Even if you and your friends aren't using it, you've probably heard of WhatsApp.
Initially, it got popular outside the US — in many countries, SMS text messaging is surprisingly expensive, creating a need for third party apps for text-based messages.
WhatsApp is one of the world's top messaging apps, and it's starting to present a golden opportunity for innovative digital marketing.
Brands can stay on the cutting edge by getting in on WhatsApp early, acting as pioneers into this brand new kind of marketing channel.
The thing with WhatsApp is that it falls under the “dark social” label.
It's primarily something people use for private communication, not for public sharing like on Twitter or Facebook.
It also doesn't have any business-specific features yet.
It's a brave new world for bold marketers to start experimenting to see what works.
In a recent blog post, Hootsuite offers up three great ideas for reaching out to your customers using WhatsApp.
WhatsApp marketing strategies and tips
Since WhatsApp doesn’t sell ad space or have any business-specific features (yet) you have to be innovative in your marketing approach.
While WhatsApp is different in its reach and features than other messenger apps, it’s important to develop your WhatsApp strategy alongside your general messaging app marketing strategy.
There are a few limitations you need to address when developing your WhatsApp marketing strategy. First of all, there is no such thing as a business account, so if your brand is creating an account it faces the same limitations as any other user.
Since each WhatsApp account is tied directly to a single mobile phone number—and you can only message with up to 256 WhatsApp users at once—it isn’t a good choice for large-scale, one-to-many marketing. So your chances of success are higher when you use its limitations to your advantage.
Remember that, like other mobile messaging services, part of the power of WhatsApp is that it’s tied to our phones, which tend to seem more personal to us than our computers—they’re not shared and we carry them everywhere. So any marketing campaigns you tackle should reflect (and respect) the personal aspect. This is where consumers interact with their friends, so trust and creativity is key.
Not surprisingly, some of the best examples of effective WhatsApp campaigns hail from regions with the highest penetration, including South America. Here are some case studies of brands who have made an impact using WhatsApp for marketing.
Create a brand persona to chat with users and build buzz
When Absolut Vodka launched their Limited Edition Absolut Unique bottle collection in Argentina WhatsApp was a natural place to try and build buzz, since 84 percent of the country’s mobile phone users were on the app at the time.
For the launch they decided to host a very exclusive party. The catch? There were only two invitations available to the public. Anyone wanting to win these tickets had to use WhatsApp to contact an imaginary bouncer named Sven and convince him to let them go.
The campaign generated over 1,000 unique images, videos, and audio messages people created to convince Sven, and built buzz in the community.
Offer one-on-one help to inspire new uses for a product
Hellmann’s in Brazil wanted to inspire people to think of mayonnaise as a cooking ingredient, not just a condiment. So they invited visitors to their website to submit their phone numbers along with a picture of the contents of their refrigerator. They were then connected through WhatsApp with real chefs, who came up with a recipe using Hellmann’s and the other ingredients in their fridge. The chefs even taught the users how to cook the meal through pictures, videos, and other WhatsApp features.
The results? A total of 13,000 participants spent an average of 65 minutes interacting with the brand, and 99.5 percent of them approved of the service. The brand was so happy with the results from the Brazilian campaign, they rolled it out to Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay.
Offer discreet advice and service to high-value customers
High-end lingerie brand Agent Provocateur has been using WhatsApp to offer their top clients updates on new arrivals and events at the brand’s stores for a while now. Customers can also ask advice from the privacy of of the messenger service.
The approach was so popular with VIPs that Agent Provocateur’s launched a similar WhatsApp promotion named Ménage à Trois for all customers last Christmas. WhatsApp users could invite a personal shopper into a group conversation with their partner to discuss what they wanted for Christmas. Agent Provocateur’s team of style advisers answered the questions manually, engaging with each couple.
While it was a small campaign—with 112 conversations taking place—31 percent of the chats resulted in store visits and 61 percent converted to website traffic.
[image source: Hootsuite]
You can learn more about how to leverage the popularity of Whatsapp for your own marketing campaigns over at Hootsuite.