Businesses of all sizes can now scale their conversations on WhatsApp following the launch of WhatsApp Cloud API to all businesses worldwide. This blog post will cover everything you need to know about WhatsApp Cloud API, how it works and the difference between Cloud API WhatsApp and WhatsApp Business API. Then, we’ll help you decide if Meta WhatsApp Cloud API is the right choice for you and show you how to set it up.
What is WhatsApp Cloud API
WhatsApp Cloud API is the cloud-hosted version of WhatsApp Business API. It has similar features to WhatsApp Business API but is hosted on Meta’s cloud servers instead of an on-premise Business Solutions Provider (BSP) server or a business’s private server.
Because the main difference between the two is the hosting type, Meta refers to WhatsApp Business API as On-premise API to distinguish it from WhatsApp Cloud API.
Meta's initial business model required businesses to go through a BSP to get WhatsApp API. However, it realized that the application process was time-consuming, API updates took a while to become available to businesses and some businesses couldn't afford the fees imposed by BSPs.
For that reason, Meta decided to offer WhatsApp Cloud API as a quicker and more cost-effective way to get WhatsApp API. We’ll discuss WhatsApp Cloud API pricing in the section below.
WhatsApp Cloud API Pricing
Getting a WhatsApp Cloud API account is free. You only need to pay WhatsApp API’s conversation-based fees without paying additional per message fees, which are set by some BSPs. There are two categories of conversation-based pricing.
User-initiated conversations are conversations initiated by customers. Businesses will be charged user-initiated conversation fees when they reply to messages within the 24-hour messaging window.
Business-initiated conversations are conversations initiated by businesses outside the 24-hour messaging window. Businesses have to use a Message Template to start a business-initiated conversation.
The first 1,000 conversations each month are free. If you want to initiate more than 1,000 conversations, you need to add a credit card to your account. Check out our WhatsApp Business API pricing blog post for more detailed information. Now, let’s look at WhatsApp Cloud API features.
WhatsApp Cloud API Features
WhatsApp Cloud API is just an API. It does not have an interface, so it must be connected to a business messaging inbox like respond.io to use WhatsApp Cloud API features.
Once connected, you can send broadcasts and interactive messages, apply for the WhatsApp green tick by verifying your WhatsApp Business Account and create advanced automation for marketing, sales and support.
These features are similar to the on-premise API. However, there are some key differences businesses must note.
Differences Between WhatsApp Cloud API and WhatsApp On-premises API
The differences between WhatsApp Cloud API and WhatsApp On-premises API do not affect end-users. The only thing they may notice is the system messages, which differ for each hosting type. You can refer to the image below.
Let’s look at back-end differences between both APIs. With WhatsApp Cloud API, Meta provides both API access and hosting directly to businesses allowing them to get automatic access to API software upgrades and security upgrades. Plus, they only need to pay per conversation fees as Meta does not impose any server charges.
WhatsApp On-premises API on the other hand involves two parties: Meta and BSPs. The API is provided by Meta to BSPs. So, businesses must get WhatsApp API from BSPs along with their hosting or by hosting WhatsApp API on their own servers.
Because of that, businesses using On-premise WhatsApp API will have delays in API software updates. Additionally, businesses need to pay for server setup and maintenance charges on top of per conversation or per message fees.
For more information on the differences, read the WhatsApp Cloud API documentation. Now, that you understand the basics of WhatsApp Cloud API, we’ll help you decide if it is the right choice for your business.
Should You Get WhatsApp Cloud API?
This section will cover the benefits of WhatsApp Cloud API and the things to consider if WhatsApp Cloud API is the best choice for you.
Benefits of Getting WhatsApp Cloud API
Businesses can eliminate the middleman (BSPs) by getting WhatsApp Cloud API. Instead of the lengthy application process and additional charges like server maintenance fees imposed by BSPs, businesses can now access Cloud API directly from Meta with no setup fees involved.
Since Meta is responsible for all infrastructure-related maintenance and developments, businesses will be able to instantly access API updates by Meta, such as new features or security updates.
What You Should Know Before Getting WhatsApp Cloud API
First, you need to know that some BSPs do offer WhatsApp Cloud API. If you have an existing relationship with a BSP that offers Cloud API, you can get it from them.
However, Meta recommends businesses get WhatApp Cloud API directly from Meta for ease of implementation and maintenance.
