How To Article

WhatsApp Broadcast: Best Practices You Need to Know (Apr 2021)

Serene Tan
Content Lead, Respond.io
October 23, 2020

If you’re a business looking to send bulk messages to your contacts on WhatsApp, then this article is for you. We’ll dive deep into questions you’ve always wondered about broadcasting - such as what is WhatsApp Broadcast, who can use WhatsApp Broadcasts, how to create a broadcast message, the costs involved, and if you need a WhatsApp Marketing software to send WhatsApp Broadcast for business.

What is WhatsApp Broadcast?

The WhatsApp Broadcast feature allows businesses to send bulk messages to a selected group of users at a time. But to send broadcasts on WhatsApp, you’ll need to decide which WhatsApp Business product to use - WhatsApp Business App for small businesses or WhatsApp API for larger organizations.

Small businesses can use the WhatsApp Business App for broadcasts. The app has a built-in broadcasting tool and it allows you to send any content in your broadcast. However, the WhatsApp Broadcast list limit is 256 contacts at a time.

The WhatsApp Business App only allows up to 256 contacts per broadcast list, but you can send any type of content. The WhatsApp Business API only allows broadcasting using Template Messages and promotional messages are not allowed. These are WhatsApp Broadcast rules.
WhatsApp Broadcast Rules: App vs API

Using WhatsApp Business API for broadcasts has more broadcast limitations as you’ll need to use Template Messages, therefore promotional content will not be allowed. However, a WhatsApp API broadcast has a much higher broadcast size limit.

Below we’ll discuss the pros and cons of sending WhatsApp Broadcasts using the App and the API, as well as explaining the best practices and WhatsApp Broadcast rules for both products.

WhatsApp Broadcast for Small Business

Using WhatsApp Business App for broadcasts is a great solution for small businesses. WhatsApp Business App is free, only requires a few minutes of set up and has broadcasting functionality built-in.

Since any content is allowed in a WhatsApp Business App broadcast, it’s possible to send promotional messages. The broadcast features available on the app are perfect for small companies using WhatsApp for Sales. There are some limitations though.

WhatsApp Business App is for small businesses. It allows up to 256 contacts per broadcast list and you can send any form of content including promotional messages.
WhatsApp Business Broadcast Limit for Business App

To send a broadcast on the App, you’ll need to create a broadcast list. However, broadcast lists are limited to 256 Contacts. Although this limits the reach for any single broadcast, you can make multiple broadcast lists, so it should work for small businesses.

Now, you’re almost ready to build your WhatsApp Broadcast list, but before you do there is one more very important thing to know about WhatsApp Business App broadcasts.

WhatsApp Business App Broadcast Deliverability

WhatsApp wants to protect users from spamming on their platform. Therefore, they’ve made it so that when you send a broadcast on WhatsApp Business App it can only reach contacts that have your business’ WhatsApp number saved in their Contacts.

To understand what happens when you send a broadcast to numbers who have saved your number and those that have not we conducted a little experiment. We send a broadcast to three Contacts, two of who saved our number and one that didn’t.

It's hard to tell who has read your broadcasted message based on the read-receipts provided by WhatsApp.
WhatsApp Business Broadcast Deliverability for Business App

Then we reviewed the broadcast message analytics to see if we could tell which Contacts actually had the message delivered and which read the message. Unfortunately, the analytics are shown in such a way that it is very hard to tell.

Create a WhatsApp Broadcast List on the Business App

There are two ways to create a WhatsApp Broadcast list, either by manually adding Contacts and/or use labels. First, go to the Broadcast tab and manually add the Contacts one-by-one. If you’re creating multiple broadcast lists, this is very time-consuming.

Luckily WhatsApp has also provided a way to tag Contacts using labels. Users can add up to 20 labels with different colours and names to Contacts. This allows you to organize your Contacts with Labels over time, then add create a broadcast list using those Labels.

