What’s Up with WhatsApp


Keeping in touch with friends and family who are far off can be difficult enough. Let alone, if you are they are abroad and don’t want to pay outrageous charges to talk? That’s where WhatsApp comes in. WhatsApp is free messaging and calling service/application that allows users to communicate internationally. According to WhatsApp website, “more than 1 billion people in over 180 countries use WhatsApp to stay in touch with friends and family, anytime and anywhere.” Because of its wide usage, at any given time, WhatsApp can often be found within the top 20 on Apple App Store’s top free apps chart. The name of the app is indeed a pun on “What’s up?”

WhatsApp’s mission is “Our product now supports sending and receiving a variety of media: text, photos, videos, documents, and location, as well as voice calls. Our messages and calls are secured with end-to-end encryption, meaning that no third party including WhatsApp can read or listen to them. Behind every product decision is our desire to let people communicate anywhere in the world without barriers.”


WhatsApp’s main goal is to let people communicate anywhere in the world with no hindrances. Therefore, its foundational features are quite basic such as texts and calling. However, since the app has grown, new developments have been made to enhance to types and quality of communication a user is allowed to do on the application.  Users can text, call, and share photos, videos, documents, or voice messages to any other WhatsApp user in the world. Group texts are also an option. Surprisingly, a group chat on WhatsApp can have up to 256 people in one chat. WhatsApp runs on Wi-Fi and Internet or a user’s data usage. This core feature is the reasoning behind international communication. Expensive charges from international calling will never have to be a worry again when using WhatsApp.

Companies and brands have used WhatsApp’s features in a variety of ways. For example, this application gives you a direct line to its customers. Because of WhatsApp’s international texting and calling, numerous companies use these features as more of a customer support leg. Marketing through messages or calls is also possible, but a company has to be careful in not spamming a user/customer’s inbox.

One of its most prominent features is its security. When Apple Inc. and the FBI got into a bit of an argument over encryption, WhatsApp changed its own security to further protect its users. In “Forget Apple vs The FBI: WhatsApp Just Switched on Encryption for a Billion People,” Wired writer Cade Metz  said “…that if any group of people uses the latest version of WhatsApp—whether that group spans two people or ten—the service will encrypt all messages, phone calls, photos, and videos moving among them.” These changes mean that only the people who sent and received these messages will be able to access them. A WhatsApp employee nor government official will be able to access them. Metz writes that WhatsApp is essentially “stonewalling the federal government, but it’s doing so on a larger front—one that spans roughly a billion devices.”


WhatsApp was founded by Brian Acton and Jan Koum in 2009. Both are former employees of Yahoo, but founded WhatsApp after they left in 2007. It was the beginning of the Apple iPhone when they noticed the potential for an industry of apps. This was the beginning of Whatsapp. The following years were full of struggles of getting the application up and going with updates and fixing glitches. In 2011, Sequoia Capital invested millions of dollars in WhatsApp, giving it a boost it needed.

In 2014, WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook for $19 billion, which was Facebook’s largest acquisition to date. WhatsApp continues to run an as separate company, but under the Facebook umbrella. This year, Co-founder Jan Koum announced that the application would no longer charge a $1 annual fee to accommodate those without credit card. Also, the announcement was made that the app would no longer show advertisements, but start releasing new features such as communicating with business organizations.


Target Audiences

Because WhatsApp is used globally, its target audiences are very broad. Anyone wanting to communicate internationally is a target user for WhatsApp. However, multiple studies have been done to further understand the demographics who use WhatsApp.

According to Experian Marketing, WhatsApp users “are significantly more likely than the average smartphone owner to be Hispanic, likely due in large part to the ability to send messages internationally for free as well as the reported high number of WhatsApp users who live outside of the U.S.”  This number comes out to 46.5% of WhatsApp users are Hispanic. WhatsApp users are also most likely under the age 0f 36, making them more of a younger target audience. These users are 15% more likely to be between the ages of 18 and 34. This statistic also explains why “WhatsApp users are 20 percent more likely than average to have a household income that is below $50,000.” When it comes to mobile usage, WhatsApp users are 31% more likely to watch video on their phones and 32% more likely to listen to music.


User Numbers

Millions of people around the world use WhatsApp daily. Presently, 42 billion messages are sent on WhatsApp daily and millions of new users are registered weekly. The application is available in 109 countries. According to Venture Beat writer Ken Yeung, WhatsApp has joined the elite club of having 1 billion active user monthly. This means that 1 in 7 people in the world use it daily.

