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WhatsApp On The Up

Mobile app unlocks social networking potential

Social media aids large scale interaction and circulation of information, but it’s notoriously difficult to calculate the numbers of shares that content is getting on Facebook and Twitter.

This is not simply due to inaccurate counting but because it appears that most sharing actually happens away from these major platforms; instead instant messenger is favoured, with one study finding that nearly three-quarters of sharing taking place on mobile app WhatsApp. Somewhat surprisingly email is still the most used channel for sharing content overall, in the form of copy and pasting single links to specific individuals.


Publishers, understandably so, tend to focus their strategies around online giants Facebook and Twitter, but according to BuzzFfeed the recent addition of a Share-to-WhatsApp button on their site is generating more traffic referrals than Twitter. Music app Shazam said in February that WhatsApp comprised 10 percent of its total sharing activity, and photo editing startup Aviary has seen similar results thanks to WhatsApp. Spotify was an early supporter of the initiative, allowing users to share music via the mobile app.

The problem with WhatsApp sharing is that it makes content distribution hard to measure, leading to what’s been dubbed the ‘dark social’ of the web. WhatsApp has 400 million users who send 50 billion messages a day, but very little of this shared information can be tracked – you can’t trace which users have come to a site via a link shared on WhatsApp. Clearly though it’s important for brands and companies to understand how their content is being spread.

WhatsApp, however, doesn’t make this easy. One of the platform’s biggest problems is that it doesn’t openly integrate with third-party apps, making it difficult for publishers to implement it. Obviously WhatsApp is limited to personal chat and messaging, unlike the more news based scrolling feeds of Facebook and Twitter; this is not to say that important content isn’t being shared on WhatsApp. But importantly, compared to the public shares of Facebook and Twitter, the appeal of WhatsApp lies in its privacy – users communicate on more personal and intimate levels, thus information is shared more privately.



With messaging apps increasingly being viewed as social networks in themselves, and with Facebook set to buy WhatsApp for a tidy $19billion, publishers should consider developing WhatsApp-specific strategies.


Recent graduate and now interning as content editor, when she's not writing articles Katie can quite likely be found festival-ing, holiday-ing or reading a book (dedicated English student that she is). Follow her @KatieAtSMF.

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WhatsApp On The Up Reviewed by Anonymous on Friday, July 04, 2014 Rating: 5
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