Interestingly, labels applied with any of these three methods are independent of one another. As each label is a separate entity, adding, changing or removing them from a chat, specific message or broadcast list will not affect each other.
Labels are Independent of One Another

Tagging a Contact is easy, open a chat and use the Action Menu (3 dots) to label the chat. Labels can be used for any purpose like marking chats that are customers or labelling Contacts based on the products or services they are interested in.

The important thing about labelling to think ahead of time what type of broadcasts you will want to send. That way, you can label chats in a way that makes it easier for you to create a usable broadcast list later on.

How to Broadcast in WhatsApp Business App

Now that you know how labels work in the business app, it’s time to explore how to use them in broadcasting. There are two ways to start a broadcast in WhatsApp, either via labelled contacts or creating a new broadcast list from your address book.

You can create a WhatsApp Broadcast list using labels.
How to Create WhatsApp Broadcast List in WhatsApp with Labels

With labelled chats, select Labels from the action menu. You’ll find a list of labels with relevant contacts assigned to it. From this screen, you can create a broadcast list using the Message Customers button.

You can create a WhatsApp Broadcast list with your address book contacts.
How to Create a Broadcast List on WhatsApp with Address Book Contacts

If you have no labelled chats, you can create a broadcast list by clicking New Broadcast and select the recipients from your contact list. You can find out more about how to import WhatsApp Contacts here. Once done, label the broadcast list as needed.

When broadcasting, it’s also important to know who can receive your message and if your message has been read. Thankfully, WhatsApp gives us insight into this with their Read Receipts which we’ll discuss further below.

WhatsApp Broadcast: SMEs and Corporations

SMEs and corporations with many contacts deal with high volumes of messages each day. Therefore, they’ll need a multi-user platform like WhatsApp Business API and a WhatsApp Marketing software to send and receive messages efficiently.

To protect Contacts from receiving spam and to ensure WhatsApp becomes a premier customer service platform, businesses are only allowed to send Message Templates 24 hours after the contact’s last message.

Template Messages are essentially strings of text with placeholders for customer updates. Businesses can use it to broadcast messages or to prompt a customer to restart a conversation 24 hours after their last interaction with you.
WhatsApp Broadcasts: Template Messaging

Message Templates are strings of text with media attachments and placeholders for customer updates. Businesses can use it to send WhatsApp Broadcasts or to get a customer to restart a conversation 24 hours after their last interaction with you.

Some possible use cases for Message Templates include schools sending out notices on snow days, companies alerting users about a new feature or car dealers sending out notifications about a recall and so on.

As big businesses have a large number of Contacts, it’s not feasible to add pre-existing Contacts individually. Thankfully, you can import Contacts but there are a few steps to take before using WhatsApp API to send messages.

How to Import Contact List into WhatsApp Broadcast List

As WhatsApp API doesn’t have an interface, using it requires you to connect to a business messaging platform like respond.io. While it’s not exactly a WhatsApp Marketing software, you can send WhatsApp Broadcasts and manage your inbox there.

To start, apply for a WhatsApp API account, sign up for a free respond.io account and connect both platforms. Once connected, you can start to import WhatsApp Contacts to respond.io via a CSV file.

In your CSV file, first names and phone numbers are mandatory. WhatsApp identifies their users via phone numbers, and businesses need their Contacts' phone numbers to message them via WhatsApp.

Once connected, you can start importing your contacts data to pt.respond.io via a CSV file. Navigate to Contacts > Add Contacts > Select a Channel > Multiple Contacts > Upload CSV file > Import.
How to Import Contact List into WhatsApp Broadcast List from the Contacts Module

If you don’t have the first name, input a placeholder or dummy value instead. For reference, you can download the sample CSV file and populate the contact information before uploading.

Once you have all the details needed, go to Dashboard > Contacts Module > Click the right dropdown arrow (⌄) on the Add Contacts button, upload your CSV file and then click Import.

Similar to Labels, you can add tags to filter and organize Contacts. If your Contacts have tags in the CSV file, it’ll be reflected on respond.io after importing. By default, the User who uploads the file will be assigned to the Contacts but this is can be changed later.

