The WhatsApp Status update: just another marketing ploy?
WhatsApp and Facebook are critically interlinked. It’s not a conspiracy theory anymore that Facebook takes a look through your WhatsApp data to organise your Facebook feed. Contacts you talk to frequently on WhatsApp will start appearing on your Facebook Feed; products and companies you mention will get a whiff of it; pages you’ve mentioned recently will pop up more frequently… It’s all very nefarious, and then you realise this is what the digital age is all about.
When competing businesses have the same monetization strategy, which is heavily targeted ads based on user interests, it starts to get a bit blurry.
It’s Facebook’s way of making money.
Knowing everything about you is Facebook’s bargaining chip with companies looking for ways to advertise. Why pay for a billboard on a highway when they can reach exactly who they want through highly targeted digital campaigns?
When WhatsApp initially launched, it had a rather weird monetization strategy; subscription fees. Back when its direct competition were SMS and Blackberry Messenger, which required you to, well, own a Blackberry, this made sense. The $1 fee was still much cheaper than other options available. Eventually Facebook ramped up their own Messenger service pushing it onto its huge global userbase, and competition like Telegram, Signal, Skype and Google Hangouts became more developed. WhatsApp had to drop the fees (though they never really enforced it anyway).
When Facebook bought WhatsApp, they bought it for several reasons:
- To have direct access to less developed markets like India and South East Asia where WhatsApp is critically popular.
- Eventually have access to the information that the WhatsApp client provides about users. This started with the change to WhatsApp’s terms and conditions in August 2016.
- Streamline the competition between Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, to control and balance out additional competition.
The WhatsApp Status update added just one basic feature while side-stepping some other critical ones. A Snapchat-like “HeyGuys here’s the latest Facebook meme/me and my friend doing funny things” limited time picture has replaced the traditional “Hey there! I am using WhatsApp.” text mode.
Already Facebook has the capability to data-mine its billions of users, and millions of additional WhatsApp users who opted-in after the T&C change. With the WhatsApp status update change, it now has the added responsibility of being yet another one of Facebook’s direct attacks on Snapchat.
Don’t sell Snapchat to us? We’ll just copy you.
“Stories” on Instagram, “Messenger Day” on Facebook Messenger, and now “Statuses” on Whatsapp. It seems to be exactly the same service across multiple Facebook-owned entities. Perhaps because it’s obvious. At a certain point obviously competing services start to get muddled down into a steadily flowing sludge of social media. It seems Facebook’s businesses are moving towards that direction on purpose.
The obvious intention of WhatsApp Statuses are to generate ad revenue from Sponsored Statuses in the same way Snapchat does.
The obvious intention of WhatsApp Statuses are to generate ad revenue from Sponsored Statuses in the same way Snapchat does. Perhaps WhatsApp will incorporate those directly in the Status feed; it remains to be seen. But we do know that both Facebook and WhatsApp are interlinked on global scale, and when one is in the business of showing highly-targeted ads to its users, it doesn’t take a giant leap of imagination to think WhatsApp will start doing the same.