Facebook ‘sees opportunity’ in letting brands connect with consumers via WhatsApp

Brands could be able to connect with consumers via WhatsApp, according to Facebook’s CFO David Wehner.

Speaking at the J.P. Morgan global technology, media and telecom conference yesterday (18 May), Wehner said Facebook is currently “doing experiments” with its Messenger chat service to allow brands to contact consumers. The trials include allowing companies to use Messenger for customer service, letting users chat to brands about things such as online orders.

He said he also sees “opportunities” in bringing such a service to WhatsApp.

“[On Messenger] we’re creating the conversations between businesses to consumer on messaging in a way that we think will work well for consumers, but also be effective for businesses and we think that enabling that B2C messaging has good business potential for us on messaging.

“We’re also working on broader platform initiatives with Messenger. As we learn those things I think there’s going to be opportunities to bring some of these things to WhatsApp but that’s longer term than near-term,” he explained.

However, brands have started to experiment with the platform. Clarks ran a campaign earlier this year that prompted users to add a new mobile number to their WhatsApp after watching teaser videos on social media.

They subsequently received unique photos, videos and messages from the number.

Facebook bought WhatsApp for £19bn in February 2014. It currently only generates revenues through its nominal $0.99 fee.

In its second quarter results in October last year, Facebook said WhatsApp made a loss of $232m in the first half of the year on revenues of $16m.

Wehner said the focus remains user growth, with WhatsApp growing to 800 million monthly active users, up from 300 million when it was bought.

Mobile video as the new ‘frontier’

Facebook is also focused on becoming “synonymous” with mobile video and working with brands on how they create content for its site.

Facebook’s VP of global marketing solutions Carolyn Eversen said brands need to start thinking about how to develop specifically for mobile video and shorter content suitable for social media sites.

She claimed 47% of the value of mobile video is created in the first three seconds and 74% in the first 10 seconds.

“We see marketers starting to think about how to develop creative specifically for the mobile video environment, which is a different environement than they had been developing for in the last several decades.

“And so thinking about shorter form video is a capability that they are focused on. Also increasingly a lot of video can be consumed depending on the time of day and the environment with sound off and so considerations on how they develop their video creative without thinking about having to have sound deliver that message,” she said.