Ultimate Guide

Ultimate Guide to WhatsApp Business API

By September 11, 2019 November 6th, 2019 One Comment
Ultimate Guide to WhatsApp Business API

Have you been thinking about using the WhatsApp API in your business but don't know what it is or how it works? This Ultimate Guide to WhatsApp Business API that will answer all your questions. We'll explain what is WhatsApp Business API, WhatsApp Business API Pricing, how to set up WhatsApp Business API and how to use WhatsApp Business API. Feel free to use the table of contents to skip the to the section you need:

What is WhatsApp Business API?

How Does WhatsApp Business API work?

WhatsApp Business API Pricing

How To Create A WhatsApp Business API Account

How To Use WhatsApp Business API

Further Reading

To understand what WhatsApp Business API is and why it exists, we have to take a trip back to 2014 when Facebook acquired WhatsApp for an astonishing $16 Billion in cash and stock. At the time, WhatsApp only had 450 million Monthly Active Users, but a staggering 70% of them were active each day. Even with just half a billion users, compared to over 1 Billion today, WhatsApp was already sending and receiving more messages each day than SMS.

Fast forward to 2018, with their earnings growth decelerating Facebook comes under pressure to deliver the next cash cow. At the same time, something incredible is happening in developing countries. All around Africa, Latin America & South East Asia, small businesses are skipping email altogether and using their personal WhatsApp accounts as their primary method of communicating with customers. These businesses aren't WhatsApp-first, they're WhatsApp-only.

This is an image of WhatsApp Business API
WhatsApp Business API

With these two trends swinging into full force, Facebook sees an opportunity to monetize WhatsApp. For small businesses in emerging and developing markets, WhatsApp launches WhatsApp Business App. For large corporates in mature markets like Europe where WhatsApp is the king of messaging apps, WhatsApp announces WhatsApp Business API.

What is WhatsApp Business API?

WhatsApp Business API is designed for larger companies to establish their business presence on WhatsApp. It is just an API, there is no front end interface provided and no app. The idea is businesses take the WhatsApp API endpoint and integrate it into their business software.

The WhatsApp API has three primary purposes, to create a branded business presence on WhatsApp, to respond to customer concerns manually within 24 hours and to send programmatic notifications messages.

WhatsApp Business Profile via WhatsApp API

The WhatsApp Business profile allows businesses to establish a presence on WhatsApp using WhatsApp Business API. Unlike other messaging apps, the profile will not be searchable in WhatsApp itself so it is up to business to promote their presence.

This is a sample WhatsApp Business Profile that one could set up when creating a WhatsApp Business API account.
WhatsApp Business Profile

The WhatsApps Business profile configures the cover photo, description, address, email, website and business hours for your WhatsApp Business account.

An exclusive benefit of WhatsApp Business API accounts is that they can be confirmed or verified by WhatsApp. A WhatsApp Verified WhatsApp Business account indicates that WhatsApp has verified your brand.

How do you apply for verification on WhatsApp? Currently, there is no way to apply for WhatsApp verification. WhatsApp verifies the largest businesses ad hoc.

How Does WhatsApp Business API Work?

WhatsApp Business API provides an API endpoint that companies can connect to internal software solutions with a WhatsApp API integration or to a Messaging App CRM like Rocketbots.

The WhatsApp API enables the WhatsApp Business API client you choose to send messages back and forth to your WhatsApp contacts. WhatsApp allows two types of messages to be sent over API, session messages & template messages.

Session Messaging on WhatsApp Business API

WhatsApp session messaging is a hardcoded limitation that stops businesses from messaging customers after 24 hours. WhatsApp created this limitation to ensure WhatsApp becomes the premier platform for customer service.

Imagine you need support, you can contact a company several ways, but you'll send the message wherever they respond fastest. The 24-hour rule encourages companies to react quickly but also prevents spammy marketing messages from getting sent after 24 hours.

How does session messaging work? Imagine a 24-hour timer. Whenever a contact sends an incoming message to a WhatsApp API connected business, the timer is reset. Inside these 24 hours, the company can send outgoing messages to that user without any restrictions.

