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Don’t Be Mistaken for a Spammer: Protect Customer Experience on WhatsApp

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By Jean Shin , Director, Enterprise Solutions

Privacy & Security

4 minute read

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A person holding a cell phone with instagram on it.

WhatsApp’s leading private messaging technology attracts billions of legitimate users every month, but it is also the target of unscrupulous third parties who attempt to exploit the platform.

Problems with spammers attempting to circumvent WhatsApp terms of service with promises of reaching the massive user base have emerged of late and the company is taking steps to prevent abuse of their platform. There are however actions that customers of WhatsApp Business Solution can take to ensure they are not lumped together with spammers just because they use the messaging platform.

History Repeats Itself

As businesses seek to leverage various ways of connecting with customers, from long established practices like direct mail to more digitally oriented modes of communications including social media, there are inevitably attempts to exploit the channels. Junk mail drowned out legitimate marketers offering valuable services in physical mail services and unsolicited letters became synonymous with unwanted communication.

As email was adopted as an established means of communications, it too became subject to abuse. Now, much of our email is routed to the spam folder before we even see it. Private messaging is at risk of experiencing a similar fate. Fortunately, WhatsApp and its solution providers are aware of the past and have no intention of repeating it.

Defensive Measures

WhatsApp is designed for private messaging. The new WhatsApp Business API is developed to help large companies manage customer communications. They are not intended to be used for bulk messaging or otherwise unsolicited automated messaging. WhatsApp goes beyond simply stating their policies. They actively enforce them.

This includes using machine learning services to scale with the growth of inappropriate uses of the platform. The company has publicly described their methods and success rates: “We have built sophisticated machine learning systems to detect abusive behavior and ban suspicious accounts at registration, during messaging, and in response to user reports. We remove over two million accounts per month for bulk or automated behavior — over 75% without a recent user report.”

Machine learning and other automated remediation techniques are just some of the ways WhatsApp blocks abuse use of the service. “This is a challenge that requires a holistic approach and WhatsApp is committed to using the resources at its disposal–including legal action–to prevent abuse that violates our Terms of Service, such as automated or bulk messaging, or non-personal use. This is why in addition to technological enforcement, we also take legal action against individuals or companies that we link to on-platform evidence of such abuse.”

Machine learning and legal action are ways that WhatsApp protects the integrity of the platform. Customers of WhatsApp Business API can further protect their brands by working with authorized solution providers that are hand-picked by WhatsApp.

Protect Your Business Reputation

The first step, of course, is for businesses to review, understand, and comply with the WhatsApp terms of service. WhatsApp facilitates the appropriate use of their platform and user protection requirements like explicit, verifiable opt-in.

There are rogue players that claim they can circumvent WhatsApp’s controls. You, as a business using private messaging services, won’t be able to change that. WhatsApp, however, has publicly stated that effective December 7, 2019 “WhatsApp will take legal action against those we determine are engaged in or assisting others in abuse that violates our Terms of Service, such as automated or bulk messaging, or non-personal use, even if that determination is based on information solely available to us off our platform.”

The second step is to work with an authorized solution provider of WhatsApp Business Solution. To make it more business friendly, WhatsApp has chosen to work with a select group of solution providers who can simplify the process for business to comply with WhatsApp’s requirements and technical implementation. For example, an authorized solution provider can help you register your brand with WhatsApp, leverage best practices for customer opt-in, and develop clear message templates for customer notification and support communication.

Perhaps most importantly, authorized solution providers can help you understand and implement compliant customer interactions. Even businesses that set out to comply with terms of service and have no intention of misusing WhatsApp  can inadvertently hit an edge case that may or may not be in compliance. Before you run into that kind of situation, it is best to seek the advice of an experienced authorized WhatsApp Business Solution provider.