WhatsApp Marketing for Business: A Guide to Getting Started

Sites like Facebook and Twitter are perhaps the first things that come to mind when you think about social media. Messenger applications, on the other hand, have overtaken social networks in terms of user numbers. Messenger applications are constantly being used for marketing. WhatsApp (a play on the term “what’s up”) is the most popular app in most of the world, with 1.5 billion monthly active users. Such market penetration cannot be overlooked. But how do you use WhatsApp to market your business effectively? For early adopters, there are equal levels of risk and reward, as with all relatively unexplored frontiers. Here’s how to use WhatsApp as a marketer.

Bonus: Get a free guide on how to boost social media interaction with better audience analytics, more precise consumer targeting, and Hootsuite’s simple social media tools.

What is WhatsApp?

WhatsApp is a free smartphone app that lets you communicate with other WhatsApp users using your phone’s internet access instead of paying for SMS text messages. You can also use the app to share files and photos, as well as make free voice and video calls. Its support for a wide range of phones has made it particularly popular in countries with high SMS charges, such as Brazil, Mexico, and Malaysia, where WhatsApp is used by 60% of the population. In reality, it’s the most common SMS substitute in 109 countries, accounting for 55.6 percent of the global population. Although Facebook paid US$19 billion for WhatsApp in February 2014, it has been running as a separate company since then, with no marketing-friendly features comparable to Facebook Messenger.

How to use WhatsApp

WhatsApp is available for iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, and Nokia S40 smartphones. There’s also a web app and desktop versions for Mac and Windows PCs, but you must first have WhatsApp installed on your phone, since each account is linked to a single phone number. You must confirm your country and enter your phone number after downloading and installing the app. You can either import your Facebook details with a single click or manually add an image and a profile name to your profile (which you can change later). WhatsApp gives you an up-to-date directory of WhatsApp users you already know by using phone numbers from your phone’s contact list. Unless you change your privacy settings, anyone who has your phone number in their address book will automatically see your listing. WhatsApp allows you to exchange messages, pictures, and videos in three different ways.

One-to-one chat

You can communicate directly with another person in your phone’s contact list, much as in other chat programs. You can also call or video call them, or record audio clips and send them as email.

Broadcast lists

If you send a message to a broadcast list, it will be sent to everyone on the list that has your phone number saved in their address book. They’ll see it as a standard post, similar to how email’s BCC (blind carbon copy) feature works. If they respond, it will appear in your chats screen as a regular one-to-one post, and their response will not be sent to anyone else in that broadcast list. The number of contacts on a broadcast list is limited to 256.


You can message up to 256 people at once in a group chat, sharing messages, images, and videos. All in the group chat will participate and see each other’s answers.

Why should you use WhatsApp for business?

The reality that many of your clients are definitely already using WhatsApp for business is the best reason to use it. Every day, more than 60 billion messages are sent via WhatsApp. Users of WhatsApp and related platforms, unexpectedly, are eager to communicate with companies. According to Nielsen’s Facebook Messaging Survey, 67% of mobile messaging app users plan to use chat more for business communication in the next two years. Furthermore, 53% of respondents claim they are more likely to shop with a company they can connect with directly. Younger clients and prospects are more likely to use messaging apps for day-to-day contact. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 42 percent of smartphone owners aged 18 to 29 use messaging apps such as WhatsApp, compared to just 19 percent of smartphone owners aged 50 and up. Furthermore, messaging applications like WhatsApp have extremely high engagement rates: 98 percent of mobile messages are opened and read within three seconds of receipt, and 90 percent are opened within three seconds of receipt. WhatsApp may already be a popular way for your audience to share content via dark social, which refers to sharing content via private channels like email or chat apps like WhatsApp rather than more public networks like Facebook. In fact, the vast majority of online sharing—84 percent—now occurs through private networks such as messaging apps, so even if you aren’t using WhatsApp to promote your brand, your prospects are most likely already using it to expand the scope of your material.

