WhatsApp is one of the most popular messaging apps in the world, with more than 2 billion users as of 2021. However, the app’s largest markets are outside of the United States.
Now, Meta, the parent company of WhatsApp, wants to change that.
WhatsApp to Focus in the US
Starting this week, Meta will focus on its US marketing push for the app. Meta will showcase the privacy offered by the app’s encryption.
The first TV ad for WhatsApp will air on Jan. 30 during the AFC Championship Game, comparing unencrypted messages to someone opening your physical mail.
Similar ads focusing on WhatsApp’s privacy will soon appear on billboards around the US and online.
Meta’s marketing push aims to get more people in the country to switch to WhatsApp by focusing on the app’s security relative to other texting methods.
According to Will Cathcart, Meta’s head of WhatsApp, what they see in the USis that people are doing more of their life online, especially over the past three years with COVID-19.
Cathcart told The Verge that there is a gap in how much people use end-to-end encryption services in the US compared to other countries.
Currently, there are more than 5 billion unencrypted SMS messages sent in the country daily, according to CTIA.
Much of that number is spam and promotional messages, but SMS is the default texting method for Android phone owners or used when someone on iMessage texts with an Android device.
Google is starting to push for RCS adoption, the upgrade to SMS that adds features like read receipts and encryption. However, Apple has shown no sign that it wants to add RCS compatibility to iMessage.
Cathcart believes that WhatsApp’s availability on both iOS and Android is a selling point for those who do not want to text. He says the company is now working on syncing their chat history from an iOS device to any Android phone and vice versa.
In 2021, WhatsApp rolled out fully encrypted backups, which Apple has yet to roll out for iMessage.
Facebook’s Poor Reputation in the US
Facebook’s brand is not well-perceived in the country compared to other countries. The marketing push for WhatsApp came after Facebook rebranded to Meta.
Like the screen seen when the app is first opened, the TV ad airing this weekend says that the app is from Meta and not Facebook.
Cathcart said that the new Meta distinction would be more helpful in other countries. He said that they’ve seen confusion from users outside of the country, especially those who are less sophisticated. Most users can’t differentiate Meta, the company, from Facebook, the product.
Meta did their own research and found out that messaging apps build a strong network with massive effects over time. These network effects can be difficult to compete with.
Messaging apps like iMessage, Snapchat, and Messenger are more popular in the US than WhatsApp, and it is still not clear if the marketing push will soon change that.
Meta showcasing WhatsApp’s privacy feature is a bold move as WhatsApp’s policy change received massive backlash from the users last year.
In April 2021, WhatsApp users in Brazil demanded a change in the privacy settings due to a violation of data protection.
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Written by Sophie Webster
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