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Is WhatsApp the Future of SMS Marketing?

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Any time a brand is able to blend the appeal of social media with the power of SMS marketing, it’s hard not to want to jump on board and go all in with this approach. However, when it comes to the fervor surrounding WhatsApp, is this rising competitor to traditional SMS operations really a contender, or just another flash in the pan? To answer this question, let’s dig into the particulars of the WhatsApp platform, as well as where this outreach tool fits into your marketing operations moving forward.

The Skinny on WhatsApp

Of course, if you’ve never heard of WhatsApp before, chances are you’re sitting at your desk feeling a little perplexed right about now. According to Inc. magazine’s Lydia Belanger, this SMS alternative has picked up quite a bit of steam in portions of the world where cellular-based text transmissions are either unavailable or exceedingly expensive. For only about one dollar a year, users of WhatsApp can connect with friends, family, and select brands on a regular basis via in-app communications.

Outside of the notion that consumers in India and other emerging marketing can’t get enough of WhatsApp, there’s also the fact that the bigwigs at Facebook dropped a whopping $19 billion in cash, shares, and treasury stock to acquire this platform and explore future overlap between this app and the biggest social network on the web. Even if WhatsApp doesn’t come close to supplanting SMS marketing, those who reach out to consumers via social media outreach definitely have to stop and take note when Facebook starts making waves with moves like this one.

Understanding the Power of This Platform

In terms of raw numbers, Practical Ecommerce’s Samantha Collier notes that this platform – which launched in 2009 – currently lays claim to over 700 million users. Perhaps even more impressive than the sheer amount of people who have WhatsApp on their phones is the fact that over 70 percent log on and check their messages daily. It might not match up to the near 100 percent open rate experienced by SMS marketing, but for such a youthful new member to the digital marketing community, this kind of consistent interaction is a strong sign for the future of potential held within WhatsApp.

Can WhatsApp Really Displace SMS Operations

Now that you’re an expert on both SMS marketing and this rising contender for the throne, it’s time to talk about whether or not WhatsApp has what it takes to stake a claim as a suitable replacement for this form of outreach. While there’s no denying that the excitement and potential around WhatsApp is tangible, the reality of the situation is that texting with your customers still stands as one of the most effective and reliable ways to connect with potential shoppers and other interested individuals.

As Venture Beat’s John Haro explains, brands and marketers alike should tread carefully when it comes to abandoning SMS marketing for the untested waters of WhatsApp or any other new player in the digital world. Yes, leveraging WhatsApp might work well in situations when you’re trying to reach consumers around the globe, but for campaigns primarily operating out of North America, expecting a positive reaction by transitioning to a new platform is a fairly lofty goal.

Adding in that Facebook still hasn’t publicly released information on what exactly it plans to do with this latest acquisition makes the situation even more confusing going forward. If this social media giant institutes a new payment plan or other limitations for consumers or brands that utilize this platform, it could completely alter the dynamic of WhatsApp as it currently stands.

The Right Approach for Your Brand

The truth of the matter is that WhatsApp can be a powerful addition to your social media marketing operations – it just isn’t an applicable substitute for the power that’s held within an appropriately managed SMS campaign. Instead of trying to replace SMS marketing, a better course of action seeks to find a spot for WhatsApp in a complimentary role. Just like managing Twitter, Facebook, and other network accounts, leveraging this platform in a supporting role can help drive even more people to the main attraction – your optimized SMS campaign.

Should the time come for WhatsApp to take center stage, then this approach will have you ready and capable of making the transition while others fight with a steep learning curve. Until then, keeping the focus on SMS marketing is the best way to maximize the impact of your assets and reach the consumers that matter most to your brand.

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