WhatsApp does not charge for session messaging. However, WhatsApp does charge for messages sent after 24 hours. These are called WhatsApp template messages.

Template Messaging on WhatsApp Business API

Sending messages to WhatsApp contacts 24 hours after their last incoming message requires using a WhatsApp template message.

What is a WhatsApp template message? Template messages are strings of text, with placeholders, pre-approved by WhatsApp. Pre-approval ensures that sales-related or bulk marketing messages cannot be sent easily after 24 hours.

When starting with WhatsApp Business API, Whatsapp will provide a few pre approved Template Messages.
Pre Approved WhatsApp Template Messages

Think you can fool WhatsApp by getting a marketing message approved as your template and bulk send it? Maybe, but WhatsApp Business API has a 15 messages per second template messaging rate limit as an additional safeguard.

Template messaging is designed for customer updates and provides a few pre-approved messages out of the box. These are related to order status updates, delivery updates, travel notifications, and two-factor authentication.

The WhatsApp API allows companies to request additional template messages that generally take a week or two to be approved or denied. Selecting a template message category states the function and intent of the template message you are creating.

There are New WhatsApp Template Categories and each category is listed. They are Account Update, Alert update, appointment update, issue resolution, payment update, personal finance update, reservation update, shipping update, ticket update. Most of these categories are designed for transactional template messages. However, using the available template message categories like Account Update, it is possible to include messages that discuss changes to the way features work for example.
Template Message Categories

Most of these categories are designed for transactional template messages. However, using the available template message categories like Account Update, it is possible to include messages that discuss changes to the way features work for example.

In any case, since template messages are approved one at a time, it is up to you to explore the true limitations of the template messages approval process.

Last but not least, WhatsApp does charge for template messaging. However, the price they charge depends on your region.

WhatsApp Business API Pricing

WhatsApp API pricing is complicated because WhatsApp API accounts are only available through WhatsApp partners. The first crop of WhatsApp partners are SMS providers.

The SMS providers charge an additional fee on top of the WhatsApp API price. In addition, the fee paid to WhatsApp varies based on the message destination country.

The price you pay for WhatsApp messaging will largely depend on which provider you choose and where you are sending messages. For now Twilio is the best WhatsApp API and is our partner, here is a summary of Twilio WhatsApp pricing.

Twilio WhatsApp Pricing

How does Twilio work with WhatsApp? Like other SMS providers, Twilio enables sending and receiving WhatsApp messages via the SMS number registered on Twilio.

Twilio WhatsApp pricing is the price Twilio charges to send an SMS message plus the amount charged by WhatsApp. Since WhatsApp does not charge for session messaging, the Twilio session messaging fee is the standard fee for sending an SMS message $0.005 USD.

WhatsApp API does charge a fee for template messaging, and this fee depends on the country destination of the message. Here is how a sample charge for a WhatsApp template message would look on Twilio.
Twilio WhatsApp Session Messaging Pricing

On the other hand, WhatsApp does charge a fee for template messaging, and this fee depends on the country destination of the message. Here is how a sample charge for a WhatsApp template message would look on Twilio.

When sending a WhatsApp template message to the United States, Twilio charges $0.0135USD. The charge includes a template messaging fee of $0.0085USD paid to WhatsApp API plus the standard Twilio SMS fee of $0.005USD
Twilio WhatsApp Template Messaging Pricing – United States

When sending a WhatsApp template message to the United States, Twilio charges $0.0135USD. The charge includes a template messaging fee of $0.0085USD paid to WhatsApp plus the standard Twilio SMS fee of $0.005USD.

Now that you understand the functions and pricing, let's create a WhatsApp Business API account.

Create a WhatsApp Business API Account via Twilio

One of the most common reasons people message Rocketbots is to ask how to set up WhatsApp Business API. First, you'll need to create a WhatsApp Business API account.