Besides that, businesses can only use a phone number either with On-premise WhatsApp API or with WhatsApp Cloud API. They cannot use the same number for both APIs.
If you want to use your current WhatsApp On-premise API number for WhatsApp Cloud API, contact your BSP to assist you with the migration process.
Which API Should You Use?
The type of WhatsApp API you should use depends on your business needs. WhatsApp Cloud API is perfect for businesses wanting to manage their WhatsApp API account themselves and get both the API and hosting from a single provider (Meta).
Businesses should get WhatsApp On-Premises API if they want a BSP to manage their WhatsApp API and hosting. This can be a good option for businesses that need additional support to set up their WhatsApp API, require assistance with the green tick application, get personalized support for WhatsApp API-related issues and more.
Now, let’s look at how to get WhatsApp Cloud API and how to connect it with the respond.io business messaging inbox.
How to Get WhatsApp Cloud API
To get WhatsApp Cloud API, you need to set it up on your Facebook Developer Account. Follow the steps below or watch our WhatsApp Cloud API tutorial video.
Set up Your Facebook Developer Account
1. Sign up or log in to the Facebook for Developers account and click on Create App.
2. Select Business as your app type.
3. Provide basic information about your business. If you don’t have a Business Manager account, you may leave it unselected. Click Create app. You will be directed to your Meta dashboard.
4. Scroll down until you see WhatsApp and click Set up.
5. Click Continue to accept WhatsApp Cloud API’s terms and conditions. If you left your Business Manager account unselected in step 3, you may leave your Business Account unselected here and Facebook will automatically create a business account later.
6. Send a message with the test number generated by WhatsApp to your personal or business WhatsApp number to test if your integration is a success.
Next, we’ll show you how to add your phone number to your WhatsApp Cloud API account
Connect Your Phone Number
1. Click Add Phone Number to connect a phone number to your WhatsApp Cloud API account.
2. Fill in your business information and click Next.
3. Fill in your WhatsApp business profile information and click Next.
4. Add a phone number for your WhatsApp Cloud API. Note that the number you add cannot be tied to an existing WhatsApp account.
5. Verify the phone number you’ve added. A 6-digit verification code will be sent to the number. Enter the verification code once you receive it.
6. Look at the Send and receive messages section. The number you’ve added will be shown.
You have connected your phone number with your WhatsApp Cloud API account! Now that you've set up WhatsApp Cloud API on your Facebook Developer Account, you need to connect it to a messaging inbox like respond.io to start sending and receiving messages.
Connect WhatsApp Cloud API to respond.io
1. Click on the Settings module, choose Channels and click on Add Channel. Then, click on the WhatsApp Cloud API.
2. Click Connect With Facebook. You’ll be prompted to choose the WhatsApp Cloud API Account and Business Manager account you want to use with respond.io.
3. Select the phone number you want to connect to respond.io and click Next. The phone number shown in the drop-down menu are the phone numbers connected to the WhatsApp Cloud API account you’ve selected in step 2.
4. Copy the Callback URL and Verify Token. You’ll need to add it to your WhatsApp Cloud API configuration page. Note that you need to complete the setup on your WhatsApp Cloud API configuration page before clicking Done.
5. Add the Callback URL and Verify Token to your WhatsApp Cloud API configuration page. Click Verify and Save.
6. Subscribe to the Message Webhook event.
7. Go back to respond.io and click Done. Just like that, you’ve successfully connected your WhatsApp Cloud API to respond.io!
8. Click on the Quality button to get the latest quality rating of your WhatsApp Business phone number.
Now that your WhatsApp Cloud API is connected to respond.io, let’s look at how messaging customers with the API work.
WhatsApp Cloud API: Messaging Customers
Once you’ve connected WhatsApp Cloud API to respond.io, you will be added to the Limited Access Tier where a compliance check against the WhatsApp Platform Policy will be auto-triggered and conducted in the background. In this tier, businesses can:
- Send business-initiated conversations (Message Template) to up to 50 unique contacts in a 24-hour rolling period.
- Respond to unlimited customer-initiated conversations
If you have customers' phone numbers and want to message them right away, you can import your contact lists to respond.io and send them Message Templates. Keep in mind that you must obtain user opt-ins before messaging them.
If you want to increase your messaging limits, you must verify your Facebook Business Manager. Doing so will upgrade you from the Limited Access Tier to Tier 1 where you can send business-initiated messages to 1,000 unique contacts in a rolling 24-hour period.
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