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Use WhatsApp Channels for updates and more

I use WhatsApp Channels for updates, here's how they work

I use WhatsApp Channels to keep you informed about my classes. Here's how they work, and why they're great to use compared to email or WhatsApp Group chats.

I am guessing you're already familiar with chats on WhatsApp. These are displayed when you select Chats frrom the bottom. What I am telling you about, Channels, are not found here. You need to select the first option, Updates.

In updates, at the top we see status updates from our contacts. Then we see the channels we are following. In this example Bollywood Bhangra, WhatsApp, Fit with Bhangra, Stay Modern and more, are all channels where I receive updates. If I select WhatsApp, this is what I see.

The WhatsApp channel is a great place to stay informed about how WhatsApp overall is improving and better ways to use it. Let me draw your attention to the top-right, where you see a bell, which a strike through it. This means I have disabled notifications. You can choose to enable or disable notification at each channel level, which is great, because some of them might post many times a day.

What are the benefits to you for receiving updates through channels, instead of as one to one chats, group chats or broadcast messages - which are all available on Whatsapp.

The number 1 benefit is related to privacy. When you are a member of a group chat, all the other members can see your mobile number and name. You might not know those people from Adam, so surely you don't want to subject yourself to such privacy risk? In a channel, you don't need to worry. If you have the mobile numbers of other members, you will see them in the channel members' list. Otherwise you won't, and no one will see you. I think that's pretty cool.

The second benefit is that channels are quick to follow. Compared to email subscription lists, which you need to provide your email address each time. And there is often a 2 or more step process to unfollow email subscription lists. With WhatsApp Channels joining is through a link, and unfollowing is quick and secure.

Finally, compared to email, where if you receive links to videos, or audio, you have to click out of your email client. With WhatsApp Channels, the videos and audio can be experienced directly within WhatsApp, again making the experience quick and elegant.

If you never plan to create a channel, you can ignore this part. Or you might just be interested, maybe you'll create a channel for a purpose one day. Here are the benefits.

First, compared to creating groups on WhatsApp, by using Channels, you are mitigating any data protection risk issues that could come your way. Keep this in mind, that WhatsApp groups are designed for people that already know each other. However, time has moved on, and these days large numbers of people that don't know each other are being added to groups, or they are joining them, without contemplating the risk of exposing their mobile number to many strangers. You might think that you are just creating groups for a community purpose, but that doesn't protect you from any litigation action. For as long as you are using some sort of brand name, and you are connecting strangers who can see each others' mobile numbers, and you haven't asked them formally for permission to do this, you are making your self open to legal action. The safest way to keep large numbers of people informed about your work, events, and other updates, is to use a WhatsApp Channel. Then if people meet up, you might encourage them to use a group, since they are not strangers anymore.

The second benefit is that following and unfollowing is frictionless. You don't have to gather peoples' email addresses. You message people the Channel URL, or ask them to search for it, or maybe even create a QR code, and people can follow the channel quickly.

The next benefit is that your channels support rich media really well, such as animated gifs, audio and videos. Without the recipients needing to open up another app. For example, YouTube videos play directly in Channels, and WhatsApp will keep working to support many integreations.

The next benefit is less fumbling, when comparing to email. My observation is that many people really struggle to keep on top of their emails, and yes it's true that all disorganised people will struggle on email and so will struggle on WhatsApp. However, look at most email clients such as Gmail, Outlook and Apple Mail, and I hope you'll agree that they are archaic and cumbersome, full of features and leave people feeling overwhelmed. WhatsApp Channels give people a nice way to receive many updates, which are richer than emails, and more like chats, compared to the formal and old-fashioned style of emails.

The last benefit I'll focus on is that WhatsApp channels are free, at least for the forseeable future. When comparing this to email, using a platform like Mailchimp will easily cost you 20 or so dollars per month, and this cost rises really fast for thousands of email list subscribers. But if you have hundreds, thousands or even millions of people following your channel, you don't pay a penny.

One weakness I want to outline is that you can really see how many people are engaging with your WhatsApp Channels, unless they react with thumbs up, etc. Whereas, with Mailchimp and other email list platforms, you can track people's open rates, what they're selecting etc. But, you pay much more for that. Choose wisely.

I use WhatsApp Channels to keep you informed about my classes. That's how they work, and why they're great to use compared to email or WhatsApp Group chats.

Ravi Sandhu
Stay Modern with Personal Technology
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