Whatsapp Communities Update from the perspective of my middle eastern mom

Facebook just announced a ‘Communities’ update for Whatsapp. I’m pretty excited about its impact on the community world, but the reason why I’m writing this is because @MattM and I had a quick Twitter exchange.

The second I saw the update announcement I thought about my Iranian mom. This is probably the first time she can realistically become part of a thriving online community.
I think this is the case for many more people in the Middle East, North Africa, South America, and parts of East Asia.

I’ll write down my reasons and will attach some links to good-enough sources so not all of this is based on my assumptions.

Reason 1: Tech-savvy in 3rd world and developing countries != Tech-Savvy in the 1st world.

Check the percentages on this - Smartphone penetration by country

If you have a smartphone, you’ll probably not have the newest iPhone. And you probably don’t have all the apps for Slack, Discord, Forem, Circle, and Twitter. You have the basics. Whatsapp is for sure one of the basics.

A little bit about gaps in digital understanding.

Reason 2: Using the internet sucks.

Just check the map with the internet speed around the world.

It’s just not a very pleasurable experience to use the internet when every single click takes 20 seconds.

You can often find ‘Lite’ versions of popular apps in those countries. Some examples are Uber Lite and Facebook Lite.

Compared to other chat-based apps like Discord and Slack, Whatsapp is far more accessible to users with slow internet.

Reason 3: Whatsapp isn’t just for friends over there.

Because of reasons 1 and 2, businesses have fewer touchpoints to reach their users.
So you reach them where they are ie Whatsapp.
Using Whatsapp for customer service is pretty common in the middle east. And it’s a delight.

Here’s some stuff about Whatsapp Business in India and Brazil.

Conclusion:
My mom will love Whatsapp Communities.

Also, Whatsapp’s usage statistics are just out of this world in 2nd & 3rd world countries.

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I think it’s not just 3rd world countries, it’s also in general the older generation who aren’t as tech savvy.

My mother for example lives in Whatsapp. It’s one of the few bits of tech that works for her. I can message her. Her to me. She keeps in touch with lots of family, etc.

She also fwd’s me buch of crap that has ‘been forwarded many times’, lol. It’s far from perfect, but if they tools are improved it’s only a good thing.

I still wish my mother would just use Telegram, but I just don’t think it’s gonna happen.

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Appreciate the perspective.

My POV is almost always from a platform builder. The community industry is now so over-hyped that any tweak in an existing apps functionality is labelled a “game changer” and the changes coming to WhatsApp seem very minor, so I don’t see it being a significant change. Those that use it will continue using it. I don’t think they will win business from other platforms.

I’ve been in WhatsApp communities for years. My son’s sports teams use it to organise training and matches. It works just fine. I’m in a school group for my younger son and actually fear giving the owner the ability to delete other’s messages will cause problems in the long run (see any local FB group).

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I see your point, especially about the over-hyped community industry. For example when Circle introduced the chat feature a few weeks ago. It’s cool and all, but still won’t get people to actually check the circle app every day.

I’ll keep an eye on how Whatsapp’s updates will affect communities in the regions that I mentioned (+ older people as Rosie mentioned). If there were a stock for Whatsapp communities, I’d probably buy it now. Not Meta though hahaha

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