In 2014, when Facebook decided to pay $19 billion for WhatsApp, it had just 450 million monthly active users. Many experts questioned the smartness behind that investment by Mark Zuckerberg. But look at what happened in just 5 years – WhatsApp has more than 1.5 billion users, and 60+ billion messages are being sent using the app every day!
The app is so popular that it is safe to say that you may already use or you may know at least one person who uses WhatsApp on a regular basis. Even in the US and Australia markets dominated by Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp is starting to gain users. In some markets, WhatsApp is even replacing regular phone service, as it is used for calls and text messaging.
- WhatsApp is the No.1 app in the world, in the ‘Messenger Apps’ category, based on Google Play Store ranking. (source)
- WhatsApp is the No.2 app in the world, among ALL APPS based on monthly active users, second only to Facebook. (source)
With smartphone users projected to hit over 2.5 billion in 2019, this phenomenal growth of WhatsApp is only expected to continue.
So, it is evident that you cannot ignore WhatsApp anymore. As a nonprofit, church or ministry that is in the work of serving people and influencing them for good, WhatsApp is a good communication tool for you to invest your time and effort in.
‘WhatsApp Business’ app – A New Version:
Till now, if you wanted to use WhatsApp, you could only do so as an individual. The senior pastor or a church official needed to have a WhatsApp account and use their mobile number for communication.
That is not necessary anymore, your church or ministry can have its own official WhatsApp account.
Earlier this year, WhatsApp launched a new version of the app called WhatsApp Business, which can be now be used by churches and ministries to set up an official ministry presence on WhatsApp.
Top features of WhatsApp Business app:
The app has many useful features:
- Your Official Profile– You can set up an official organisational profile on WhatsApp.
- Your Landline or Mobile Number– You can use a landline number or a mobile phone number as the official WhatsApp number (once it is verified via call or sms).
- Two apps in the same phone– You can have 2 WhatsApp apps on the same mobile phone – the regular WhatsApp app with your personal account (which you might already have) and the WhatsApp Business app with your official organisational account.
- Web Version of WhatsApp Business– Similar to the personal version, you can also use the WhatsApp Business version on a computer or desktop (web.whatsapp.com)
- Quick Replies– WhatsApp Business gives you an option to save and reuse messages that you need to send out on a regular basis to followers or church members. This can help you make regular announcement (Example:Church service schedule & event reminders) and also help you answer common questions that are repeatedly asked by your congregation or followers.
- Labels– This feature can help you organise your contacts or chats.
- Automated Messages– You can set up an automated welcome message for new contacts and an automated message for people who contact you outside office hours.
- Chat Statistics– WhatsApp Business gives you basic statistics about the messages you sent.
3 important decisions before using WhatsApp Business app
Before using WhatsApp Business, there are a few important decisions you need to make:
Decision 1: What number will you use?
This is an important first step for you to think about. Because this will be the number that you will share openly with the public, just like you share a phone number. You may have it on your business card, magazines, handouts, websites, etc. You will also be asking your followers or church members to add this number to their mobile phone contacts, since you can ‘broadcast’ to people only if they have your number saved on their mobile phone contact list.
My recommendation: While you are free to use any number, I recommend that you set aside a simple, easy-to-recall number that is dedicatedfor this purpose.
- Simple, because you may have to print this number on handouts, advertisements, website and social media.
- Dedicated, because that way it does not interfere with the other communication needs of your church. For example:If you decide to use the web version of WhatsApp, this decision will be really helpful, since the phone that is used for WhatsApp Business app has to be always connected to the internet.
Decision 2: Which mobile device will you use?
Even though WhatsApp gives you the facility to use a landline phone (fixed phone line) as the main number, you still need a mobile device that you will use to download WhatsApp Business app from the app store (as of today, only for Android users). You can use a mobile phone or a tablet.
My recommendation: I mentioned earlier that it is technically possible to have personal and official WhatsApp accounts on the same phone using different apps, but I recommend that you use a dedicatedmobile device for WhatsApp Business. Even a basic model would suffice. Because using a dedicated mobile device has its own practical advantages:
- It is easier to delegate WhatsApp related tasks to others
- It is convenient when using the web version
- Incoming calls can be tracked as calls specific to WhatsApp related campaigns or activities
- List of church or ministry contacts don’t get mixed up with your personal contacts, helping you avoid confusion.
Decision 3: Who will handle this new communication channel?
You need to decide on the team member or volunteer who will handle WhatsApp related tasks of your ministry. It is important to decide this before you start, because WhatsApp being an ‘instant messaging’ app, people expect quicker response from you on WhatsApp compared to other channels like social media comments or blog comments.
My recommendation: Delegate WhatsApp responsibilities to a team member (staff or volunteer) who already handles ongoing communications and announcements. Because, apart from the need to respond quickly, there is also a need for a very cautious and carefully crafted communication. Any wrong or unintended messages on WhatsApp can spread like a wildfire and its very difficult to contain it at a later stage. So, it is better to delegate this to the team member who can ensure that only the right content goes out on WhatsApp.
WhatsApp Business BONUS tip: There is an ‘out-of-office-hours’ automated message facility in WhatsApp Business. This is especially helpful if you use volunteers to manage WhatsApp for you. You can schedule WhatsApp communication time based on their availability and choose to communicate with the audience only during those specific shifts. Similar to a voicemail, even if you keep the WhatsApp mobile device switched off or dormant during other timings, users who contact you will receive the automated message assuring them that you received the message and you will get back as soon as possible.
Now that you have made the 3 big decisions, let us start setting up the app.
Step-by-Step instructions on how to set up WhatsApp Business app
Step 1: Download the app from the app store
NOTE: As of now, the app is only available for Android users, in Google Play Store.
Step 2: Install the app by agreeing to the terms
Step 3: Allow the app to access your contacts and media
Step 4: Verify your phone number
You can verify the number with a one-time password via SMS or a phone call from WhatsApp (this is helpful if you like to use a landline as the WhatsApp number).
Step 5: Enter your church or ministry name and a profile photo
Name – In this step, make sure you enter the name as the organization is generally known by your audience or as it is legally registered, because WhatsApp has started rolling out a verification process by which it will give out either a ‘confirmed’ status badge (for the number) or a ‘verified’ status badge (for the brand name). Right now they do this without any involvement from the user and this is not available on request, but if there is a need in future for you to verify your organization name with the proper documentation, it might be better for you use a name that you won’t have a problem verifying.
Step 6: Configure the Chat Related Features Settings
Step 7: Configure the Privacy Settings
Step 8: Configure the General Settings
That’s it, you are all set to start using WhatsApp for Business.
Let me know if you have any specific questions or thoughts or experiences related to using WhatsApp for your ministry. Wishing you all the very best.
Stay Connected. Stay Blessed.
Author of The Connected Church. Social Media and Digital Marketing Consultant for Nonprofits, Faith-based Organisations, Churches and Ministries.