This is an informative little PowerPoint presentation I found today while perusing Scribd (a resource I probably don’t use as much as I should). I knew I wanted to write a post about Facebook’s last-week $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp, and I wanted to refer to this presentation because it outlines one very important fact – “new technological abilities have transformed the way we experience and consume information.”
Now, let’s put that into perspective with WhatsApp. If you don’t know what WhatsApp is, it’s an application that allows people to exchange messages between each other without having to pay for SMS from cell phone companies. When I first heard of this acquisition, I was immediately contemplating what this could mean for the business world. As the attached document says, app development is constantly reshaping how we receive information, but could businesses leverage WhatsApp for it to become an effective, highly-populated avenue for global commerce? Mark Zuckerberg is optimistic about the app further helping Facebook solidify relationships between users. However, he doesn’t expect the acquisition to be lucrative for another several years, not until strategic partnerships he’s undertaking with other technology companies work to enable billions of people who are not online to equip themselves as such¹.
I personally am optimistic. I love to see opportunities that may exist in high-profile situations such as acquisitions, and like many other professionals, I’m keeping my eyes and ears out for the next big thing. Perhaps this situation will be similar. I would like to present a contradictory opinion, though. Komborerai Murimba (@KomboreraiM), a writer for the online Zimbabwean magazine Teqno, discussed the current fallacies with WhatsApp and how they would hinder the application’s ability to serve as a tool for businesses. One of his main points was that at this point WhatsApp is still considered “unprofessional”, and that “no serious business runs such a comm line and dares to attach it to their name².” When I first heard about Twitter, I certainly didn’t see it as a potential commercial platform, but now I hold a completely different opinion. Tweeting, to me, in the words of author Mark W. Schaefer (@markwschaefer) from his podcast earlier this week, is like a handshake, or saying hello³. There can be just as much professionalism attached to it as if you were doing it in person, and I think WhatsApp could develop in the same fashion, if not more so, particularly because you can communicate with more than 140 characters.
Another thing Murimba mentioned was the security risk². I do agree here; if hackers can easily tamper with WhatsApp’s security protocols so that they can just walk into a business’ account, that’s a problem. Nonetheless, this can be worked on over the next several years, and perhaps within the next few years a specific WhatsApp could be developed for businesses. It could be almost like a Facebook “fan page”, but for an SMS app. Facebook could integrate special features into it, such as a Google Hangout-esque meeting interface with multiple-screen capability, a Google Drive-esque uploading platform for document sharing, and other elements including real-time stock charts, a small news feed, amongst other useful tools. But that’s my wishful thinking.
What do you think about the possibilities of using WhatsApp for business? Are you for or against it? Leave a comment below, and we can continue the discussion. Oh, and by the way, I’m back to being @HeyNickNappo on Twitter. I thought, what the hey, people like the hey, it’s unique, I like to keep it casual…so there you are.
Keep in touch!
¹Rahn, C. (2014, February 25). Mark Zuckerberg Says WhatsApp Worth More Than $19 Billion. Bloomberg.com. Retrieved from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-02-24/zuckerberg-seeks-phone-partners-in-quest-to-connect-billions.html.
²Murimba, K. (2013). The Practicality of Using WhatsApp for Business?. Teqno. Retrieved from http://teqno-magazine.co.zw/2013/the-practicality-of-using-whatsapp-for-business/.
³Schaefer, M. and Webster, T. (2014, February 25). Where does social media fit in the marketing mix?. [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from http://www.businessesgrow.com/2014/02/25/social-media-fit-marketing-mix/.