As one of the most popular communication tools, WhatsApp supports a wide array of business messaging features. As great as it is, the channel isn’t for everyone, and you might wonder if any WhatsApp Business alternative channels could enhance your communication with customers.
In this article, we’ll explore the different alternatives for WhatsApp, how they work and their respective benefits and limitations.
Benefits of Using a WhatsApp Business Alternative
WhatsApp Business was introduced in 2018 to ease communication between businesses and customers with features like auto reply, WhatsApp broadcast and WhatsApp catalog.
To support more agents or multiple teams, use a WhatsApp Business API account connected to a third-party inbox for features like chat automation, agent assignment and more.
However, WhatsApp API has a 24-hour messaging window and businesses have to use pre-approved template messages to start conversations with customers outside the window.
Additionally, not everyone uses WhatsApp to communicate. So how do you engage with customers who prefer to use other popular instant messaging apps? Easy. Reach out to them on the channels where they’re already active.
By adopting additional or regionally popular channels, you make it easier for customers to inquire about products or seek support. In the next section, we’ll share six WhatsApp Business alternatives that will increase your reach and engagement rates.
WhatsApp Alternative for Business: 6 Channels to Consider
Here, we’ll give you some popular WhatsApp alternatives for your business along with their features, benefits and limitations. The list includes Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Viber, Instagram, LINE and WeChat. Let’s find out more about them.
WhatsApp Business Alternative: Facebook Messenger for Business
Facebook Messenger has almost a million active users in 2022, mainly in the Americas, Asia Pacific and Oceania.
Businesses can set up Facebook Messenger for Business to communicate with customers. It’s free to sign up for a Facebook Page and send messages, but charges apply for Sponsored Messages.
If you own a small business, you can chat with customers via the Meta Business Suite and enjoy features like saved frequent replies and order creation. While business accounts can’t join group chats, you can reach out to customers anytime once they’ve become contacts.
Large businesses can use the API connected to a third-party messaging platform. They cannot send the first message to customers but can use web chat, QR codes and more to encourage them to reach out. Once contact is made, businesses can send broadcasts at any time and view read receipts.
There’s a 24-hour messaging window, but you can use Message Tags to send messages outside the window. You can also use Human Agent Tag to extend the window to 7 days, but this is only available for selected businesses like respond.io
We’ve shown you what Facebook Messenger entails; if this channel is what your business is looking for, sign up for a Facebook account and set up your Facebook Page today.
WhatsApp Alternative: Telegram for Business
With over 700 million monthly active users, Telegram is another great alternative to WhatsApp and is popular in Eastern Europe and Asia.
Telegram doesn’t have a business app. You need to create a business account with a Telegram bot and connect it to a messaging inbox like respond.io as it doesn’t have an interface. Businesses can’t import contacts but they can encourage users to start a conversation.
You can message customers anytime once they’ve become contacts as Telegram doesn’t impose a messaging window. While the Telegram bot doesn’t support read receipts, it enables auto replies, bulk messaging and group messaging to interact with customers and is a great channel for sales and support.
Want to start using Telegram for business? Create a Telegram bot to get started.
WhatsApp Business Alternative: Viber Bot
Created by Rakuten, Viber has over 820 million active users and most of them are located in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
Businesses can use Viber through the Viber App and Viber Chatbot. The Viber App is sufficient for micro-businesses that receive low volumes of messages.
Viber Chatbot is designed for large businesses for marketing, sales and support purposes. It doesn’t have an interface and needs to connect to a messaging platform.
Viber prohibits you from importing contacts but offers several methods to get customers as contacts. Once they’ve become contacts, you can access message statuses and use broadcasts and group messages.
You can send up to 10,000 chatbot-initiated messages per month for free and these free messages are not bound by a messaging window. Above the limit, you have 24 hours to respond for free, or you can choose to upgrade to Viber's Commercial plan.
Interested in using Viber to boost your business? Learn how to create a Viber Chatbot account here.
