Report • 24.01.2024

Turning customers into friends - here's how it works

WhatsApp channels as a secret weapon in the marketing mix

In fall 2023, Meta launched WhatsApp channels, a completely new feature in 150 countries, including Germany. Channels can significantly change the way companies use messenger marketing.

With 2.78 billion users worldwide, WhatsApp will be the most popular messenger in 2023. In Germany alone, 68% of users check the app daily and 82% weekly.  This high usage rate makes WhatsApp an interesting platform in the online marketing mix. Companies already have a number of options for marketing activities via WhatsApp, including newsletters, brand campaigns, click-to-WhatsApp ads and stories. In future, users will also be able to find out about brands, products and services on WhatsApp channels. This makes WhatsApp channels a modern alternative to newsletters that enable immediate customer contact and can maximize marketing reach.

How do the new WhatsApp channels work?

The channels provide companies with a new tool for distributing content and getting in touch with their target group. The new function can be found outside of the normal chat in the "News" tab under the status messages. Users can search channels in a directory and either subscribe directly or use an invitation link. In this way, they receive regular updates, but not as push notifications - they must first actively allow this function for the channels. Channel operators can send various content formats to all subscribers, such as texts, images, videos, links or stickers. However, unlike with standard messages or in groups, users can only respond with emojis and cannot reply directly to the content. The message history of a channel is stored on the WhatsApp servers for 30 days. 

Companies have two options for using WhatsApp for marketing activities. With the business app, they can not only generate broadcast lists and send a message to several contacts at once, but also use the new channel function. To create a channel, you first have to give it a name, enter a short and concise description and upload a channel image, such as a logo or photo. However, only one person can currently act as an administrator. 

In the future, however, up to three admins are planned. 

Good to know: The profile pictures and admins are visible to users, but the channel operators do not see the phone numbers of their followers. Companies can access additional marketing features and functions on WhatsApp via the Business API. This includes, for example, the option to personalize messages, integrate chatbots and CRM systems or scale campaigns. Access is via a Business Solution Provider (BSP). 

Increase your reach and customer loyalty with WhatsApp channels

It should be noted that the marketing opportunities in WhatsApp channels are quite limited. They are intended more for generic messages and limited interactions, whereas email and WhatsApp newsletters, for example, are better suited to detailed communication. In addition, targeting, personalization or target group segmentation is not possible with channels. Users must also activate push notifications via a bell in the channel in order to receive regular updates. It is therefore advisable for companies to use WhatsApp channels as a supplement to their marketing strategy or messenger marketing rather than as the main tool. 

The channel function allows companies to send news and relevant content and information directly to a large number of users at the same time. Although followers can only react to the content with emojis, this gives companies an impression of how their target group receives the shared content. It also eliminates the need for long comments that require a response. Nevertheless, direct communication via WhatsApp channels can have a positive effect on customer loyalty and brand awareness. For example, companies can

  • share exclusive discount codes,
  • link special offers and blog articles, podcasts, etc.,
  • Announce products, publications or campaigns,
  • share news from the community and
  • share company news.
Hartmut Deiwick smiles into the camera
Hartmut Deiwick, CEO, Löwenstark Digital Group
Source: Hartmut Deiwick

Surveys are also possible, in which subscribers can vote with an emoji. A look behind the scenes is also conceivable: for example, employees can present a favorite product. WhatsApp channels offer faster and more direct communication than traditional newsletters. They are primarily suitable for pushing content, maximizing reach and building and strengthening the community and customer loyalty. The channels are particularly interesting for companies with regular news, promotions or events, for example. Independently of this, seasonal occasions offer incentives to keep subscribers up to date, be it discount codes for Easter, the best deals on Black Friday or gift ideas for Christmas. 

 Tips for marketing with WhatsApp channels 

  • Create an invitation link to draw customers' attention to the WhatsApp channel and motivate them to sign up. 
  • Focus on targeted communication, i.e. carefully select interesting topics. The most important question to answer is: What is interesting for the target group and offers added value?
  • Play the channel regularly, at least once a day. However, constant bombardment should be avoided. 
  • As on all social media channels, humor and self-deprecation, but also graphics, images, videos or GIFs are a good way to entertain and engage followers on WhatsApp channels. 
  • Plan content, especially seasonal content, as early as possible. It is advisable to create an editorial plan in coordination with other marketing activities on WhatsApp and beyond. 
  • The WhatsApp guidelines must be observed: Channel administrators should treat their followers with respect and avoid sending too much, low-quality, illegal or damaging content. 
Hartmut Deiwick

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