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By a show of hands, how many of you have heard about WhatsApp?

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WhatsApp is one of the latest major advances in social media platforms, and if you’re a marketing guru or business owner, or just a human being on the planet earth, you should take note and start watching. The first time I took an interest was when I heard Facebook had purchased WhatsApp for a record-setting $19 billion in February of this year. In comparison, Facebook bought photo-sharing app Instagram for about $1 billion in 2011, and in 2012 Microsoft bought Skype for $8.5 billion.

What is WhatsApp?

I realize some may not be familiar with WhatsApp. WhatsApp Messenger is a cross-platform mobile messaging app which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS (text messages). Available on iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows and Nokia, no matter which provider you use, you’re able to message each other with no additional data or text costs. This has made it widely popular overseas considering text messaging someone out of country can cost $1 or more per text.

Why should you care?

The interest in WhatsApp is growing, and at an astounding rate. In the five years WhatsApp has existed, it has recruited 500 million monthly active users, and is looking to be one of the few social media platforms to hit 1 billion users.

And all without advertisements: Although it was purchased by Facebook, WhatsApp remains and intends to remain ad free, which is why most users find it so appealing. Droves of teens and tweens have been turning away from most social media, and to WhatsApp, for this reason.

One-on-one communication: A large issue some have with social media is that it’s mainly broadcast, and very little one-to-one activity; its network-wide social updates, not so much personal communication. WhatsApp portrays a highly valuable and very much missing role in communication.

How do I use it?

There are several valuable ways you can use WhatsApp in your personal communication. But, because we’re a marketing agency, we’ll focus on how you can use it in a business sense:

  • Use WhatsApp in your advertising and content marketing by giving potential users an opportunity to interact with your sales team.
  • Form groups and post updates about your company, disseminate new product features or versions, display advertisements, share videos and pictures, organize events, etc.
  • Integrate WhatsApp services with your overall branding strategy for effective brand positioning and management.
  • Enhance the features of customer relationship management (CRM) by sending out quick updates on lead follow-ups, addressing customer queries, sending out proposals and finalizing deals.
  • Use WhatsApp to answer users’ question and concerns, point them to new features and resolve complaints before they escalate into dissatisfaction. It gives a way for customers to reach you directly without needing to provide or rely on telephone support.
  • Manage your salesforce and marketing teams, whether they are local or remote. Communication is instant and you can form groups to interact, discuss issues and share customer updates, no matter what your geographical location.

If you’re not familiar with WhatsApp, I hope this was a nice introduction to a new and rapidly upcoming technology platform. I encourage you to get the app and play around with it to become more familiar. As it increases usefulness, new and exciting ways to market yourself and your business will undoubtedly emerge. If any of you have any exciting ideas, or just want to share your thoughts, we’d love to hear them.