WhatsApp Groups : The Worst Platform To Host Your Online Community. Here’s Why!

Gone are the days when WhatsApp was used only for chatting with friends and family. Unless you’re one of those admirable few people who have managed to keep their work communication off their WhatsApp chats or maybe one of those people who don’t mind carrying two phones around chances are you are also amongst the millions of people who get frustrated when their work and personal chats get mixed on WhatsApp.

Does your WhatsApp also look something like this these days?

whatsapp group

Today, most of us have multiple office-related groups on our WhatsApp. Add to that, there will is always some blessed soul in the office who every now and then creates a new office WhatsApp group for some new project that you‘re working on because this project (just like all the other projects) would be “very important” and one that requires “close collaboration”. Whatever gets the job done right?

WhatsApp is finally choosing to solve this by launching the Communities feature. WhatsApp Communities aims to help people bring multiple groups together under one umbrella within a structure that works for them.

WhatsApp Communities — Much needed or a bad move?

As you can see in the video, WhatsApp has a fairly idealized vision for how Communities can help to benefit various groups, with local communities, for example, able to stay in touch via various elements within the broader Community structure.

What WhatsApp groups/Communities are all meant for ?

Parents at a school, local clubs, and even small workplaces now rely on WhatsApp as their primary way of keeping people up to date. These groups need private ways of communicating that are distinct from social media but provide more tools to facilitate real-time conversations than e-mail or broadcast only channels.

To get started on Communities, users will simply add their different group chats under separate Communities. So your group chats with your boss and co-workers go under a community called ‘The Office’ and all the group chats related to your building/apartment complex go under a separate Community called ‘My Building’ and so on…

Within a Community, everything remains pretty much the same at it is within a group chat on WhatsApp today. There’s an admin who can add people to the Community either directly or by sharing a link. As a member of a Community, you can make your bio, send messages, initiate group voice or calls and have the freedom to leave the Community at any time.

WhatsApp Communities aims to fill that need, with overarching Communities that can then include a range of smaller, more niche chats.

WhatsApp Communities

As you can see in this example, each WhatsApp Community will include a description of what the Community is for, as well as a menu of sub-groups within that Community that members can choose to join. That could enable all news ways of using the app to connect, while also facilitating new forms of discovery, which could actually be a really valuable way to stay in touch.

WhatsApp Communities features may initially lead to some comparisons with Facebook Groups, a more private networking tool on Facebook that now reaches 1.8 billion users on a monthly basis, per Facebook’s most recent public data.

For example, a volunteer organization could create a sub-group discussion for those involved with a particular project, like a food drive. A parents group could host sub-groups based on their kids’ ages. A school could include sub-groups for different grades or extracurricular activities. A club could host sub-groups dedicated to planning their various events and activities. And so on.

But while Facebook Groups may see some overlap with WhatsApp Communities, the two are not designed for the same purpose. Facebook’s product is often used by larger, otherwise disconnected strangers who share a common interest. WhatsApp Communities, meanwhile, focus on more private and personal groups — including those where members may already be connected in other ways, including in the real world.

But are these options going to solve your problem of building a branded community, oh hell NO !

Why are Online Communities Leaving WhatsApp?

When we look at the first messaging apps and social media platforms, we can see that they struggle to keep up with the demands of modern community builders.

WhatsApp Groups have been the simplest way to kickstart any kind of a community; be it your online course group, or an interest-based community or a networking and value-based group. Create a group, add your contacts and voila!

No denying that the ultra-simple 2-step process has made it easy for anyone and everyone to get started with their community-based activities. But this ease and satisfaction of getting it done so quickly wear off very fast; especially when your member count increases and when you start sharing multiple pieces of information. It doesn’t take too long for communication to become chaotic in a WhatsApp Group. You have multiple people sharing links, parallel conversations happening, you posting your next live-webinar updates, all in the same place.

Regardless of its simplicity, community or cohort management for your online courses demands for a slightly more sophisticated tool. A WhatsApp Groups alternative is long due for coursemakers, community owners and solopreneurs.

WhatsApp Pros:

🥶No one will freak out if you say, “hey, let’s use WhatsApp for our group.”

🌍It’s less-common in North America, but really popular around the world

😹It gives you some of the same reaction features that Facebook does.

WhatsApp Cons:

🎨You can’t brand WhatsApp as your own.

🌐You have to set up your own separate community website.

💷There are no direct monetization features in WhatsApp.

💁It’s not designed to introduce people who don’t know each other.

🦉It’s owned by Facebook.

A WhatsApp group text is great for family or friends, but as a Facebook Group alternative, it’s hard to see how it works.

But first, let’s take a deeper look at the problems in hosting your community on a WhatsApp Group. Let’s have a look at why WhatsApp could be limiting your online community’s potential.

1. Data Privacy

WhatsApp has recently caused a stir amongst its users due to a change in its privacy policy that impacts how much information the company will share with third parties. That’s despite its promise to refrain from selling its users’ data in exchange for a $0.99 fee when it first launched.

While this change in its privacy policy won’t affect your private conversations, which remain encrypted, WhatsApp can share the information it has about you as described in the “Information We Collect” section in its privacy policy with third parties.

This could include your name, location, and phone number, as well as metadata like how often you’re interacting with certain business accounts, the type of device you use, and how long you spend in the app.

While these changes to WhatsApp’s privacy policy may not impact online communities directly, it has prompted many users to move away from the platform itself.

This is one of the biggest pain points we’ve heard about WhatsApp. After the recent incidents at Facebook HQ, people have become wary of all of Facebook’s child companies and security has been a major concern for people using WhatsApp.
2. No Channel Separation

Be it important announcements, useful links, event updates, topical discussions or casual chit-chat, there is absolutely no separation in  WhatsApp Group for any of these activities. Everything happens in one single chat group and it takes very little time for the group to become chaotic.

