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Is Whatsapp the key to small business visibility?

By Sourajit Aiyer

Whatsapp can be powerful as far as utility for small businesses is concerned. It is a communication platform; hence has higher propensity to be opened in any given period than social media apps. That means quicker viewership of content, in line with text messaging rather than social media apps. Whether people are in the elevator, waiting for a bus, sitting through a meeting, or taking a break, there is a chance of quickly glancing through Whatsapp for a few seconds.

Engagement with hundreds who may be on-the-go with faster response time than social media platforms creates faster awareness for your product. People can engage with each other in groups to understand a product better. Easy sharing tools gives scope for word-of-mouth recommendation. It can drive users back to a businness’s website quickly, where they can inquire further. Yes, it allows only 256 people per group, hence being effort-intensive and presenting a challenge. However, the bigger challenge is to understand how businesses can best utilise Whatsapp.

Content so specific that it excites

People skim through Whatsapp, rather than read fully. They prefer specific messages rather than long yarns. The idea is to get them excited in those few seconds. If a viewer gets really interested, he or she will click the link to view the website for further information. Rather than an expansive message on a new car, the specifics will suffice. Rather than generic news, crisper notes on trends may be enough. Just the highlights of a destination will do, or the offer-of-the-day for a retail chain. The strategy should push specific, short content.

Reaching users who are not customers

Many say social media is for engagement with existing customers first, new customers second. However, given the hyper-competition within the market today, most businesses need to add new clients constantly. Whatsapp can be used to connect with those who are not clients already, indirectly helping existing clients profit.

There should be a system of rewards: users are rewarded if they add a certain number of new names to a group. They are rewarded if they forward your message to their friends. It may be tough to track this; but they can make a new Group for their forwards, in which they add the business. It would help create word-of-mouth recommendation for such prospects. Client referrals are a large source of new clients, but this presupposes the existing client is a happy one.

A perception of privacy

If a client database has profile information, groups can be built based on profiles with content customised accordingly. People perceive Whatsapp to be more private than other social media. When people share on Whatsapp or write in groups, only the number or name is displayed. Others cannot click on any profile link to know more about the user. Due to its perception of being more private, there is a higher chance that people may share interesting content which describes them closely. However, the content has to be somewhat customised in order to capture their attention in only a few seconds. Content must show some relevance or advantage which grabs the attention of the targeted profile-type, so that the chances of engagement (and hopefully sharing) increases.

Images or text? 

Marketers debate using images instead of text in social media, as a visual medium will capture the user’s interest quickly. However, the speed of data connectivity in most developing countries presents a challenge. For instance, in  India, Akamai’s 2016 Q2 State of the Internet report showed broadband speed at 3.6 Mbps compared to 6.1 Mbps globally, and mobile internet speed at 3.3 Mbps compared to 11.8 Mbps globally. It may be better to limit images and place text since a slower network may mean more time to download and wait. The user may lose interest during that waiting time, and businesses a potential customer.

There must also be a balance to the number of messages sent to avoid spamming peoples’ mobiles. This is where a group can again provide benefits. It becomes a discussion platform for users to engage amongst themseves with an interested audience, instead of being over-loaded with messages.

A two-way street

Engagement is two-way. Just one-way information flow can be counter-productive in a world already over-loaded with information. Businesses should work to egage with their audience through Q&A, surveys, games, and feedback. The user should not only be reading, but also thinking, sharing, answering and asking—even if only for a few seconds. This interaction builds true engagement and brand-recall while reducing chances of distraction. Two-way flow also gives inputs, which businesses can use to better hone their strategy in line with what the clients want.

At the end, every platform has its own pros and cons, and businesses will have to decide what works for them. Whatsapp is seeing rapid adoption globally. Taking cognizance how to use it more effectively may be the key to driving business visibility.


Sourajit Aiyer is the author of 2 business books in the UK and Germany. He has written for 39 publications of 13 countries. He has also worked with financial companies in Mumbai, London, Delhi & Dhaka, and has been invited to speak at conferences in India and abroad. He blogs at www.sourajitaiyer.wordpress.com.

This article was originally published in The SME Times

Featured Image Source: Pixabay

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