When you joined WhatsApp, there was a reminder that you would be enjoying it for free for a year after which you would be forced to pay a subscription fee of about 0.99$ per year. If you cleared your application data and logged back in to your WhatsApp account, there was a reminder of how long you had to enjoy that service. This however, is no more after the move announced by Mark Zuckerberg to make WhatsApp completely free. While the generous and magnanimous move has pleased most of us, there is that nagging suspicion that there is a catch. Of course there is.
One of the greatest joys that came with WhatsApp was the ability to hide from ads. On WhatsApp you aren’t hounded by thousands of irritating pop up ads. A lot of us thought that that might be the reason why you have to pay for WhatsApp. And now it will be free? Zuckerberg announced that we will be able to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations organically. The message on blog.whatsapp.com says, in part:
“Starting this year, we will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you want to hear from. That could mean communicating with your bank about whether a recent transaction was fraudulent, or with an airline about a delayed flight. We all get these messages elsewhere today – through text messages and phone calls – so we want to test new tools to make this easier to do on WhatsApp, while still giving you an experience without third-party ads and spam.”
This portends very great news for businesses and organizations. In February 2014, a report showed that 49% of Kenyan mobile users used WhatsApp as their key messaging tool. Over the years that number has increased. Moreover, research has shown that we tend to look at WhatsApp message as soon as we receive them and we often respond immediately. This means that once the plan is in place, organizations and businesses can directly address their customers and even try and attract more customers. There are questions being raised however, as to whether people will be as responsive to organization messages as they are to personal messages. We will have to wait and see. Meanwhile, how awesome would it be to order food, summon a cab or check your bank balance through WhatsApp?