WhatsApp was created in 2009 by Jan Koum and Brian Acton, both former employees at Yahoo. Taken over by Facebook in 2014, the application has 2 billion users in 180 countries.
Defined by YourDictionary.com as “an ad-free instant messaging service”, and by Wikipedia as a “freeware, cross-platform messaging and Voice over IP (VoIP) service”, it would seem easy to simply call the technology a messaging service, much like the situation with Skype, but we’re going to look a little further to answer the question, “Is WhatsApp considered social media?”.
On their website, WhatsApp’s tagline reads, “Simple. Secure. Reliable messaging” and also states that “behind every product decision is our desire to let people communicate anywhere in the world without barriers”. Combine these statements with the fact that WhatsApp was created as “an alternative to SMS”, it would seem that the function is really just to allow users to communicate.
Christina Sigel, Quora user and mobile app developer states that WhatsApp is not a social media because it doesn’t allow the user to expand their social network, only to maintain existing one.
Alternatively, another Quora user, Sachin Kumar, a digital marketing analyst, believes that the app is social media because it facilitates communication and allows users to share content, pointing to the fact that although the platform’s purpose was initially only for messaging, it has since expanded to allow users to send and receive a variety of content including text, photo, video, and documents.
Even though WhatsApp is technically an app that allows users to communicate and create groups while sharing content, like Skype, we’re going to say it’s a messaging service with features of social media.
So How Can I Use WhatsApp for Business?
With WhatsApp Business, a separate app “with the small business owner in mind” businesses can catalog their products, connect with customers, create automated messages, a business profile with their address, description, hours of operation, etc., all in one place, with the added bonus of customer support services so they can communicate with customers already using the WhatsApp application. Where Skype is great for communicating between colleagues, WhatsApp is a great tool to keep in touch with both colleagues and customers.
All in all, we think it’s pretty safe to say that Skype and WhatsApp are more like messaging services with certain features similar to social media, while Facebook and Snapchat are what we are most likely to call “social media”.
We hope these articles have been helpful in pointing out the differences between these platforms and how they can be used for business. And now that we are more familiar with what “social media” really means, in the last article in this series, “What Does It Mean to Have ‘Social Media Experience’ These Days?”, we will look at what it really takes to be a “social media pro”.