How to Create & Add a Message Template for Broadcast

Once you’ve imported your Contacts, you’re ready to broadcast. To start, you’ll need to use Message Templates as you are likely to be messaging Contacts outside the Messaging Window.

For those with existing Message Templates, there are two ways to do this depending on your WhatsApp Partner.

360dialog & Vonage WhatsApp: Sync Message Templates to respond.io

Or if you need to create new Message Templates, 360dialog and Vonage Users can simply create and submit the templates for approval from our platform. But Twilio and Messagebird Users will need to create & submit the templates at their Partner Hub first before adding them to respond.io.

360dialog & Vonage: Submit a Message Template from respond.io for Approval

The Message Templates are approved according to WhatsApp’s Guidelines. Generally, WhatsApp does not allow templates with promotional messages. To ensure businesses send Message Templates only when necessary, WhatsApp charges for every message depending on your WhatsApp Partner and location.

To know if your templates are approved and ready to use, 360dialog and Vonage Users can check the status on respond.io by syncing the messages after submission. While Twilio and Messagebird Users should check the status on their Partner’s Hub.

Once you have the Message Templates you need, it’s time to send a broadcast to your Contacts.

Send a Broadcast with WhatsApp Business API

1. Navigate to Broadcast > Add New Broadcast > Select Broadcast Channel > Fill in the Broadcast Name.

From here you can choose your target audience, select an uploaded Template Message and fill in the text where it’s labelled 1, 2 and 3. Once completed, you can preview the message here or send a test broadcast to check if it works.
Add a New WhatsApp Broadcast Message with Message Templates

From here choose your target audience and select an approved Message Template. Remember, you should only broadcast to Contacts that have opted in or have sent/received messages via this Channel.

If in doubt, check the box to broadcast only to those who have interacted with you. This is to prevent getting reported or marked as spam by your Contacts which will cause WhatsApp to flag your account.

2. Fill in the placeholders with text, dynamic variables and/or upload media attachments like images, videos or documents if you’re sending a Media Message Template.

Fill in the placeholders with text, dynamic variables and/or upload media attachments like images, videos or documents if you’re sending a Media Message Template.
Fill in the Placeholders for Media Message Template

Once you’ve filled in all the necessary placeholders, preview the message to check how it looks like and see if you need any adjustments.

3. Go to Test Broadcast, search for an existing Contact and then click Send Test Broadcast.

Test broadcasts are useful for checking if messaging on your account is working properly. Successful test messages are a good sign that you can safely send or schedule a broadcast to your contacts.
Sending a Test Broadcast

Test broadcasts are useful for checking if messaging on your account is working properly. Successful test messages are a good sign that you can safely send or schedule a broadcast to your Contacts.

4. Check your test broadcast on the sample recipient’s WhatsApp.

Check your test broadcast on the sample recipient’s WhatsApp. If it’s sent successfully and you’re satisfied with how it looks, it’s time to use your Template Messages to broadcast.
Test WhatsApp Broadcast using WhatsApp Message

If it’s sent successfully and you’re satisfied with how it looks, it’s time to use your Message Template to broadcast.

4. Schedule a WhatsApp Broadcast or send it immediately.

Schedule a WhatsApp Broadcast or send it immediately. If there are events lined up in your calendar, you can schedule your broadcasts in advance. You may set the date and time to send your message but remember to select the correct time zone. Time zone setting is also handy for businesses with overseas clients.
Schedule for Later or Send a Broadcast Immediately

If there are events lined up in your calendar, you can schedule your broadcasts in advance. Set the date and time to send your message and remember to select the correct time zone. This feature is also handy for businesses with remote or international clients.

That’s pretty much it, now you know how to send a broadcast with WhatsApp Business App and WhatsApp Business API.

WhatsApp Broadcast Infographic

This infographic shows us how to broadcast using WhatsApp Business App and WhatsApp Business API.
How to Send WhatsApp Broadcast

Further Reading

Interested in more how-to content about using messaging apps for business? We have more articles to help you to become a business messaging expert in no time:

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