WhatsApp was founded in 2009 by two ex-Yahoo engineers to provide a simple, ad-free platform to keep in touch with loved ones. Nine years and a $19 billion sale to Facebook later, WhatsApp has 1.5 billion users in 1 billion user groups in 60 languages. It is now the most widely used messaging app in the world.
As Facebook looks to monetize WhatsApp, the company is exploring how the app can help businesses. At Cognito, we are doing the same. Here are three ways we have found WhatsApp to be beneficial.
1. Internal communications
We at Cognito APAC, have a WhatsApp group, which we find more seamless and quicker than email and perfect for coordinating between our offices in Hong Kong and Singapore. We use the group to arrange calls and provide updates on travel plans.
WhatsApp provides a platform to assist with workplace efficiency and allows team bonding to occur and our culture to evolve. Team members in other parts of the region can quickly congratulate colleagues on client wins or other achievements. It is an easy way for us to share photos to post on social media channels on behalf of clients and our own marketing.
2. Coordinating with clients
WhatsApp can be used for client and agency communication. We have found it effective in some situations – but only after careful discussion and consideration with the client.
WhatsApp is most effective as a coordination tool during industry events. There is no better way to reach clients or reporters in a crowded conference hall (provided there is internet –most of the region has decent 4G) than through a quick message about a new interview time or shifted speaking slot.
3. Community Building:
WhatsApp community building capabilities used to be limited, as early on only 100 people could join a single group. That’s now changed and is currently the maximum number of members is 256. Groups bring together people with similar interests in various fields, such as fintech, cryptocurrencies or investing. While they are excellent for sharing industry publications, intel and ideas to benefit the community’s interests, they can also be a bit invasive. The larger and more active the group, the sooner you may be reaching to turn your notifications off, especially if group membership spans time zones.
Community rules established on other forums such as Facebook and LinkedIn still apply. Groups operate best when admins set clear rules of engagement for everyone to keep the community on track. As the app evolves, we may see more of these control functions become available to help monitor the content.
Outside of APAC our Cognito colleagues in Europe and North America are seeing a growing shift towards groups and community management, more particularly on platforms such as LinkedIn, however,, where users know the content they are engaging with is more likely to be relevant to them.
Data, Caution & Common Sense:
Although WhatsApp is encrypted, we recommend refraining from communicating anything of sensitivity or proprietary information through the platform. Official announcements and important documents should always be shared first and foremost through email.
It is also prudent to be aware, that despite encryption, one’s behaviors, tendencies, data and key words are being tracked and analyzed. This is where messaging apps and social network companies maintain their value.
The legality of the content on WhatsApp varies from country to country and between jurisdictions – know the relevant regulations in your country. WhatsApp conversations can be downloaded for archiving purposes if required.
All companies need to discuss the engagement they intend to have with their clients on WhatsApp and if necessary, plan to include a copy of the conversation in your weekly or monthly reporting cycles. This simple technique will allow transparency and accountability to prevail and keep the relationship safer in the long term.
Mariko is a Public Relations and Marketing Consultant at Cognito and Lincoln Mah is a Senior Digital and Marketing Strategist in Singapore. The authors would like to thank the whole Cognito APAC team for sharing their experiences and advice.