To create a WhatsApp Business API account on Twilio, you'll need:

Create a Twilio Phone Number

The WhatsApp API business account you create must be assigned to a Twilio phone number. First, create a Twilio account. Any new account comes with $15 of free credit which will be enough to buy a phone number and test your account.

To create a phone number navigate to the Twilio Dashboard > Get a Trial Number.

Before you can apply for a WhatsApp Business API account on Twilio, you'll need an SMS capable Twilio number.
The Twilio Dashboard

Then you'll be prompted with a number in your region. You can select this phone number, or you can search for a different one.

Before you can apply for a WhatsApp Business API account on Twilio, you'll need an SMS capable Twilio number. Twilio will offer you one of the bat, or you can select your own.
Selecting the Phone Number

Make sure to use a number with SMS capability. WhatsApp Business will only work with phone numbers that are SMS capable.

Apply for WhatsApp Business API Access

Now that you have a Twilio Account and an SMS-enabled phone number, you can apply for WhatsApp API access.

To apply for WhatsApp API access navigate to Programmable SMS > WhatsApp.

To apply for WhatsApp API access on Twilio navigate to Programmable SMS > WhatsApp. When opening WhatsApp in Twilio for the first time you will be asked to review the WhatsApp terms of service.
Applying for WhatsApp API Access – Terms of Service

When opening this page for the first time, you'll be asked to accept the WhatsApp terms of the service. Now, you can apply for WhatsApp API access.

To apply for WhatsApp API access navigate to Senders > Sign Up to Receive Updates

Confusingly, there is no WhatsApp API Access button. Once you click sign up for updates you will be taken to a form, this is your WhatsApp Business Account approval form.
WhatsApp API – Sign Up To Receive Updates

Confusingly, there is no WhatsApp API Access button. Once you click sign up for updates, you will be taken to a form. This is your WhatsApp Business Account approval form.

The form is extensive; the following information is required:

  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Phone Number
  • Email Address
  • Company Name
  • Company Legal Address
  • Company HQ Country
  • Company Website
  • Company Ownership Model
  • Company Vertical
  • What is your use case?
  • What regions are you sending messages to?
  • How many messages are you sending every month to these regions?
  • When do you anticipate going live with WhatsApp
  • Facebook Business Manager ID
  • Facebook Page URL
  • Twilio Account SID
  • Assign approval to alternative Account SID
  • I understand Twilio can modify my SMS/Voice URL and that approval is only for the brand submitted

In this form, you are applying for a WhatsApp Business API account for your brand. Once created, it will not be possible to change the brand or company associated with this account. However, most of the questions are straightforward. Here are some recommendations for filling out the WhatsApp API account access form.

What is your use case? We recommend applying with Customer Support or similar.

How many messages are you sending every month to these regions? We recommend applying with 100,000 to 1,000,000.

Facebook Business Manager ID. WhatsApp Accounts are attached to Facebook Business Manager for authentication. Instructions for finding your Facebook Business Manager ID

Twilio Account SID. You can find your Twilio Account SID in the Twilio Dashboard.

Create a WhatsApp Business Profile

Once your account is approved, you'll need to create a WhatsApp Business profile. In the process of creating a WhatsApp Business profile, you will assign the profile to a number (create a sender) then provide brand collateral for the WhatsApp Business profile.

To create a sender navigate to Programmable SMS > WhatsApp > Senders> Plus Sign (+)

Once your account is approved, you'll need to create a WhatsApp Business profile. In the process of creating a WhatsApp Business profile, you will assign the profile to a number (create a sender) then provide brand collateral for the WhatsApp Business profile.
WhatsApp Enabled Senders – Twilio

Then a form will appear, asking you to assign a number and for brand information.

This form will ask you for: the phone number (select from your Twilio numbers), Brand Name, Address, Email, Website, Link to Logo. Once you press submit request, it will take several days to be approved. Once it has been approved you are ready to connect your WhatsApp Business API account to a CRM like Rocketbots.
WhatsApp Business Profile Request Form

This form will ask you for:

  • the phone number (select from your Twilio numbers)
  • Brand Name
  • Address
  • Email
  • Website
  • Link to Logo

Once you press submit request, it will take several days to be approved. Once it has been approved you are ready to connect your WhatsApp Business API account to a CRM like Rocketbots.

