Across the developing world WhatsApp has become a must have for aspiring politicians and their campaigns. This begs the question can we learn from these ground breaking campaigns and how can we apply that to our own political climate?
What is Whatsapp?
WhatsApp Messenger, or simply WhatsApp, is an internationally available service owned by Meta Platforms. It allows users to send voice, video, and text messages. It also allows for voice and video calls. While the application is primarily used on mobile devises, there is also a companion desk top app available. The only requirement for the service is that you have a an cell phone number.
WhatsApp currently has over 1 billion active users in 180 countries. Research conducted by Tactical Tech confirmed that WhatsApp is now a primary means of delivery for political messaging in many countries in developing world, with particularly strong penetration in rural communities where internet is accessed mostly via smartphones. Political campaigners disseminate photos, messages, and calls to action via WhatsApp groups both large and small.  Further, communities in the developed world of individuals who immigrated from the last developed often continue to use the service in high numbers so that they can stay in touch with relatives back home inexpensively.
Unfortunately, in many places the service has become a spring of false information. The issue is so prevalent in some communities that Whatsapp itself has begun a PSA program in countries like India to combat false information. To see the ad and learn more about the damage of false information on the service, check out John Oliver's coverage on his HBO show "Last Week Tonight".
How Can It Be Used?
Despite its drawbacks WhatsApp, like many social media tools, is highly effective and ignored at a politicians peril. "According to marketing experts interviewed in some of the country studies conducted by Tactical Tech's partners, information delivered via WhatsApp has greater impact than other platforms because it has more penetration and appears to come from a reliable – or known – source. Unlike having 5,000 friends on Facebook, many of whom you don’t know in person, WhatsApp messages come as personal single messages from specific contacts" . Taking advantage of this "personal" contact is key to using the app effectively as a marketing tool.
Here are some tips for the aspiring WhatsApp user to grow their audience and have maximum impact.
All Politics is Local: Have your supporters or employees create WhatsApp groups revolving around your campaign and encourage them to invite as many friends and family as possible. Groups can have up to 265 participants who will, hopefully, spread your message far and wide.
Growing Your Audience: If you want your message to get out into non-English speaking communities you will need to use WhatsApp. Creating messages specifically for these demographics and sharing them on the platform is the cheapest and easiest way to break into a community where you may have struggled in the past. Find an employee or volunteer who has an understanding of the community and try to leverage their connections to get your group going.
Pictures, Pictures, Pictures: One of the most popular WhatsApp features is the sharing of pictures. Many people share good morning messages, positive affirmations, and religious passages as part of their daily life. Take advantage of this phenomenon by creating simple graphics with easy to read text to spread your message.
Use One Platform to Build Another: Nothing exists in a vacuum. Advertising your social media profiles, including WhatsApp, in your storefront or on your literature is key to success. Failure to do so is leaving important conversion opportunities on the table.
Don't Be That Guy: Everyone knows that one family member who forwards obviously false items to their friends or who posts it on Facebook. Don't be the spreader of false information. The idea behind using WhatsApp is creating trust between you and the consumer of whatever message you are trying to spread. If you poison the well, you may be left without anything to drink.