Messaging & message types
In this chapter, we discuss the categories and types of messages that WhatsApp supports and important information on messaging.
Meta supports six types of messages and their categories for WhatsApp Business Platform (WhatsApp Business API and WhatsApp Cloud API):
- Text messages
- Media messages - image, video, audio, document, and sticker messages.
- Contact messages
- Location messages
- Interactive messages - List messages, Reply button messages, and Single and Multi Product Messages.
- Message Templates
You Need a CRM or a Team Inbox for Messaging.
Neither WhatsApp Business API nor WhatsApp Cloud API has an interface to send and receive messages. Therefore, a business must purchase an inbox or a CRM that integrates with the APIs. Rasayel, as an example, is a team inbox that lets you do sales, marketing, and customer support via WhatsApp.
Before choosing an inbox, you need to know which message types and categories you need in your business and choose a CRM/inbox that supports them.
Rules and Best Practices for Messaging
WhatsApp wants to make sure that customers receive high-quality messages and that their WhatsApp inboxes are not spammed. To do this, it has a few guidelines and recommendations in place that we talk about below. Businesses that get many blocks/reports from customers could have their messaging limit reduced and in extreme cases, they could get banned from WhatsApp.
Obtain opt-in and give opt-out options.
You can message customers only if they’ve given you consent to receive messages from your business on WhatsApp. By receiving consent from them, they’re less likely to report or block your account when they receive a message from you. WhatsApp doesn’t actively enforce this but rather highly recommends it. More information on consent is available under Opt-in and Opt-out.
Message templates and free-form messages (session messages)
If you want to send a message to a customer more than 24 hours after their last message (after 24-hour customer service window), you can only send a message template. A message template is a message you create and submit to WhatsApp for approval. The content and the format of a template must follow certain guidelines described in How to Get Your Message Template Approved. After WhatsApp Approves a template, you can use it indefinitely. If your customers doesn’t reply and you want to message them again, you must again send a message template only. However, spamming them with message templates is highly discouraged because it could have a negative impact on your messaging limits and quality rating. Here is an example of a message template:
Hello there, If you’d like to continue our conversation since our last talk, please type “Yes”. Thank you!
It can take WhatsApp up to 24 hours to approve a template.
Once the customer replies to your message template or sends you a message without having received a template from you, a 24-hour customer service window opens. During that time, you can send any message with any content and format. These are called free-form messages or session messages.
Send messages in the right context and at the right time.
To create a good customer experience and prevent getting your number reported or blocked, make sure your message is relevant to the customer and is sent in the right context and at the right time. For example, if a customer has bought a product from you, it makes sense to ask them about their thoughts on the product shortly after receiving it, not months after.
Messaging in WhatsApp Cloud API
Since Meta hosts the WhatsApp Cloud API, it gives access to all of the six message types and categories mentioned above. To use them in your communications, you need a technical person with programming knowledge. Please, check the Facebook Cloud API Guide for information on how to use these message types.
Messaging in WhatsApp Business API
Business Solution Providers (BSPs) host the WhatsApp Business API on their servers, and businesses can access it through them only. A BSP does not necessarily support all WhatsApp Business Platform message types and categories. Therefore, you must know what message types and categories you need for your business and choose a BSP accordingly. Please, refer to How to Choose a Business Solution Provider (BSP) for more information.
What is a conversation?
A conversation is all the messages you and a customer exchange in a 24-hour period of time from your first message to them in a 24-hour customer service window. A conversation can start in two ways: A customer sends you a message and starts a 24-hour customer service window. From when your first reply in the customer service window is delivered to them until 24 hours later you are having one user-initiated conversation.
If you send a customer a message template outside the customer service window, all the messages exchanged between you and the customer are associated with one business-initiated conversation.
WhatsApp charged businesses per conversation.
Customer Service Window
The customer service window is a 24-hour period of time from a customer’s last message to you. Every time a customer sends you a message, a new customer service window opens. Businesses are allowed to send free-form messages for the next 24 hours.
Difference between a conversation and a 24-hour customer service window
The customer service window is a period of time from a customer’s latest message until 24 hours later. It’s independent of who started a conversation, the business or the customer. Every time a customer sends you a message a new customer service window starts and resets when they send a new message.
After a 24-hour customer service window ends a user-initiated conversation (and a new customer service window) begins when a customer sends you the first message. All the messages between you and the customer from their first message until 24 hours later are associated with one user-initiated conversation.
After a 24-hour customer service window ends, if you send a template to a customer, a business-initiated conversation (and a customer service window) can begin when the customer replies. All the messages between you and a customer from their first reply until 24 hours later are associated with one business-initiated conversation.
In other words, the 24-hour customer service window starts with every single customer message. Whereas conversations start only from the customer’s first message after a 24-hour customer service window has ended.