Recently I attended a meeting where the main speaker dismissed WhatsApp as a useless platform for business communication. And in the mainstream media of late people have been writing passionately about their hate for WhatsApp. One of their biggest beefs being about WhatsApp groups, especially the fact that you can be added to a group without being asked first; and you don’t have the possibility to leave discreetly.
However WhatsApp being ‘the most popular global mobile messenger apps as of August 2015, based on number of monthly active users,’ according to statista.com, as an entrepreneur you can’t afford to ignore this messaging platform. With 800M monthly active users, WhatsApp is ahead of Facebook Messenger (700M), QQMobile (603M), WeChat (600M), Skype (300) and Viber (249M) among others (statista.com).
Personally I’m a member of 16 WhatsApp groups, 10 of which I’ve created. Six are made of family members, five are about education and mentorship, four are made of entrepreneurs and two are for friends. Out of the 16 groups, only five are really vibrant. So far when it comes to marketing my business, I get more response from WhatsApp than Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. Recently while setting up the Biashara Roadmap Network group on Facebook, I posted an invite in 9 Facebook groups with a combined membership exceeding 500,000 and got only 2 responses. However when I sent the same invite to 338 friends, I got 23 responses and counting. Clearly the adage that ‘people do business with people they know’ still holds today.
Let me share with you what I consider to be the rules for setting up and maintaining a successful WhatsApp group.
- Always keep in mind that a WhatsApp message will land into someone’s phone. Be sensible about the kind of messages you’ll be posting and the time you’ll be sending them.
- Why are you setting up a group? Is it for a baby shower, to prepare a friend’s wedding, for business exchanges, to share prayers or jokes? Knowing the reason why will allow you to identify the people who are most suited for your group. This is important since some friend, relative or business associate may accept to join your group by courtesy or because they feel they can’t afford to decline your invitation. You don’t need such people since they may end up as ‘silent observers’.
- Before setting up the group, send an invitation to the people you have identified using the WhatsApp broadcast feature. This allows you to send the same message to a big number of individuals; and WhatsApp saves the broadcast list that you may use in the future.
- When setting up the group, only include those who have agreed to be part of it. Resist the urge to include the ones who don’t respond to your invitation; especially when the check marks have turned blue, indicating that they have read your message. If check marks indicate that your friend hasn’t seen the message, you may send them an sms. Don’t expect everyone you invite to be willing to join your group. The memberships of my groups vary from 4 to 44, yet I have more than 1000 contacts in my phone. Respect the will of those who are not willing to opt in and they’ll be grateful to you for that.
- Have simple but clear guidelines and post them as the initial message to the group after including the first members; then subsequently as a welcome message to new members. This help set the tone for the kind of conversations that will be happening in the group.
- Like for any other social networking platform, you don’t need to be on call 24/7. Choose a suitable time of the day to participate in the conversations; even if it means scrolling back to read past exchanges.
- Sometimes a member may leave or be removed from a group by mistake. This can happens while checking the group’s settings or switching a simcard from one handset to another. Should you notice that a member has left or was removed, send them a private message asking them if they left willingly or by mistake; and only return them if they say so. Otherwise the feedback you get may help you improve the experience for the remaining members where necessary. I got people leaving because discussions were consuming too much of their bundle, they were feeling disconnected from the group, they didn’t have the time to take part in the discussions, etc.
- It’s not possible to moderate the content members decide to post in a group. Should a member post content that’s inappropriate or unrelated to the group, raise the issue outside the group by sending them a private message to remind them of the rules and regulations of the group; or better still by give them a phone call.
- Let the Silent Observers be. We have different personalities. Some people prefer keeping quiet whenever someone else expresses an idea that’s similar to theirs; others may find free time only at late hours and feel that it would be awkward to contribute at that time… I’m yet to see a group of more than 10 people where everyone is actively engaged. As long as they have opted in and are not leaving, they are getting value from the group.
- Don’t be a silent observer or a dormant member, especially of a group you have created! When you feel like you have nothing to add to a conversation, an encouraging word such as ‘I agree with you John’, a thumb up or any other emoji sign is enough to assure fellow members that you are present and that you appreciate their participation.
What’s your experience with WhatsApp groups? Please share with me here.
Angela Kamanzi Your Friend in Biashara