How To Use WhatsApp Business API

Aside from using Rocketbots, there is no easy answer for how to use WhatsApp Business API out of the box. Even for simple things like WhatsApp API messaging or sending a WhatsApp API broadcast will require your organization to either build a solution yourself or use something like Rocketbots as a WhatsApp CRM.

Connecting Twilio WhatsApp API to Rocketbots

An easy way to use a WhatsApp Business API account is to connect your account to Rocketbots. To do so you will need:

There are three steps to connecting a Twilio WhatsApp API account to Rocketbots:

  1. Add a New Twilio WhatsApp Channel to your Space
  2. Copy the Twilio Account SID and Auth Token to Rocketbots
  3. Copy your WhatsApp number to Rocketbots & paste the Rocketbots Webhook

1. To add a channel to your space navigate to Settings > Add Channel > Twilio

To connect your Twilio WhatsApp Business API account to Rocketbots navigating to Settings > Channels Settings > Add Channel > Twilio
Choosing Twilio

Next, you will be asked for a Channel Name, Greeting Message, Twilio Account SID, Twilio Auth Token, and WhatsApp Enabled Number.

To connect your Twilio WhatsApp Business API account to Rocketbots you'll need to select WhatsApp as the API type.
Entering Twilio Channel Settings

On this screen, you may enter a channel name. This is just for your team so they can recognize the channel. You will also need to select WhatsApp as the API type.

Now you will need to get your Account SID and Auth Token from Twilio.

2. To obtain your Account SID and Auth Token navigate to Twilio Dashboard

To connect your Twilio WhatsApp Business API account to Rocketbots you'll need to get your Account SID and Auth Token from the Twilio Dashboard
Account SID and Auth Token on Twilio

Copy the Account SID and Auth Token and paste it on their respective fields in Rocketbots Platform.

Next, you will need to copy your WhatsApp Enabled Number to Rocketbots.

3. To obtain your WhatsApp Enabled Number navigate to Twilio platform > Programmable SMS > WhatsApp Enabled Senders > Configure.

To connect your Twilio WhatsApp Business API account to Rocketbots you'll need to retrieve your WhatsApp enabled number from Twilio.
Configuring your WhatsApp Webhook

After pressing configure you will find the exact format of your WhatsApp enabled number. Paste this number into the WhatsApp field of the Rocketbots platform. Make sure formatting is kept as so whatsapp:+12025550136.

To connect your Twilio WhatsApp Business API account to Rocketbots you'll need copy the WhatsApp Enabled Number from Twilio and Paste it in Rocketbots.
Getting the WhatsApp Enabled Number

Once you've entered all the correct information. Scroll down and press Get Phone Number. If you have pasted all your information correctly you will receive a webhook URL.

To connect your Twilio WhatsApp Business API account to Rocketbots you'll need to select WhatsApp as the API type.
Connecting to Twilio

Paste this URL to Configure WhatsApp Number Number in Twilio for the following fields:

  • A Message Comes In
  • Status Callback URL
To connect your Twilio WhatsApp Business API account to Rocketbots you'll need to add the Rocketbots Webhook URL to Twilio.
To connect your Twilio WhatsApp Business API account to Rocketbots you'll need to select WhatsApp as the API type.Configuring the WhatsApp Number

Great now you're done. Press Configure on Twilio and press done in Rocketbots. You are now ready to start using your Twilio WhatsApp API Account.

Further Reading

If you found this article useful, you will likely enjoy these two article:

Iaroslav Kudritskiy

Iaroslav Kudritskiy

Iaroslav is the Chief Operating Officer at Rocketbots overseeing growth and operations. He is a graduate of the MBA program at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and his previous roles include positions at Kodak Alaris, Xaxis & Light Reaction.

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