Facebook is getting serious about monetizing WhatsApp after the social network reported sluggish earnings growth last Wednesday. WhatsApp has rolled out three new ways for customers to connect quickly with businesses: a shortcut button to immediately start a conversation, the ability to have businesses send you information like a boarding pass on WhatsApp, and real-time support, the company said today.
At the same time, Facebook will now display ads of businesses that link out to WhatsApp. That means that businesses can purchase ads that lead people directly to an already loaded chat with the business on WhatsApp, and they can start talking from there. Businesses can respond to customers for free if they answer within 24 hours but Facebook will charge them for any response after 24 hours. It looks to be another way for Facebook to cash in on its many apps.
The message function on WhatsApp is nearly identical to the one on Facebook, where you can go to a business’s page and send a message. Business communications on Messenger haven’t been super successful to begin with, and Facebook has had to roll out additional chat extensions to compensate. The WhatsApp blog post indicates that it’s up to the business if it wants to offer real-time support, so there could be the additional wrinkle that you might not hear back for a while.
WhatsApp opened up its platform to business users last September. Since then, it has kept the number of businesses using the app undisclosed. It said it tested the new messaging tools with about 90 businesses including Uber, Wish, and Singapore Airlines.
Today’s announcement sounds like Facebook is making new tools to entice businesses to stay on the platform as it begins to monetize WhatsApp. As additional ways to boost stagnating profits, Facebook can monetize from Instagram’s ads in Stories, for instance, and also potentially from WhatsApp businesses that are taking out ads.