WhatsApp Channels give private users, but especially businesses, new options for sending out broadcasts. In other words: companies now have a new way to use WhatsApp for marketing and brand visibility or awareness.
7 limitations of WhatsApp Channels for content and brand marketing
You might have seen a Facebook or WhatsApp status saying, "Don't update your WhatsApp!" This is because WhatsApp has introduced a new feature called WhatsApp Channels and many users are not impressed. The new setup has some people frustrated, but the feature may be even more disappointing for marketing and branding.
We look at what these channels are, how they work, and how brands can use them.
On September 13, WhatsApp announced the global rollout of the feature in about 150 countries. At first, the channels (or some features) might not be available to all users right away, as WhatsApp is launching the feature gradually with users. There's a waitlist people can join if they want to get an update on when channels will be available to them.
What are WhatsApp Channels?
A WhatsApp Channel allows companies to send messages to a large number of customers at once. This broadcast feature makes communication easier and saves resources, as you only need to send one message to reach a lot of people at once.
Companies can send, for example, important information, updates, product launches, special deals, and company news on the channels. This direct style of communication can improve customer loyalty and brand awareness.
How do WhatsApp Channels work?
Just like with Telegram's channels or the Instagram Broadcast Channels, users can follow influencers, creators, and companies on WhatsApp Channels to get their latest updates. The channels won't appear with your other chats. You'll see them in a separate tab, together with the status updates.
Here, users can see the Channels (some are suggested to you by WhatsApp) and also the status updates, a feature that's currently not as popular with users, so maybe grouping together the status updates and channels will give the status changes more visibility.
There's also a searchable directory where users can find channels they want to follow. For instance, they can search for hobbies, their favourite sports teams, and news from local organisations.
Channels can also be accessed through invitation links that you can share in chats, e-mails, and any other online platform.
This search function - similar to the search bar on Telegram - is also interesting for companies as it makes it easier for users to find you.
The channel history will only be saved for up to 30 days on WhatsApp's servers. Administrators have the option to ban screenshots and forwarding messages from their channels. Additional options for users to delete the status updates faster from their devices are still to come.
How to create a WhatsApp channel
Both private users and businesses can create a WhatsApp channel.
While private users and influencers can use the regular WhatsApp app for this, businesses have to work with the WhatsApp Business app.
You can create a new channel directly on your smartphone (it's available for iOS and Android), but also on your browser through WhatsApp Web. Important: Make sure that your app is updated to the latest version.
7 limitations of WhatsApp channels
For all the benefits WhatsApp Channels present, there are several limitations if you really want to use it for marketing in your business.
1. No targeting or personalisation is possible
You can only send the same message to everybody, there's no segmentation of recipients.
2. No interaction
You can only broadcast messages as a push notification, but users can't react or respond.
3. Lower visibility
Unless users choose to get your updates as push notifications (the default setting is to have push notifications turned off), users have to go to their update tab to see your message, and there, channels are set up in chronological order. So if you're not among one of the last 10 updates they received, they won't even see your content right away.
4. No automation
WhatsApp Channels don't have any automation features like chatbots or templates you can use to scale or even schedule a campaign.
5. Worse performance
As WhatsApp Channels now look more like a crowded e-mail newsletter inbox, it'll be almost impossible to reach the same open (95%) and click-through (35%) rates that the regular WhatsApp broadcasts offer.
6. No insights
As of now, there doesn't seem to be a way to track the performance of your broadcasts through the WhatsApp Channels
7. No end-to-end encryption
WhatsApp Channels don't offer end-to-end encryption, so if you want to use them for business purposes, make sure to check that they're compliant with your country's data regulations.
This doesn't mean that WhatsApp Channels can't be used for marketing. If you just want to push content (without measuring results) or increase your reach as a company or influencer, this might be a good tool, and some businesses are already using it successfully.
However, don't expect too much support from the Channels for most marketing use cases for now.
Overall, WhatsApp Channels could be an effective new platform for getting in touch with your target group, sending broadcasts, and increasing brand awareness.
But with many features missing (automation, personalization, visibility, etc.), it's not the best tool for scaling your campaigns and getting the most out of WhatsApp for marketing.
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