(How) do you use WhatsApp?

WhatsApp_logoI was first introduced to WhatsApp by residents of Wrens Nest who  were using it as a way to maintain communication between committee members for the Community Centre. A small team of us from different organisations have been working closely with the committee at the centre, so they added us to their WhatsApp group. I think some of the reasons it was so useful in their context was that you don’t need credit on your phone because it works over wifi, it works across all different makes of smartphone, and it doesn’t require people to be on a social media platform like Facebook (a couple of members of the group don’t use Facebook).

Our team started using WhatsApp for a number of things including:

  • Communications to and between residents who were getting involved in activities with us.
  • Practical arrangements – our most frequent one is finding out who has the keys to the community centre and where can we collect them from!
  • Team communications and updates. It has been really helpful to share updates on who we’ve spoken to and what activity has been taking place using WhatsApp. We did try email updates, but they felt cumbersome and hard work. A quick WhatsApp message can be sent on the spot, and doesn’t clog up email inboxes. Another useful function is that you can export WhatsApp group chat content via email, which we do on a monthly basis to save updates for monitoring purposes.
  • Team planning. While I’d love to be using tools like Trello and Slack, they are big step and if not already part of how you work they probably feel a bit daunting and perhaps present to much of learning curve for a project you might spend one or two days a week on. So we started to use WhatsApp to share screen grabs of planning documents shared in our GoogleDrive, this helps keep us on track, reduces emails, and nudges us over to GoogleDrive when team mates ask for contributions.

Given this experience, I was fascinated to read a blog post by Paul Bradshaw about ways that Online Journalism students had used WhatsApp to publish updates during the elections. Below are a couple of extracts which serve to highlight useful things I learned from reading the post.

WhatsApp has a Broadcast Message Function

Most people use WhatsApp to have group chats – but most news organisations don’t use this.Instead they use WhatsApp’s Broadcast Message feature to publish updates. This is because it has particular advantages:

  • Users cannot see each other’s details (particularly useful if you’re concerned about data protection issues)
  • Users do not know how many other recipients there are (useful if, as is likely, you have small subscriber numbers and do not wish that to be obvious)
  • Users are less likely to reply (useful if you don’t have the time to manage replies – although this can also be a disadvantage if you want interaction)

You can find a guide to setting up a broadcast message on various platforms here.

You can use WhatsApp to share great visually driven content

What made the BirminghamEastside coverage stand out was their focus on visual journalism: not just data visualisation and infographics but also short animated videos using Legend and mobile video journalism.

See number 5 in Paul’s post for great examples of visual content. I also loved the signup page promotion shared in the post (number 3).

Now it’s over to you. Leave a comment here, or on twitter (@dosticen), Facebook or LinkedIn with your thoughts on WhatsApp, for example:

  • Do you use WhatsApp, and if so how are you using it?
  • Are you interested in using WhatsApp now?