Email is passé. Most consumers sign up on websites, services using Gmail. And it is rare for your email land into the Gmail inbox. More often than not, your weekly/monthly status mails, promotional mails, offers land up in the promotions tab with less than 0.1% views. You might as well be burning money.
Mobile app notifications are an option but it takes huge effort (and cost) to build, maintain and distribute the app. Social media pages were offered as a low-cost attractive proposition but the engagement levels and reach levels have reached abysmal levels and unless one pumps in huge promotional campaigns in social media, chances are your beautifully curated content is not reaching anyone.
So what should a corporate / organization looking to get its messages out to the larger world do? How to ensure you build a digital media reach? How to get the power of the crowd to work for you?
The answer may lie in WhatsApp. With over 400 mi active users in India and a very high ease of use factor which has led to a high sharing /forwarding culture, WhatsApp has become the platform for social engagements. School classmates, office groups, RWA groups, Club groups, Interest groups, political groups – we all have hundreds of groups which exchange information of all sorts – mundane (and sometimes irritating good morning messages) to funny pictures, videos, links, news, op-ed pieces, propaganda stuff, defamatory stuff – WhatsApp has the slice of life content that appeals to everyone.
Building a WhatsApp channel
WhatsApp is a personal tool and not amenable to automation (hope the company will fix it soon). Yet, even in its limited way, it offers a great opportunity for brands / corporates / social organizations to create their own media distribution outlets.
How should brands approach this task? Here’s a high-level plan:
Step 1: Identify the target community -> helps in creating the campaigns driving acquisition of primary partners.
Step2: Create acquisition campaigns to motivate & inspire target community to engage with the brand / corporate / social organization
Step 3: Create capacity to handle incoming traffic; message templates for welcoming partners; message templates for expected roles / content and value
Step 4: Create a content strategy for WhatsApp network. What kind of content will work, what frequency, what format etc.
Step 5: Create capacity to handle enquires & messages
Step 6: Create a mechanism to review & adjust
Case-Study: Banjara’s WhatsApp network
Over the past 3 months, we have created a 5000 strong WhatsApp distribution contact for Banjara’s, one of our marteching clients. The network was created by targeting bloggers, primary product users via social (FB), AdWords (keyword targeting), email (CRM) and SMS (visitors at retail outlets).
The target audience was invited to connect with the official company WhatsApp number to received advance product information, fun videos and posters and exclusive contests which would be available only to this network.
This network is then used to distribute product videos, brand concept videos, user generated videos around brand campaigns (#BinTheTube for example see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPtpMmbuv5Q, user-generated reviews / review videos; user-generated comments on social posts and relevant content. The recipients are encouraged to share and report if their friends and associates liked the share. Special contests and schemes are run for this network and free samples; gift hampers are used to incentivize the partners.
The Banjara’s WhatsApp network has become a key resource in helping spread the brand messaging into the WhatsApp channels. If we assume that 5-10% recipients are sharing the content onwards across 3-6 groups, it gives the brand a like reach of 150,000 – 300000 (assuming 100 members in a group). The secondary and tertiary sharing is harder to assess. One anecdotal proxy is to measure how many content pieces are shared back with the brand executives
If you have a savvy social content strategy backed by powerful emotional story-telling, building a WhatsApp based media distribution network of your own is highly recommended. Such a network can only grow over time and will yield significant cost saving in media and social media expenses over time.