If you’re tired of paying per-message SMS charges, then you’ll want to know the answer to, “What is WhatsApp and how can I use it for business?”
You see, in the “always connected” world of business, ubiquitous and easy-to-use SMS text messages have traditionally been the best option for staying in touch on the go.
Unfortunately, text messaging can get expensive and for small businesses that have a geographically diverse workforce or a lot of staff in the field, it can even become prohibitive.
So what’s a small business to do?
What is WhatsApp?
Simply put, WhatsApp enables you to send text, image, video and audio messages without paying any per-message SMS charges.
How, you ask? By using the same mobile data plan you use for email and surfing the Web to send your messages.
If you’re using an Android, iPhone, Windows Phone or BlackBerry 10 device, you can even use WhatsApp to place calls for no charge. “WhatsApp Calling” uses your phone’s Internet connection rather than your cellular plan’s voice minutes.
Though WhatsApp has been around since 2009, it’s currently riding the rising wave of messaging apps use. Available for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone, and Nokia, WhatsApp has you covered and yes, it’s technology agnostic, meaning you can message between different types of devices.
No matter what device you use, WhatsApp is free to download and try for the first year. After a year, you have the option of extending your subscription for 99 cents per year. Note, there is no difference between the free and paid versions of WhatsApp other than the length of service.
WhatsApp has a fairly easy learning curve and if you have any questions, you’ll find support in their excellent FAQ section. Here’s an overview of the app:
The Favorites Tab
With your permission, WhatsApp can access your contact list and import the details of each contact that’s already active on WhatsApp by matching the phone number they used to register with the app.
Now that’s handy, eh?
The Recents Tab
This tab looks a lot like your device’s recent calls tab for good reason — this is where you can see the WhatsApp Calls you’ve both made and missed.
The Contacts Tab
Once again, with your permission, WhatsApp can access your full contact list. If, as shown below, you see a WhatsApp status under a contact’s listing, then they’re using WhatsApp.
The Chats Tab
This is where you’ll find a list of your chats. You can also initiate chats with individuals and groups and send broadcasts from this tab. (More on those terms in a bit.)
The Settings Tab
WhatsApp is full of options including the ability to back up your chats. This tab is where you can personalize your WhatsApp experience so dive in and explore.
How to Use WhatsApp for Business
WhatsApp can be used to affordably communicate in four different ways:
- One-to-one chat: you message back and forth with one person;
- Group chat: you invite two or more people to chat (up to one-hundred participants) with you and each other;
- Broadcast: you send a message to two or more people but they cannot reply; and
- WhatsApp Calling: you can call a contact using your data plan instead of your minutes.
First, take a quick peek at how each of these methods work:
On the chat tab, you can either continue or start a chat:
- To start a new chat, use the paper and pencil icon on the top right.
- To continue a chat, expand the existing chat by touching it.
Here’s a peek at a one-to-one chat screen:
As you can see in first section of the image below, there are four things you can do at the bottom of the chat screen:
- Add media: use the circle with the up arrow on the right to see the pop-up menu shown in the second section of the image above.
- Add text: touch the long white oval to enter text.
- Take and add a photo: a bit redundant as it’s in the “Add media” menu, touching the camera icon is a short cut to your device’s camera.
- Record and send audio: touch and hold the microphone icon lets you record audio. Lift your finger to send.
To create a group chat, use “New Group”:
First, you name your group and then add an icon (if you wish):
After you add contacts to your new group, it will be listed on the Chat tab. Simply press it to start messaging. Here’s an example of a group chat:
To create a broadcast list, use “Broadcast Lists”:
Touch “New List” to create a list then find it under “Broadcast Lists” on the Chat tab when you want to use it.
Note that you can only send a broadcast to people who have your phone number in their contact list.
To call someone using WhatsApp, you can use the phone icon at the top right of the one-to-one chat screen:
The call screen looks a lot like a normal call:
As you can see below, our call failed because our contact did not allow WhatsApp to use their microphone, a requirement for WhatsApp Calling.
Now that you’ve made a call, your Recents tab begins to get populated:
If you’re working on your laptop or desktop, WhatsApp has an online interface for you to use called WhatsApp Web.
To start using WhatsApp Web, go to the Settings tab and touch “WhatsApp Web”:
Next, WhatsApp will ask permission to use your camera:
Then you’ll get a bit of instruction — just touch “OK. Got it.” to move on:
Now your device’s camera is ready to scan the WhatsApp Web QR code:
Use your device’s camera to scan the code on the next screen. Note the option to stay logged in:
Congrats! You’re now logged into the online interface for WhatsApp:
To start a chat, click the speech bubbled icon. To continue a chat, click on it in the chat list. Note that you can also participate in group chats and send broadcasts online.
To access the menu, click the three dots:
WhatsApp is a powerful tool that enables small businesses to stay in touch without spending too much money on SMS text messaging.
The developers have successfully mastered the balance between robust features and ease-of-use without sacrificing either.
Throw in support for a wide variety of devices and WhatsApp deserves a spot in your small business toolbox.
Images: Small Business Trends