Say what now? – the role of WhatsApp in SME Marketing

WhatsApp can be a useful marketing tool for businesses small and large

The November 2014 IPSOS MRBI poll revealed that WhatsApp is used by 35% of Irish people over the age of 16, with 51% of these using daily (compared to only 37% of Twitter users). This suggests that WhatsApp is something that Irish businesses large and small should be paying more attention to. On a worldwide scale the contrast is even greater – WhatsApp now hosts 700 million users versus Twitter’s 300 million. That’s over twice the audience! Let’s have a look and see if WhatsApp has the potential to become a viable marketing tool for small and medium businesses.


Small groups can be effective - groups are small (limit of 50 people) – but for a smaller businesses this can work. It’s a great way to bring like-minded clients together and create a sense of community. While generic consumers may not appreciate being grouped together with random strangers, it could be well suited to client bases made up of trades or professions. In this way WhatsApp can be used for the exchange of ideas, it doesn’t always have to be about directly pitching your product – building a sense of community can be a great foundation for your brand to establish or expand itself upon.


Product promotion – WhatsApp has plenty of potential to promote new products – you can message your customers with images, video – even audio clips! Just don’t bombard your subscribers – by all means push a new product now and then but don’t do it constantly as you’ll only end up irritating your customers. And make sure they’ve opted in – invite them to join via form on your website, don’t add them without their knowledge.


Have a care - there’s also plenty of potential for businesses to use it as a customer care tool. Invite feedback – and respond to it. Some may see the inability to message groups of 50 people as a disadvantage. I’d argue that it isn’t. Embrace the fact that it can be used for individual messaging. In the world of small and medium businesses, the personal approach is a selling point. Use it to establish a rapport with your client base. Then when you do come to messaging them with product info, a sense of brand loyalty may well be established.


Staff matter too – for small and medium businesses WhatsApp has potential in Internal Communications too. I wouldn’t suggest using it for critical messages, but for quick updates, WhatsApp can be a fun, non-costly way to build employee engagement. It’s also quite handy if some of your staff spend time out on the road. But again, if you’re something important to communicate it’s best to do it via traditional means!


Conclusion – if used right, WhatsApp has a lot of potential to help small and medium businesses boost their marketing campaigns and customer engagement.  It’s not suited towards marketing messages en masse – but if you’re looking for a way to personally reach out to your customers it’s got plenty to offer. Use it wisely.


Niall Kelly – Marketing Executive, Totterdells