Whats up with WhatsApp?

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           WhatsApp, a social media messaging app, has recently launched a new app, WhatsApp Business, specifically aimed at small business owners, and how to help them.

            So what exactly is “WhatsApp”? WhatsApp is “a free messaging app”, as listed by the Apple App Store. It uses your phone's network or Wi-Fi and acts as an alternative to Apple’s iMessage or your phone's main messaging system. In addition to being a messaging service, it can also send voice calls, texts, video chats, and other media. WhatsApp was founded around 2009 and by 2014 was acquired by Facebook, their largest acquisition (at that time).

            Another question you might be asking is: How is a messaging service going to help with small business? With WhatsApp Business allows the business owner, or whoever oversees their social media or customer relations, to interact directly with the customers. According to The International Business Times [quoting WhatsApp’s blog] “Our new app will make it easier for companies to connect with customers, and more convenient for our 1.3 billion users to chat with businesses that matter to them.” This kind of customer interaction strives to strengthen the bonds between business and customer.

            This is a great opportunity for small business owners to begin a new type of customer interaction. In the ever-changing age of social media, and messaging, this seems like an excellent step in the right direction, especially to help small business owners. An online multimedia review company called The Verge says that “WhatsApp Business adds key features like dedicated business profiles for details like email address, business description, store addresses, and website; smart messaging tools like greetings, quick replies, and away messages; and metrics for how many messages were sent, delivered, and read.” This is not only a good way to get your name out there but its an excellent way to make your business available so that customers can reach you directly, if you want that sort of personal customer interaction. Upon visiting the official WhatsApp website, the sign-up process was very simple and users can expect to begin using the app as a business profile almost immediately.

If you’re already using WhatsApp, you can create a separate business profile as well as keep your personal account. On the business profile you may set it up like a business site and have key information such as your phone number, email and website on there. In addition to those features, you can also set-up automated greeting messages neat features like quick replies so seamlessly automate communication with replies that best represent your brand. Once you’re signed up, your business can also become “verified”.

             Right now, unfortunately, WhatppsApp is only available in select countries, and only on Android phones. But remember this app was released on the 18th of January so it’s still got a long way to go! Having this app may be beneficial to reaching an audience you might not have even known was there. WhatsApp already has 1.3 billion (yes billion with a ‘b’) users and it's growing. The new app already has between 100,000 - 500,000 downloads, and has promising reviews. With the release of this app being available in certain parts of the world, and with an eventual global release, this opens the doors for businesses to tap into additional demographics.

            Online competition is as fierce as ever, but this seems to be the beginning of something good for the small business owner. Even the COO of WhatsApp agrees that their needs to be better online tools for businesses. “’What we saw was a need for businesses to have more efficient tools,’ Idema said in an interview.’” When the COO of a company this large, backs something that’s meant to help small businesses, that must be a good thing. He believes that the small business world needs a helping hand, and very soon many people will be saying “What’s up?” to businesses on WhatsApp