Facebook Is About To Unleash WhatsApp On The Digital Media Universe
There’s a sleeping giant in messenger space that’s about to be awoken. WhatsApp, with its 1.5 billion worldwide users, has never run any advertising. Four years ago Facebook purchased WhatsApp for an astounding $22B, but didn’t monetize the platform at the behest of the app’s cofounders Jan Koum and Brian Acton. Eventually the pressure to start making money created a rift between FB and said founders, which compelled the latter to exit the partnership earlier this year. With WhatsApp’s benevolent forefathers out of the way, FB is clearly setting its sights on finally monetizing the social behemoth.
Ads on WhatsApp will begin with a baby crawl. Although the platform transmits 60B messages per day the vast majority are from one user to another. Since recipients aren’t going to respond well to a paid ad being thrown on a message from their Aunt Jenny, WhatsApp can’t use this inventory right away. In order to build a larger B2C interaction base WhatsApp is testing a program to let companies use the platform as a messaging equivalent of a customer service number. If WhatsApp can successfully scale these connections they’ll be able to insert ads into this communication stream. Another option is to insert ads within users’ Status pages. This is similar to Instagram’s Stories feature, which FB already monetizes to death.
Bottom line – running ads on WhatsApp is going to take a while to get going. But just like that first snowflake gently coming down the mountain, once it picks up steam and is combined with billions of other snowflakes, the whole industry is going to feel a new avalanche of social advertising.