3. No Live Audio/Video Feature

A core aspect of every online course or community is the live webinars/events. Moreover, it adds the extra hassle to switch between multiple tools for different purposes.

Webinars and events being the pillars of online courses and communities, there is a real need for these features to be integrated within the online course tool you’re using to manage your community.

4. Group Limit :

256 members and you’re bust. That’s the upper limit for a WhatsApp Group. If you have more than 256 members in your community, the only solution is to start a new group and post the same content there as well; double the effort to manage.

An ideal course running or community platform should not restrict its member limit. That simply blocks your ability to scale beyond a point and doubles your effort.

5. Personalized Adverts

Until now, WhatsApp has remained a relatively ad-free environment, but with the announcement of a change in its privacy policy also came a new future addition to the application: targeted advertisements.

It’s not entirely clear how these will appear, but it is predicted the ads could range from a simple pop-up banner at the top of the screen to a full-page overlay that completely interrupts your messaging experience.

It is also believed that these could appear in a new feature called WhatsApp Statuses, which will provide a similar experience to Instagram stories.

There are several reasons why ads can be detrimental to the success of an online community. They are designed to work as a distraction tactic, weakening the engagement levels and even encouraging members to leave the community to follow a promoted link.

Advert-free environments encourage members to devote their full attention to the community, thus ensuring community engagement remains uninterrupted.

6. Customization

🎨 White labeling

There are thousands of online communities out there. Pensil makes it easy for you to create a forum that you can be proud to call your own.

Our white labeling tools make it easy for you to create a community website that stands out from the crowd. If you have the technical know-how, you can also use a hosting service to host your website on your own domain name.

From customizing fonts, logos, and colors to web-hosting options for subdomains and forum hosting, Pensil gives you everything you need to succeed.

🌐 Custom domain

Using custom domain tools, you can create a subdomain on your own web page when embedding your forum or even create a domain specifically for your forum.

Setup is seamless, and users will see your custom domain name rather than our Pensil domain.

🔱 Deep embedding

Looking to expand your existing website with a rich community space? With our SDK and APIs you can integrate Pensil in a matter of hours and have full control over member data and experience.

⚔ Webhooks

Webhooks allow other services and applications to stay in sync with your community data or to perform an action after a specific event occurs in your community.

Webhooks are a performant alternative to continuously polling for changes to the IPS REST API.

For example, a webhook can notify your service when a new topic is created so that your app can perform then any further actions.

Webhooks can also be used to connect your community with Zapier, IFTTT or Integromat, so that any event which is covered by webhooks can trigger any further actions.

Common webhook use cases

🔎Sync your member base with 3rd party newsletter lists

🌆Sync your Event RSVP with your Online Ticketing System

🔼Update your inventory after a purchase was made

You can find the webhook functionality in the AdminCP, under the API section. There is also a useful webhook reference built in.

7. Driving engagement

Engagement cannot be driven in a typical WhatsApp group. Members participate because they need to, and not much else. That is a drawback of using a work-oriented chat app to run communities.

There is not much motivation for members to be active on a WhatsApp group. Dead channels are a common sight when there is no specific work to get done.

On the other hand, community platform providers have features like seed members where managers or leaders can post content to boost activity. You can also make use of gamification features to drive the initial engagement and retention of the members.

Community Engagement

WhatsApp does not have such features, making it hard to drive initial engagement and even harder to moderate or control or even organise the conversations.

🎳Lack of gamification

Hard to create an effective system to reward community members for their contributions. For example, unique badges and reputation scores are some of the tried and tested ways to promote healthy competition.

8. Search Engine Optimization

There will be no organic traffic for your company from search engines like Google and Bing, as WhatsApp group are not indexed on search engines.

This is due to the type of content on WhatsApp. The content on WhatsApp group are regarded as private chats, not conversations.

That's why If SEO and traffic are your priorities in a community, count WhatsApp group out of it. Rather plenty of community platforms have features created to boost performance on search engine rankings.

If you are concerned about how your community is performing in search engine results (SEO), there are a number of questions to keep in mind when looking to optimize your community software of choice.

Pensil helps you in SEO by giving the option to customize post SEO & open graph details, other elements, such as metadata or sitemaps, while important, are not nearly as important as the content's relevance.

Community SEO

The creator economy & modern community platforms

In the past few years, there has been an explosion in content creators across social media from YouTube stars to online course instructors, podcasters, and email newsletter writers supported by their fans and followers with new direct, digital subscription businesses.

As these content creators begin to build their audiences and find new ways to keep their digital subscriptions valuable, they often realize they need more than their content alone. They also need a community of their own.

Into this context, a new breed of modern community platforms have emerged in 2022 for content creators and community builders who:

👽 Don’t want to be on Facebook.

👿 Are exhausted by Slack and WhatsApp messaging.

🤑 Desire to put a community at the center of their digital subscription.

🧠 Feel strongly that their community should exist under their own brand.

While there are differences in modern community platforms (which we’ll get to in a moment), overall modern community platforms are built to:

🎨 Establish new digital destinations under one’s own brand.

🌐 Deliver new community experiences on both web and mobile apps.

💱 Connect the most relevant members to each other.

🎥 Enable members to pursue and master a topic together via content, online courses, events, and conversations.

💶 Purchase ongoing digital memberships or pay a one-time fee for events or online courses.

If you look at the alternatives and do a quick tally, Pensil is the one app that solves all the problems that WhatsApp Group users and admins encounter.

The data speaks for itself!

If you’re looking to run your online course or your community on a simple and easy-to-use platform with all the necessary features, look no further than Pensil.

Get in touch with one of our Community Leaders for a free consultation and we’ll tell you how to get started.

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