It’s no secret that WhatsApp have been preparing the way to seriously monetise their platform, ever since they scrapped the user charge.

Many businesses have been working hard to find ways to incorporate WhatsApp into their digital marketing strategy – as this Inc. article shows.

Today’s announcement – that they will start sharing user data with Facebook – should come as no surprise. This is a natural next step for the platform – and finally opens up the door for ad revenue.

For users, however, the issues are a little more complicated.

And for digital marketers, there are two things you need to start doing NOW if you want to take advantage of WhatsApp marketing.

What data is going to be shared between WhatsApp and Facebook?

Here’s what we know so far. The data to be shared with Facebook includes:

  • Your phone number
  • The last time you used Whatsapp
  • “…some information […] that will allow us to coordinate more, such as to fight spam and abuse, and improve experiences across our services.”

And that’s about as much detail as we have at this stage.

What isn’t going to be shared?

WhatsApp’s FAQ, posted after the announcement, seems to suggest that message contents won’t be shared on Facebook:

“Nothing you share on WhatsApp, including your messages, photos, and account information, will be shared onto Facebook or any of the Facebook family of apps for others to see.”

[EDIT – DECEMBER 2020 – The original WhatsApp FAQ referenced above no longer exists; in addition, WhatsApp appear to have updated their wording around what data they share with Facebook companies; this updated information can be found here.]

The blog announcement itself goes a step further, and states:

“Even as we coordinate more with Facebook in the months ahead, your encrypted messages stay private and no one else can read them. Not WhatsApp, not Facebook, nor anyone else.”

OK. What does this mean for Digital Marketers?

Well, given the sheer size of the WhatsApp userbase, it’s certainly something you should take seriously.

Even with minimal data sharing between WhatsApp and Facebook, powerful insights can be drawn from triangulation of data between the two platforms.

On WhatsApp itself, little is expected to change.

Firstly, they insist that the changes won’t mean an introduction of third-party banner ads. This is important, as it signifies that they don’t intend to open up their platform to the wider marketing network.

However, users can expect to see promotional content from organisations they’re connected to.

On Facebook, I think we can reasonably assume more detailed and precise targeting options will become available – including, potentially, the ability to direct ad content to users who already have an established connection with the advertiser.

It’s not a massive stretch of imagination to assume that if you’ve liked a Page on Facebook, then that organisation may eventually be allowed to advertise in your WhatsApp inbox.

This may prove to be a powerful marketing tool – especially in terms of retargeting.

If you’re going to take WhatsApp marketing seriously, then you need to start working on two elements of your digital marketing:

  1. Increasing your following on Facebook
  2. Gathering mobile number data from your users.

At this stage, it seems that you will need both of these in place to take advantage of the new partnership.

So – those Facebook “Like” Campaign Objectives might not be such a waste of money after all.

What do you think? Are you ready to take advantage of the new partnership?

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David has worked with countless UK charities, businesses, and schools - with a brilliant track record of helping them with their biggest challenges. David is the founder of the Impact group - including Impact Charity Advisors, Impact Business Advisors, and Impact Education Support.