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Why You Need to Add a WhatsApp Share Button

Every content marketer has been there. You publish a post you think will make waves… and it just sits there, gathering internet dust.

There’s a reason why we call it “going viral” - it’s because there’s often very little control over it. The one thing we do have control over, however, is creating the conditions necessary for the virus to grow.

That’s why it’s important to constantly keep up with the way that people view and share our content. And there’s no denying that the biggest player in digital chatter right now is instant messaging app, WhatsApp. Here’s why I think you need to pay it more attention.

The king of chat

One of the biggest tech headlines of 2014 was Facebook’s unprecedented purchase of WhatsApp. The social giant shelled out billions of dollars in stocks and shares to get their hands on the app’s 600 million worldwide users, many of whom prefer WhatsApp to Facebook’s own Messenger.

Top 3 social messaging services

Furthermore, what with WhatsApp recently moving to desktop it seems like Facebook may be poised to totally replace Messenger. In short, WhatsApp is no longer something we can ignore.

Why is this important for content marketers?

Samir Mezrahi, senior editor of BuzzFeed wrote in a recent article for Quartz that the growing popularity of apps like WhatsApp and Snapchat are a sign of two important social media trends. Firstly, in as much as what we share is who we are on social media, these apps are increasingly how we define ourselves in relation to our social network.

Secondly, it shows that there is a shift from public sharing, such as via Twitter - and, to a lesser extent, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ - to more private or “ephemeral” media. Indeed, Samir says that BuzzFeed recently introduced a WhatsApp share button on their mobile site and it’s already getting more clicks than the share-to-Twitter button. USA Today’s sports site FTW found the same thing, with WhatsApp getting 18% of taps, versus 13% for Twitter.

What’s more, a recent study by Smart Insights showed that for most businesses nowadays, 25% of traffic comes from mobile devices. I checked the blog stats where I currently work in-house at a UK accounting software company and found that the share of mobile traffic doubled from a 16% share against combined tablet and desktop in January 2014, to 32% in January 2015.

Furthermore, Facebook have already shown their intent to encourage more sharing on WhatsApp through a recent update which now means that when you share a YouTube URL, the video’s image thumbnail automatically inserts itself into the message, similarly to how this works on Facebook itself.

WhatsApp YouTube screen

So, if you want to encourage more shares from mobile, it stands to reason that you’d add the ability for users to share your articles straight to the world’s most popular mobile chat app. Or, as Jason Kasarek summed up nicely in a recent post for HubSpot: “When you're looking for guidance on your mobile and desktop content strategy, remember that inbound marketing teaches one thing: The one that is the most helpful wins.”

Possible negatives

There are a couple of reasons why you might not bother adding the button.

Firstly, you might think at first that a private share isn’t as worthwhile as a more public one. It’s true that a share to Twitter or Facebook might put your article in front of more eyes, but the funnel doesn’t start until the prospect is on your site. A personal share from one friend to another is more likely to garner engagement than what’s essentially a message in a bottle.

Not only this, but according to the latest State of the Internet report by Mary Meeker, chat apps like Snapchat, WhatsApp and the Chinese WeChat actually encourage more communication - and hence sharing - than more broadcast-focused communication services like Facebook and Twitter.

This being said, the biggest reason for not adding a WhatsApp share button is that Facebook doesn’t offer any third party integration at the moment, which limits the amount of data feedback.

John Mottram, content director for USA Today, told Digiday that many publishers may be turned off by WhatsApp’s “dark traffic” problem, as it’s hard to directly measure when someone comes to a site via a link shared on WhatsApp. “You can’t see where things are coming from with WhatsApp, so the gratification isn’t there,”  he said.

The result is that not many publishers are actually adding the share button. According to Ricardo Bilton, staff writer at Digiday, this creates a bit of a catch 22. He wrote in a May 2014 article that “Readers aren’t sharing via WhatsApp because publishers don’t make it easy, and publishers aren’t investing in WhatsApp because they’re not yet seeing the usage numbers.”

However, with Facebook seemingly taking steps to integrate WhatsApp into its main service, it’s likely that third party integration will be available soon.

Everyone knows that the knack to content marketing is to stay ahead of the game. So my advice to you is to hop on this boat before it sails.

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