s Mayonnaise brand Hellman’s which wanted to grow the usage of it’s products in new dishes in Brazil. So it offered consumers a Whatsapp line called WhatsCook where they could ask professional chefs questions, get recipes, share videos of cooking, all the time building a database of mobile numbers.
Tip – Design an attractive promotion to get users to share their number with you. Once you add them on whatsapp, send them the promo / offer which they can then redeem and begin their relationship with you.
3. Offer Always On Relevant Content for Free
What do you do once you have started building a phone list ? Whatsapp has a 70% engagement rate, higher than facebook. That means you need to offer users, great content on relevant topics to ensure that they are engaged with you.
A great example of this is Dr Amrik Singh, Agriculture scientist in India, who has created a WhatsApp group called Young Progressive Farmers to educate farmers on modern methods of farming for rice which use less water and get higher yield like the information below on weeding. This method allows at very low cost, a way to reach all the farmers via a whatsapp group. Note that the limit of a group is 50 members and you can create upto 5 groups for a personal number so as the numbers grow, one has to think of how to resource for managing a large database of whatsapp users.
Radio Interconomia, a business radio and tv channel, created a whatsapp number to offer users free business news, interesting interviews and stock analysis by top analysts on the channel. The cost of the channel – just 1$ for brilliant mass scale 2 way engagement.
4. Deliver Speedy Customer Service
Whatsapp has a 70% opening rate, which means you are almost guaranteed exposure of your message if you customer is on whatsapp with you.
Leveraging this, Banco Santander Bank has created Open Bank, a whatsapp customer service number where you can chat with the bank, post queries, solve issues. In a test pilot done with 17000 customers, 99% of consumers found the service very useful and 98% said they would continue to use it.
Reliance Brands, which handles luxury brands like Diesel, Kenneth Cole and Zegna in India, offered customers the choice of remaining engaged with the brand via Whatsapp. Consumers lapped it up, finding out about promotions, new launches and getting brand information like pictures and video. In some cases the conversion rate of consumers who were on the brands’ whatsapp list was as high as 80%.
Tip – Ensure you are adequately resourced to handle customer queries. The worst thing you can do is to get a whatsapp but not respond for hours. Ensure a dedicated person(s) depending on the traffic and ensure his/her performance is measured.
5. Consumer Research
Whatsapp has so far not been used extensively for research but offers an easy to use, inexpensive and quick platform to run some quick research. You can ask consumers about flavours they like, ask them to choose between options the brand is proposing to launch among other things. Also whatsapp is highly relevant for conducting some quick discussion internally within your company.
For instance Delhi Police with their database of numbers can now start asking people questions about the specific areas in Delhi which they find unsafe or a college campus can conduct a quick snap poll on what new courses need to be introduced. Teachers in many colleges already share notes and quizzes on whatsapp and answer FAQs.
The cost again – minimal. The time – minutes, instead of months. Whatsapp is unbeatable once you know how to leverage it well.
Just keep in mind, that spamming unknown people on Whatsapp is unacceptable, unethical and not effective. Instead use the framework of a persona, a great value exchange, content and customer service to generate leads and sales using Whatsapp.
First published here.