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WhatsApp for desktop: New potential for marketing and service professionals?

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23rd Jan 2015
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WhatsApp has announced it is now available for use on desktop devices, ending its long stint as a smartphone-only application.

In a blog post yesterday, the Facebook-owned global messaging service declared the following:

“Today, for the first time, millions of you will have the ability to use WhatsApp on your web browser. Our web client is simply an extension of your phone: the web browser mirrors conversations and messages from your mobile device - this means all of your messages still live on your phone.”

While many business leaders might hear alarm bells ring at the thought of employees using their computers at work to spend time logged into yet another social network, for marketing and customer service professionals the news is likely to be greeted with open arms.

With over 700m users, the app represents an attractive new target for customer communications both from a support and  engagement perspective, with the closed-off nature of the service appealing to both brands and their customers.

However, the previous mobile-only stance left customer support opportunities limited due to efficiency issues associated with using smartphones on the message-handling side, and marketers have reported the same problem, having only recently begun experimenting with how to engage with potential customers via the app.         

Twitter is currently the social network of choice for customer support communications, but its position as an open forum means both brands and customers can often be reluctant to engage in complaint handling via the platform; especially given the trouble it can occasionally get brands into

In marketing terms, however, Twitter may still represent a greater opportunity for delivering successful campaigns to a widespread audience, however recent statistics from Boomerang (which state OTT’ mobile applications like iMessage, WhatsApp and Blackberry Messenger receive an average message open rate of 98%) suggest WhatsApp could yet provide a more targeted and focused route to customer engagement; especially with the new desktop functionality.   

"WhatsApp [offers] a real-time way to connect with a massive global market," Lydia Belanger recently wrote, on inc.com. "It costs practically nothing and doesn’t require the upkeep of other social networks that require active content production. It’s simply another avenue by which customers can reach you - and all you need is a phone number.

"Bottom line? WhatsApp is probably not a be-all, end-all solution to social-media marketing, but it’s only a dollar a year. You never know how many new customers you’ll connect with."

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