Fun fact: Facebook parted with $19 billion to ‘use’ WhatsApp. The very same app people now use for free, and when it wasn’t free they paid less than $1 per annum to use it? 😂😂😂
Okay jokes aside, it has been a long time coming for Facebook to integrate some business models into WhatsApp and monetize the platform. The social media giant bought the messaging app at $19 billion in 2014, and about two years later dropped the $0.99 subscription fee users were paying.
It was pretty clear given the then ‘status quo,’ Facebook’s position as the market leader in matters social media was under threat. The main Facebook space as it is, makes a lot of users feel overexposed. You cannot have a wild night out, and post pictures of videos of it showing you doing things you should not be doing. Especially, now that your parents, employer and potential employers, wife and potential wives, girlfriend and potential girlfriends, are all on Facebook.
Sure, there are those privacy settings that one can use to make sure what they post can only be seen by a selected audience. However, it feels like such a process, especially when you are drunk or ‘basking in the moment’ to start tinkering with the settings and whatnot.
WhatsApp was the New & Hottest Damsel around the Social Media block
Naturally, when WhatsApp came onto the social media scene with a different way to connect with family and friends. It drew a lot of users away from Facebook with its refreshing model for connecting people over social media. Some of the feature that makes WhatsApp refreshing include:
No need for elaborate signing up processes with emails, two-factor authentication.
Your cellphone number is all that is needed to get you going.
You automatically connect to all your phonebook contacts and start sending ‘SMS’ to each other. There are no friends or connection requests to be sent or approved/rejected
Around the time Facebook acquired WhatsApp, users of the former were quickly losing interest. Especially the teens who were overbearing pressure to ‘behave’ both offline and now online where parents, employers, and potential ‘mates’ were also gluing their eyeballs.
Sure enough, WhatsApp just like Instagram (before Facebook bought it) and Snapchat were threatening to disrupt Facebook’s market.
If you can’t Beat Them, Buy Them – A Facebook Mantra
Facebook has been extinguishing a lot of its competition by signing a fat cheque so they can check themselves out of the market. Founders of Instagram and WhatsApp retired early in the game and rich, leaving Facebook with less competition to worry about in the market.
For the case of Instagram, it will be safe to say Facebook has gone a long way in recouping its ‘buying out money.’ Just look at the number of ads you get ‘served’ when you are scrolling through the friends’ posts on the app.
On the other hand, WhatsApp has been very tricky for the company. That is because serving ads upfront will water down the simplicity, which drew in more people from other social media to WhatsApp. It appears Facebook has been scratching its head on the best approach for monetizing WhatsApp since 2014.
The first step for Facebook towards monetizing the platform came in the form of WhatsApp Business. A business-centered version of WhatsApp that makes automates some of the tasks business operators do while communicating with their clients. The short version of that story is that there is still room for improvement in terms of premium subscribers to WhatsApp Business.
Facebook Pay – a Peer-to-Peer Payment, now on WhatsApp
Mobile money (Kenya’s M-Pesa being the poster child) has brought a lot of positive disruption in the traditional financial markets. The biggest of which being financial inclusion of the unbanked and underbanked. Mobile money has also made making peer-to-peer easy, fast, and affordable.
The success of mobile money can largely be observed in developing nations such as Kenya with its M-Pesa mobile wallet. That success has elicited a lot of interest from big corporations, some not even dealing with the financial markets. Hence the creation of peer-to-peer payment services like Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and Facebook Pay to mention a few.
Launched in 2018, Facebook Pay has largely failed to gain the desired traction outside the U.S. However given WhatsApp massive success – with a reported user base of over 2 billion worldwide – Facebook Pay hopes to ride on that wave to the top of peer-to-peer payment solutions market.
On that front, Facebook has partnered with several banks in Brazil to launch a peer-to-peer payment service on WhatsApp. And it works as shown in the video below:
The service was first launched in private beta first in India and has never gone past that stage, but it is now officially available to all WhatsApp users in Brazil. The service currently supports both debit and credit card bank customers (on both VISA and MasterCard) for the following banks: Banco do Brasil, Sicredi, and Nubank.
Facebook says it is currently working on rolling out the services across more banks not just in Brazil, but across the globe.