WhatsApp, Meta’s popular Messaging platform has close to 2.7 Billion active users. Some statistics reveal that 78% of Americans use this app at least once a week and two billion active users use it every month. WhatsApp is also a popular app for messaging and sharing information in multiple countries across the globe.
WhatsApp has recently rolled out a Channels feature in over 150 countries making it accessible to millions of users. This new WhatsApp feature is very similar to the channels feature on Telegram and Discord but we are sure it will have a greater impact given the large volume of users on this platform.
What are WhatsApp Channels?
WhatsApp has added a new Updates tab on its homescreen which can be accessed with a single click. The Updates tab houses Status updates from contacts and is the home to WhatsApp Channels as well.
WhatsApp Channels is a one-way broadcast tool where admins can share text, photos, videos, website links, run polls, and more. Public Channels are visible to every WhatsApp user irrespective of their location, however, WhatsApp is suggesting popular Channels to its users based on their region. Here is what the Updates tab looks like in the app.
Users can search for Channels of their choice and follow them to get updates. Currently, Channels from celebrities, sport teams, artists, and publications are available on WhatsApp. Channels are public, but Admins can decide who can follow them and toggle its visibility in search.
Messages and media posted in Channels right from inception can be viewed by followers, non-followers can only see updates in the last 30 days. Admins can also prevent followers from taking screenshots and from sharing these updates further with their contacts. The information of Channel participants is private and cannot be viewed by other participants or the admin.
Since WhatsApp Channels is a one-way broadcast instead of a conversation, the onus lies on the admins to ensure safe, relevant, and appropriate content is posted for followers. Here are the Channel guidelines suggested by WhatsApp.
With the basics covered, let's dive into why WhatsApp Channels can be an effective medium for distributing content for news publishers and bloggers.
Why Should Publishers Pay Attention to WhatsApp Channels?
WhatsApp is a popular messaging platform and already has a significant user base. Publishers can tap into this userbase and reach out to them very easily using Channels. WhatsApp is frequently used to communicate with other users, Channels are integrated well and can be easily accessed in the app.
We’ll list down a few reasons explaining why WhatsApp Channels can be a brilliant medium for content distribution and reader engagement.
- Readers can follow a publisher's channel on WhatsApp by searching for it or by clicking on the channel link. Following a channel only needs a single click which makes it a smooth enrolling process.
- There is no limit to the amount of followers a channel can amass. So publishers can continue to grow their follower count and reach out to a large audience without worrying about a cap on followers.
- News and Media publishers can use a wide variety of content formats in WhatsApp Channels. It supports text, photos, videos, website links, and more. There is no character limit allowing updates to be more descriptive in comparison.
- Followers can respond to channel updates using emojis helping publishers understand what type of content works best for their audience. WhatsApp also allows running polls on Channels to get feedback on topics and tailor their coverage to suit the requirements of their loyal followers.
- WhatsApp Channels can be a great way for publishers to drive traffic to their websites and social media handles. Adding a link to your latest article, or a video from your YouTube channel gives publishers the flexibility to drive traffic to the destination of their choice without any restrictions. Publisher can further urge their followers to share the content with their friends and family to amplify their reach beyond the channel.
- Channels are muted by default but publishers can urge their followers to unmute updates and get notified. This can be a great way to drive traffic to breaking news and other urgent topics. For example, a Finance news publisher can use Channels to share live stock market updates. Similarly, a sports publication can leverage Channels to broadcast crucial updates from sporting events.
- WhatsApp delivers updates in a non-obtrusive way helping users read updates at leisure (Even non-followers have a 30-day window, remember?). As a result, updates shared on WhatsApp Channels have a much longer shelf life than other distribution methods.
- Publishers can measure reader engagement by seeing the view count on their update posts, as well as the number and type of emoji reactions on them. We also encourage Publishers to use URL modifiers to get a better idea of CTRs on WhatsApp Channels.
How can Digital News Publishers Create their Own Channel on WhatsApp?
WhatsApp Channels can be an interesting new way for you to reach out to your audience. But before you go ahead and create your very own channel on WhatsApp here are a few things that you need to know.
- WhatsApp Channels isn’t rolled out to everyone yet and it may not be available in your region yet.
- WhatsApp Channels can be created using a regular WhatsApp account as well as a WhatsApp Business Account.
- Currently, WhatsApp only allows one Admin for the channel, i.e. the number that was used to create the channel.
- Updates once posted on the channel cannot be edited in any form, however, they can be deleted.
Steps to create a WhatsApp Channel
- Open WhatsApp and head over to the Updates tab.
- Next to Channels click the “+” button and select Create Channel.
- Tap “Get Started” and follow the screen prompts
- You can add a Channel name, Channel icon [ideal size: 500px x 500px], and description for it in this step. You can edit this later, so don’t sweat in getting the description spot on in the first go.
- Tap Create Channel and you are done!
- Once created, you can tap on your Channel icon and share the link to help onboarding followers.
Before you start posting we highly recommend you go through WhatsApp’s Channel Guidelines to ensure that you fully comply.
WhatsApp Channel Best Practices for Publishers
With Channels you now have direct access to a significant chunk of your audience. You can also convert non-followers, into followers if you have interesting updates that appeal to them.
- Keep the update short, focused on the specific topic, and to the point. This helps your followers grasp the news quickly and they are more likely to click the link and visit your website.
- Experiment with different media formats to ascertain which works best for your followers. Instead of simply posting a link (which displays the Meta Title and Meta Description) you can add some context in the text format. Images and videos can also be a good way to grab attention. Videos will consume more bandwidth for followers so use it wisely.
- Use polls to keep followers engaged. Covering a sporting event, run a poll to gauge who your followers think will win. Technology publications can also run post-event polls to understand what their followers think about newly launched products.
- Add UTM parameters to the URLs you are sending on WhatsApp Channels, this will help you track
- Sharing updates in a timely fashion with up-to-date information will help create a habit for users to view them regularly.
Follow these best practices to grow your followers and help your channel thrive. We are currently in conversation with our publisher partners to get their first impressions of WhatsApp Channels, do stay tuned for some interesting insights coming soon.