The text messaging app, WhatsApp has over 1 billion users and is growing fast – it has doubled its users over the past year. It is often viewed as a way to stay connected with friends and family, but organisations are starting to benefit from the platform. An interesting example is the charity MSF, which offers updates about its work via WhatsApp.
I wanted to consider how membership organisations could utilise it.
What is it?
WhatsApp is a free messaging app for smartphones, there was a small charge but the provider recently dropped it. It can be used for one to one dialogue or you can create groups of up to 256 members – this has recently been expanded from 100. You need to have access to the number of the mobile phone you want to message in your phone in order for WhatsApp to work, so the potential for spamming isn’t as high as with other platforms.
It uses the internet as opposed to mobile data, so it doesn’t carry a cost like SMS messages, especially if you use free Wifi. You can also use your account on a desktop too.
How can membership organisations use it?
I think the most obvious use for the app for membership organisations is customer service. WhatsApp can offer a way for members or potential members to contact the organisation directly and for them to receive a personal reply from whoever is ‘manning’ the account.
Events could be another way to use WhatsApp – with attendees signing up for updates about the event on the run up to it. This could be time limited way to test the app.
I also think the ability to create groups of up to 256 contacts could assist professional bodies in communicating with certain engaged groups like staff, committees or sub-groups of members. The organisation can create the group but users are able to leave when they wish.
I think the biggest challenge will be supervising the account, as once you have advertised the service, the message feed needs to be managed. As yet there aren’t many tools that can connect your WhatsApp conversations to your CRM system, so it will often be a standalone communication activity.
What do you think? Are there any options for using WhatsApp in your organisation?