WhatsApp marketing strategies and tips

Since WhatsApp doesn’t sell ad space or offer any business-specific functionality (yet), you’ll need to think outside the box when it comes to marketing. Although WhatsApp’s scope and functionality vary from those of other messenger apps, creating a WhatsApp strategy should be done in tandem with the overall messaging app marketing strategy. When planning your WhatsApp marketing campaign, there are a few drawbacks to consider. To begin with, there is no such thing as a business account, because if your company creates one, it will be subject to the same restrictions as any other customer. WhatsApp isn’t a good option for large-scale, one-to-many marketing since each account is linked to a single mobile phone number, and you can only contact up to 256 WhatsApp users at once. As a result, if you take advantage of its shortcomings, you’ll have a better chance of succeeding. Know that, like other mobile messaging systems, WhatsApp’s strength stems from the fact that it’s connected to our phones, which we tend to view as more personal than our computers because they’re not shared and we take them with us everywhere. As a consequence, any marketing campaigns you pursue should represent (and respect) the individual. Since this is where customers communicate with their mates, confidence and imagination are important. Not unexpectedly, some of the most successful WhatsApp campaigns come from the most heavily populated areas, such as South America. Here are some examples of brands that have had success with WhatsApp marketing.

Read: When You Report Anyone on WhatsApp, What Happens?

Create a brand persona to chat with users and build buzz

Since 84 percent of Argentina’s mobile phone users were using WhatsApp at the time, it was a perfect place for Absolut Vodka to try to create buzz when they launched their Limited Edition Absolut Exclusive bottle range. They wanted to throw a very exclusive party for the launch. The catch was that only two invites were made available to the general public. Anyone who wanted to win these tickets had to contact an imaginary bouncer named Sven via WhatsApp and persuade him to let them go. People created over 1,000 unique photographs, videos, and audio messages to persuade Sven, and the campaign caused a lot of buzz in the community.

Offer one-on-one help to inspire new uses for a product

Hellmann’s decided to motivate people in Brazil to think of mayonnaise as a cooking ingredient rather than just a condiment. As a result, they welcomed visitors to their website to upload their phone numbers as well as a photo of their refrigerator contents. They were then linked with real chefs through WhatsApp, who devised a recipe using Hellmann’s and the other ingredients in their refrigerator. The chefs also used photos, videos, and other WhatsApp features to show users how to prepare the meal. What were the outcomes? A total of 13,000 customers interacted with the brand for an average of 65 minutes, and 99.5 percent of them were pleased with the service. The company was so pleased with the results of its Brazilian campaign that it expanded it to include Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay.

Offer discreet advice and service to high-value customers

For a long time, high-end lingerie brand Agent Provocateur has used WhatsApp to keep top clients informed about new arrivals and activities at the brand’s stores. Customers may also seek advice from the messenger service’s privacy. Last Christmas, Agent Provocateur’s introduced a similar WhatsApp offer called Ménage à Trois for all customers, focused on the VIP approach. Users might invite a personal shopper into a WhatsApp group chat with their partner to talk about their Christmas wishes. The style advisors at Agent Provocateur manually answered the questions, engaging with each couple. Despite the fact that it was a small campaign (with just 112 conversations), 31% of the chats resulted in store visits and 61% in website traffic.

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WhatsApp marketing tools

WhatsApp has released a Business App that was “designed with small business owners in mind,” according to the company. The software is currently only available for Android devices and is free to download. It enables companies to communicate with consumers more effectively by using software to automate, sort, and respond to messages quickly. You can save and reuse messages you send regularly, for example, and use these “fast answers” to more easily answer popular questions. When you’re unable to respond right away, you can leave an away message for your customers to know when they can expect a response. A welcoming message that welcomes customers to your company may also be set up. Added bonus: Get a free guide that explains how to boost social media interaction with better audience testing, more precise consumer targeting, and Hootsuite’s simple social media tools. Since WhatsApp does not yet have any business tools or an API, small-scale targeted campaigns like the ones seen above are the best option. To begin interacting with people, you must first make them add your phone number to their contact list. WhatsApp does allow you to add a click-to-chat connection to your website, email signature, or social media accounts, making it simple for customers to start a conversation with your business. Keep in mind that in messaging, people expect near-instant responses, so make sure you have the resources to handle the conversations, or restrict availability to specific times, as Agent Provocateur did. There are third-party WhatsApp marketing tools and services that enable marketers to create multiple WhatsApp accounts and groups, but using them will result in you being temporarily or permanently blocked from the service. Furthermore, in this type of scenario, mass messaging can do a lot of harm to your brand. Though WhatsApp’s marketing features aren’t as comprehensive as Facebook Messenger’s, it is heading in that direction. Marketers who build campaigns that operate with WhatsApp’s specific characteristics rather than against them would have an advantage. Early adopters will really stand out on WhatsApp due to the lack of advertisements and corporate presence—if they do it right.