WhatsApp Business Alternative: Instagram Direct for Business
Instagram Business has 200 million Instagram Business Accounts. Around 90% of 2 billion monthly active Instagram users follow at least one business on the platform. Signing up for an Instagram Business Account is free; all you need is an Instagram account.
An Instagram business account can send and receive messages via Instagram Message Inbox, Meta Business Suite and Instagram Direct Message API connected to a platform like respond.io.
Small to medium businesses can send images, videos, auto replies and more via Instagram Message Inbox or Meta Business Suite. Businesses can send the first message to customers as long as the user’s account is public. Read receipts are also supported in the Instagram inbox.
Businesses cannot send the first message to customers if they’re using an API but can encourage customers to start conversations and use advanced automation to handle their inquiries. There’s a 24-hour messaging window, but you can use the Human Agent Tag on respond.io to extend the window to 7 days.
And that’s everything you need to know about using Instagram Direct Message for Business. Want to start using Instagram for your business? Sign up for a business account today.
WhatsApp Alternative for Business: LINE Official Accounts
If you’re looking to connect with customers in countries like Japan, Thailand and Taiwan, your best bet is LINE as it’s the leading messaging app in those markets.
LINE has one type of business account and that is LINE Official Account. It’s free to create but comes with several pricing plans. You can also verify your LINE Official Account so that your business account is searchable on the app.
Businesses can chat with customers via the LINE Official Account Manager chat console or on a messaging platform connected to the account via an API. LINE Official Account allows you to send auto replies, broadcasts and group messages for marketing, sales and support purposes.
Businesses are prohibited from importing contacts but can encourage customers to reach out. There’s no messaging window, but LINE stops businesses from responding to customers after 7 days if they haven’t added the business as a friend.
Read receipts are supported on both platforms, but you need to apply for this feature if you’re using an API.
Want to get started with a LINE Official Account? Here’s a guide to help you with your account creation.
Alternatives to WhatsApp: WeChat Business
WeChat is the most popular instant messaging app in China with over 1.2 billion monthly active users as of 2020. You need this if you want to start or expand your business in China or among a Chinese audience.
Businesses can engage with customers through the WeChat Official Account Platform or WeChat Official Account API. The WeChat Official Account Platform is for small businesses and has basic messaging features. The API supports third-party integration and advanced automation to handle a high volume of messages.
There are two types of WeChat Official Accounts for communicating with audiences or customers: Subscription Accounts and Service Accounts. Signing up for a WeChat Official Account is free, but you have to pay USD99 annually for verification.
With the WeChat Official Account Platform, you get features like WeChat Pay, Mini Programs, broadcasts and auto replies, but it doesn’t support read receipts and group chat, and has a 48-hour messaging window.
WeChat Official Account API doesn’t allow businesses to send the first message, but you can prompt customers to reach out. Be sure to reply within 48 hours. Unfortunately, broadcasts are not supported here.
If you’re thinking of expanding your business to China, then you should sign up for a WeChat Official Account.
These six instant messaging channels are great alternatives to WhatsApp. But if you’re looking for a way to communicate with your customers across all the messaging channels they use, try omnichannel messaging.
Omnichannel Messaging with Respond.io
With so many messaging channels to handle, it’s hard to keep track of all conversations. You need an omnichannel messaging inbox like respond.io to integrate all your messaging channels into a centralized platform.
Then, set up advanced automation such as chat routing and assignment, support escalation and lead collection surveys among others to lighten agents’ loads so they can focus on more urgent tasks.
A major challenge in omnichannel messaging is recognizing existing contacts if they message you from a new channel. The Contact Merge tool allows you to consolidate contact profiles, messages and events across all channels associated with the contact.
This provides agents with an overview of the customers along with their conversation history, all in one thread, so they can offer quicker and more personalized solutions.
We hope this article gives you a better understanding of each WhatsApp Business alternative we’ve listed. Want to learn more about how these messaging apps can elevate your business? Sign up for our free trial.
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