Because of its expansive user numbers, a company or brand can easily reach new and current customers through using the apps. Millions of people are available at just one touch of a button. However, because WhatsApp doesn’t allow third party advertisements anymore, a company has to be a bit more creative in using WhatsApp to market. WhatsApp’s announcement might change things regarding the relationships between companies and its users. In “WhatsApp to give users’ phone numbers to Facebook for targeted ads” by Samuel Gibbs, Gibbs reports, “A WhatsApp spokesperson said: “We want to explore ways for you to communicate with businesses that matter to you too, while still giving you an experience without third-party banner ads and spam.”



Tied in with user numbers, WhatsApp continues to grow daily. Since its acquirement in 2014, WhatsApp has been able to expand with further funding and access to information only Facebook had. In February, WhatsApp announced that they had 1 billion users, but just in August, WhatsApp’s userbase was up to 1.7 billion. Therefore, the application is expanding at a rapid rate. To many, it’s a part of the basic social media apps that is needed on a cellular device, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Many mobile users only have those four social media apps on their phones.

In “WhatsApp Has A Billion Users and It Got There Way Quicker Than Gmail Did,” Quartz writer Joon Ian Wong states, “The pace of WhatsApp’s user growth has been phenomenal: It hit the billion mark only seven years after its launch. Gmail, by contrast, has taken 11 years to grow its userbase to the same size. Facebook Messenger (initially Facebook Chat) launched in 2008, meaning it’s taken about eight years to get to its current 800 million active monthly users.” When it comes to WhatsApp’s future growth, there is so much opportunity for expansion.



The Ins and Outs

WhatsApps works on any sort of device. From Apple, Microsoft, Blackberry, Nokia or Android, each tech interface has a version of the application available for download. A user can also integrate it with their computer, so it can be used mobiley and on a desktop. As mentioned before, WhatsApp runs by using the Internet or a user’s data.

When a user first downloads the application, there is a short setup process, but it is user friendly and simple to complete. A user also has to add their friends or have a phone number to contact someone else. The app runs similar to that of using your text messages or calling, just without the minutes.

After download, sharing images, videos, and voice notes internationally becomes easier. Sharing options are listed for a user to choose, or a simple text will suffice.

Companies would need customers’ numbers or information in order to get in contact with them. The same also goes with a user trying to contact a company.

Click here to see WhatsApp’s official user guide.



While WhatsApp doesn’t integrate with many other social media mediums, a user has the ability to integrate it with their desktop and phone. With this integration, a user can easily switch from phone to computer and back without losing any conversations, photos, or documents. This year, Facebook and WhatsApp have created an integration that allows users to use their Facebook information such as profile picture, friends, and basic information.

Because of the lack on integration, companies must use WhatsApp in an entirely different way than they use other forms of social media such as Twitter and Instagram. On WhatsApp, you cannot schedule posts, but rather it is solely based on communicating with each other person to person. Companies could use WhatsApp to give their customers a human connection.


Mobile Friendly

WhatsApp was created for use on mobile devices, therefore, it is incredibly mobile friendly. The application has had many updates and fixes throughout the years to make the app more and more mobile friendly. Also, WhatsApp is available across all mobile devices, not just the Apple Store. It is a free and easy download from any app store.


Using This Channel Effectively

Because WhatsApp is different from other social mediums, companies have to be a bit more creative in how they utilize it. According to Marketing Week writer Rachel Gee, BBC and Just Eat are two companies that are examples for using WhatsApp effectively. BBC first started using it in 2014 when it found that it needed to update people rapidly on the expanding Ebola crisis in West Africa. Gee reports that BBC’s mobile editor discussed, “It was question that hadn’t been posed before and showed how the BBC could use social for improving user experience through relevant content, not just by pushing current content.” Just Eat uses WhatsApp for a similar reason as BBC. The company wants to deliver the right content at the right time, but still not seem too intrusive or pushy. Gee states, ”Just Eat plans to use experiential to drive traffic and feels now is the right time for brands to tap into social mobility through Whatsapp and Facebook messenger.”

Click here for more examples of companies using WhatsApp to reach their consumers.


Prezi Presenation

If you would like to see more information, click here for a Prezi presentation.


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