How to Use a WhatsApp Business Account

Today’s consumers are accustomed to near-instant communication—be it with friends, family, or even the companies with whom they do business. And, for their part, business owners have never had as many tools at their disposal to make quick communication a reality. What used to be a phone call or email is now an instant message or a query left on a social media account. The medium and speed might be different—but the need to communicate remains the same.

WhatsApp Business accounts are one of the many tools out there to help small business owners communicate with new and existing customers. The platform is among the leading communications tools used across the globe, meaning that most of your customers are likely to have and use an account. 

Getting your business on WhatsApp helps you round out your suite of social media tools to help reach customers where they already spend their time. This leads to exceptional customer service and client satisfaction, more opportunities to communicate, and could even boost revenue in the long run. If for nothing else, a WhatsApp Business account provides you with an easy way to provide customer support in a flash.

Setting up a WhatsApp Business account doesn’t have to feel like a daunting task, either. We’ll help you understand what WhatsApp is, how it works, why you might want to set up a WhatsApp Business account, and how to set yourself up for success on the platform.

What Is WhatsApp?

WhatsApp is one of many tools out there that helps people communicate through chat, voice, and video. The platform, which launched in 2009, has more than 2 billion users across the world as of February 2020. Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014, although it is still a standalone app and is not directly connected to Facebook Messenger or other Facebook-related properties.

If you’re familiar with Skype, WhatsApp will feel quite similar. You can message other WhatsApp users based on your existing contacts list, as the program integrates with your phone’s contacts and displays those who have accounts. From there, you can send text-like messages, start or join group chats, and make video or voice calls. Best of all, WhatsApp works on either WiFi or data connections, meaning you can use WhatsApp services even when you don’t have reliable cell service or are roaming. 

In recent years, WhatsApp even rolled out a mobile payment option on the platform, giving people another option for paying for goods and services. This feature is currently limited to India, but there are plans for broadening to other markets that are forthcoming. WhatsApp also has plans to launch a cryptocurrency that will be associated with Facebook’s ongoing efforts in the space.

What Can WhatsApp Business Do?

WhatsApp developers noticed a need for business-oriented solutions on the platform, with the goal of helping companies reach out to customers through the platform. The app was first rolled out in 2018, and was designed to help small and medium business owners specifically. WhatsApp Business is currently available for both Android and iOS-enabled devices, and has cross-functional support between both software platforms.

The WhatsApp Business app goes beyond what most users see and do. There’s an option to create a business profile, create auto-responses for when people reach out with questions, and labeling features that help small business owners keep track of conversations between several contacts at once. Businesses can also set up catalogs within the app to easily show off their goods right within the platform itself.

Beyond simply enabling conversations between businesses and individuals, WhatsApp Business helps companies foster more direct, personalized conversations as well. Whereas other social media platforms broadcast most messaging to a wide audience, WhatsApp Business keeps individual conversations private. This can help create direct relationships that go beyond general company updates that go to an entire audience at once.

The WhatsApp Business app also makes it easy to glean customer insights through its analytics suite. Account managers can view stats relating to their messages, including message open and read rates, as well as general statistics about user adoption and general platform performance. 

How to Set up a WhatsApp Business Account

Setting up your WhatsApp Business account is quite simple. So long as you have a dedicated phone number that you’re willing to attach to your account, a mobile phone, and the time required to field customer queries, you’re well on your way. 

Running a successful WhatsApp Business account is a bit more nuanced, however. You’ll want to make sure you have a few crucial capabilities in place to make the venture worth your time.

Create a WhatsApp Business Account

As we mentioned earlier, there’s a separate WhatsApp Business app for companies to use when joining the platform. Head to the Google Play Store or Apple App Store (depending on your device) to get started and find the WhatsApp Business app. Download the app and sign up by entering the phone number of your business. If you do not have a dedicated mobile number to use for WhatsApp Business, you can always use a personal phone number. Bear in mind that this might pose challenges down the line, as your personal contacts and individual WhatsApp account could get tangled in with your business account.

Fill Out Your Account Information

Once you’ve downloaded WhatsApp Business and created an account, you’ll want to begin filling out your profile. You’ll want to upload a photo for your bio first—aim for a round version of your logo or something that easily identifies your business, as this will be one of the main items people see when communicating with you on the platform.

Next, enter your business name. You don’t have to enter your formal business name—just the one you would use for a social media account or a DBA if you use one. You’ll also want to provide information on your business category. There are a ton of options to choose from within the WhatsApp Business environment. If you’re not sure which is the right one for you, or don’t see an exact match, pick one that’s as close a fit as possible. 

Once you’ve entered this preliminary information, you’ll be brought to the main WhatsApp Business chat environment. Here’s where you’ll see your ongoing chat conversations and messages to other users. If you’re logging into WhatsApp Business for the first time, and have not used a phone number that’s currently associated with another account, this area will likely be blank. There will be an option at the top of the chat area that allows you to showcase your products. If you want to add information about what you offer, you can do so through the Catalog Manager function that pops up next.

Now that you’ve gotten the basics out of the way, you have a few options for communicating to your customers. The first and most obvious is the direct chat feature. This will enable you to start conversations with customers and people interested in your brand. There’s also a broadcast feature, which allows you to send the same message to multiple people. This can be particularly helpful if you want to broadcast a sale or special offer to certain people (or, of course, as many people you want).

Making the Most of Your WhatsApp Business Account 

As with other kinds of social media accounts, merely setting one up and waiting for people to stumble across it rarely yields success. You’ll want to be active on WhatsApp Business, and even put together a strategy for how you intend to use the platform, if you want to make your efforts bear fruit. 

First, you’ll want to promote the fact that you’re on WhatsApp in the first place. Tell your existing social media followers that they can reach out to you on the WhatsApp platform, and tell your customers in-store or through newsletters as well. You can also make mention of your new communication tool on your website, which can help attract users to interact with you on WhatsApp as well.

Once you’ve spread the word, think strategically about how you want to use WhatsApp Business. If it’s merely another tool for customer service, there won’t be much you need to do on the platform on a daily basis. You’ll want to set up auto-responses to make sure customers know you’ve received their message, but you can leave your engagement to fielding questions as they come in otherwise. If you want to use WhatsApp Business as more of a social media tool, think about offering exclusive discounts and coupon codes to your WhatsApp audience. Consider unique and novel ideas for seasonal messages or sales announcements as well.

As with all social media and digital messaging tools, you get out what you put in. You can do as much or as little work on cultivating your presence as you want. But to truly get the most out of your WhatsApp Business efforts, be sure to plan ahead and think about big-picture marketing goals. 

The Final Word

WhatsApp is a global sensation, as well as a daily tool for communicating, that is used almost every day by billions of people. Starting a business account in WhatsApp can help you open doors to new customers, make it easier for existing customers to receive stellar customer service, and to market to your core demographic where they already spend their time. 

With a bit of preparation, technical know-how, and a desire to try out new marketing strategies, you can use WhatsApp Business to drive real results for your small business.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O’Connor is a contributing writer for Fundera.

Brian writes about finance, business strategy, and digital marketing. He is the former director of digital strategy at Morgan Stanley, and has worked at Foreign Affairs magazine, Student Loan Hero, and as a partner of a small consulting firm, too. Combined, these experiences allow him to offer a unique perspective on the challenges small business owners face.

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