What are WhatsApp Channels, and why should your business use them?
Meta recently announced the introduction of WhatsApp channels - this forms part of a wider direction of travel from Meta toward advertising and monetization on the WhatsApp platform.
As you will see, while WhatsApp used to have limited use cases for businesses (mostly if you needed a solution for customer service, e.g., WhatsApp Business), WhatsApp Channels have introduced a unique way for businesses to update customers in a newsletter / RSS feed fashion.
What is a WhatsApp Channel?
WhatsApp Channels are essentially a one-way broadcast tool for organisations to send text, images, videos, stickers, and polls to a list of subscribed users.
Instant Messaging Channels are not a new concept: Telegram has had these for a while (in fact, since 2015!), although the business viability for these has been limited (due to the overall platform being associated with cryptocurrency and piracy).
WhatsApp is still rolling out the ability to create WhatsApp channels worldwide, and most users can already subscribe to them. Channels live in a new ‘updates’ tab on WhatsApp and users will be able to discover them from a public directory. However, we expect that building a following will also require signposting from other digital and physical properties (e.g. social, e-mail and QR-codes).
Here are some WhatsApp Channels that are have already been released to the public:
Why should businesses consider creating a WhatsApp Channel?
As always, the main purpose (and perceived benefit) of a platform will only become clear once users start using it (the same way as Threads). However, there are some use cases that we can already identify based on what was announced by Meta:
You can roll out content (or important updates) in a newsletter fashion -additionally, users will be able to engage with the content through reactions.
This, coupled with polls, will give businesses an additional user engagement metric to work with. Furthermore, it appears users will also have access to a range of emojis to react with (allowing some degree of sentiment analysis).
Any piece of content that is forwarded from a WhatsApp channel will link back to the original channel.
This is an opportunity for businesses to capitalise on network effects and word-of-mouth. Furthermore, being in the public directory will mean a further opportunity to be discovered on the platform.
Channels are embedded with unique privacy features. For example, subscribed users will not be able to see who else is subscribed, or even which users have reacted to a given message. The owner of the channel will only be able to see the public name of the user (and no one will be able to see the phone number or profile picture of who is subscribed to the channel).
This will make customers more inclined to join WhatsApp Channels, in contrast to joining a group, or messaging directly with the business. Furthermore, this solves the moderation issues associated with using groups, and the limits on broadcast lists.
The introduction of WhatsApp Channels shifts the platform towards a direction that is more content-focused and advertising-friendly.
We have yet to see if this will lead to a further monetisation of the platform (and maybe the introduction of ads).
WhatsApp Channels offer a unique way for businesses to update customers in a newsletter fashion, while also benefiting from (a) additional engagement metrics, (b) word-of-mouth and (c) platform security