Do non-profits own the messaging space?

I’ve worked in messaging for more than ten years and most of that experience has been working with non-profit organizations. It may be the fact that I’m biased, or my view is skewed because of my work history, but I think that non-profit organizations have had much more success with messaging campaigns compared to small business or enterprise.

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This episode reviews some prominent non-profit text message campaigns and goes a little deeper into why non-profits might have an advantage over business.



The big reason that non-profits do better with messaging is that people care much more about non-profit causes (compared to a small business for instance). Because a supporter is more invested in a non-profit, they will be more likely to give their phone number – which is a very high permission opt-in. To put it another way, I’m not interested in giving my cell phone to many businesses that I deal with, but for a cause I believe in….

Why non-profits are rushing to messaging

This podcast is based on a post written for 101fundraising.org. I’m presenting at the Resource Alliance virtual conference June 12th. The talk is about how non-profits use messaging for supporter acquisition and fundraising, and the ideas in this post and podcast set the stage for the conversation.

If this topic is interesting, the conference is free and you can register here.



How can organizations use WhatsApp?

WhatsApp provides some new tools for non-profits and business to communicate on using their app. Below is the podcast, and then a written overview of the basics as to how and where where an organization can start with WhatsApp.

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As messaging channels go, it can be pretty easy to get bored with SMS. It’s old and really is quite boring – it’s just text messaging. With more thought it becomes obvious that SMS is here to stay, but it’s still fun to imagine the possibilities on other messaging platforms. There are no other messaging platforms more interesting than WhatsApp.

The stats are outrageous. WhatsApp has 1.5 billion users, with 1 billion daily active users and more than 65 billion messages sent daily. A better description of the ubiquity is that in the messaging space I will often here, “In this country no one texts, the are all on WhatsApp.”

Users are definitely on the platform, but does that mean that a business or non-profit can find success on the platform?

The short answer is that we just don’t know. In a single sentence, I would describe WhatsApp messaging for business as appealing because of the numbers, but absolutely no one knows how it should work or has good use cases.

Let’s begin the discussion by outlining whats available in WhatsApp. On the WhatsApp, any organization is called a Business. So even though non-profits and government agencies do a lot of messaging, we’ll refer to all organizations as “Business” moving forward.

The central place for a business on WhatsApp is their Business Profile. No matter what direction your organization chooses to go with WhatsApp, setting up a Business Profile is the first step. The Business Profile is the organization’s page on WhatsApp and this profile allows users to find the business without knowing the phone number. So setting up a Business Profile makes the business searchable/findable in the WhatsApp directory.

The WhatsApp platform has different offerings for SMBs and large enterprise businesses. If the organization is small or medium, WhatsApp provides Business App. This app has special tools for business like quick replies and labels for people messaging in. With the Business App everything is still manual and the idea seems to be that customers can WhatsApp the store instead of calling the store.

Larger businesses can connect to the WhatsApp Business API. The idea with the API is to build automated conversations and potentially connect those conversations to customer service or CRM platforms. This API idea is similar to whats available with Facebook Messenger or SMS. Obviously, this is the more scalable approach.

The line that WhatsApp seems to draw between SMB and enterprise – the Business App and the API – is half a million messages per month. To frame it another way, to get access to the API an organization needs to send at least a half million messages per month. That’s a lot of messages! Especially on a platform that’s new, with unclear opt-in rules and not many examples of how to build a list.

The last important aspect to review is how WhatsApp deals with subscription messaging. In one respect, WhatsApp subscriptions use the 24+1 rule, similar to Facebook Messenger. In every situation, the user needs to message in first. When a user messages in, the business can send a message back. In fact, the business has 24 hours to send the user any message they like. Any and every incoming message from the user opens this 24 hour window for the business to send a message. Let’s call this a “response message” which is how FB/WhatsApp refers to it I believe.

Outside of this 24 hour window an outgoing message is considered a “Subscription Message”. The idea is that the user must subscribe to receive these messages. 24+1 messaging policy means that the business has the 24 hour window and can send 1 subscription message outside of that 24 hour window. This is how both Messenger and WhatsApp Business API work.

WhatsApp has a unique mechanic to how the broadcast messages work. WhatsApp broadcasts use templates. In the API, instead of pushing the recipients and the message to send to the recipients, the business sending the message needs to add the message and save it as a template. Once the template is saved, the API call would then list the receipts and identify the template to send. This is fairly boring and a little technical, but it gives WhatsApp a spot to approve or decline the messages that a business is sending. This is different from Messenger where Facebook approves or declines the Pages that can send broadcasts, WhatsApp seems to be focused on the content of the broadcast instead.

All in all WhatsApp is an exciting new channel. If you need to talk to populations where the only way to do that is WhatsApp, it worth it to start exploring the channel. If WhatsApp is a nice-to-have for your organization, it probably makes sense to wait and see where everything goes.

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Derek Johnson, Tatango CEO, joins The Chat Bubble to discuss 10DLC and shared short codes

Derek Johnson is prolific, talking about SMS, RCS and the messaging space on the Tatango Youtube Channel and LinkedIn. He chats with me today about changes to how the carriers plan to manage shared short codes and long codes.

Derek provides valuable information, echoing what the carriers are saying about shared short codes and providing insight on where he thinks the space is heading.

Find out more about Tatango at tatango.com

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Messaging brings more people in contact with an organization

The framework that I like to use when an organization is thinking about their messaging strategy is “More People + More Action”. When an organization ads messaging as a channel, it brings More People and drives More Action.



In this episode we talk through the “More People” benefit and how that works through messaging.

Opt-in vs. Peer to Peer for SMS Messaging Campaigns

Kate Myers joins The Chat Bubble to help explain the differences between opt-in and peer to peer SMS messaging. 



The short answer is that if an organization wants to do automated messaging they’re required to have users opt in. An organization can manually send messages to people without getting their opt-in first.

SMS Keyword Best Practices

Last week’s episode was about call to action best practices. This week we are going to focus on a specific piece of the call to action – they keyword. Here are keyword best practices.



I like to capitalize the keyword. It highlights what the user should text in, but doesn’t confuse them with quotes. Any text message vendor should be able to handle capital or lowercase letters, just like a URL.

Keep the keyword simple. Just use a word. Again, think like an ideal URL and focus on simple and understandable.

Sometimes teams want to squeeze their brand message into a keyword. Imagine if Skittles tried to make “Taste the rainbow” their keyword. Think of all the potential for misspellings. The keyword is for response, not branding.
Use different keywords to track different promotions.

Similarly, the worst possible misstep is making a keyword that feels like a tracking code. Yes, the keyword can track the promotion channel, but it shouldn’t feel like a tracking code. I’ve seen customers try to make TV2 or RADIONYC their keywords. DON’T DO THIS. No numbers in keywords, no weird combinations. Just a simple word.