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:
- How to Get Opt-in for WhatsApp Business API
- Session Messaging on WhatsApp Business API
- Template Messaging via WhatsApp Business API
- Group Messaging via WhatsApp Business API
- Create a Twilio Phone Number
- Apply for WhatsApp Business API Access
- Create a WhatsApp Business Profile
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.
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.
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?
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.
How to Get Opt-in for WhatsApp Business API
Before you start sending messages on WhatsApp Business API, WhatsApp wants users to give active consent. There are two ways for a user to consent to receive messages:
- The user sends the first message
- The user agrees to an active opt-in method
An active opt-in method means that consent is given through a user action, such as checking a box or entering a phone number. Here is a sample of what your opt-in method could look like:
Users can opt-in through third party channels such as a website, email, SMS or a company app. However, some channels, like SMS, won't allow for the formatting in the example above but as long as an active opt-in method is shared with the user that is fine.
Depending on your use case, doing an opt-in can be complex. Remember, you can also encourage users to send you the first message for customer service purposes. This will open the session messaging window and the user will have opted in on their own.
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. Any charges for these messages will depend on the rates of your SMS provider from whom you receive your WhatsApp Business API account. 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.
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.
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.
Session messages and template messages are two forms of one-on-one messaging, but WhatsApp Business API also has an upcoming Groups feature that we will discuss next.
Group Messaging via WhatsApp Business API
WhatsApp Groups are still in Beta. This feature is not offered by any WhatsApp Partners yet. Even though the feature is not yet released, we can give you a preview of the functionalities based on the WhatsApp API documentation.
A business cannot be added to a group or join a group. A business can only create groups and manage those same groups. The person who creates the group is an administrator by default. The administrator can then add other administrators to manage the group.
When setting up a group you can create and manage the Title and Subject of your group, as well as set and change the Group Icon.
As for adding group members, you cannot add participants directly to the group. Participants can only be invited to join the group by invitation. You can invite participants by sending a WhatsApp link invite in a text message. When a user clicks on the message, they are automatically invited to join the group.
Now that you know all the ways your business can send messages with WhatsApp Business API, learn how WhatsApp Business API pricing works in the section below.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 (+)
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
- 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.
Managing Your WhatsApp Business API Account
With your WhatsApp Business API account created you will be able to:
- Change your Display Name
- Apply for WhatsApp Official Account Verification
Keep in mind, for most of the WhatsApp Business API partners, your partner will be the one to do this for you.
WhatsApp Business API: Choosing a Display Name
When you add a new phone number to your WhatsApp account in the Facebook Business Manager, you will assign a display name to your phone number and submit it for review by the WhatsApp team from your Business Manager.
You can change your display name up to three times in the first 30 days. Once you have reached that limit, you must wait 30 days before submitting a name change again. Make sure that your display name is:
- In compliance with WhatsApp policies
- An accurate representation of your business
- Consistent with your company's external branding
The next step is deciding whether seeking approval from WhatsApp to become an Official WhatsApp Business Account is right for you, and how this affects your company display name and profile.
How To Get WhatsApp Business Account Verified
For a regular WhatsApp Business Account, your display name will only be shown in the contacts view in smaller text. All other views will show the phone number.
For Official WhatsApp Business Accounts, the display name will be visible in the chat list, chat screens, chat groups, and contacts view instead of a phone number. There will be a green checkmark badge beside your company's display name and in chat thread headers, showing that you are a verified WhatsApp business account.
A key benefit of having a verified WhatsApp business account is that the name of your business will be visible even if a user hasn't added you to their address book yet.
The main challenge in getting a verified WhatsApp business account is that generally, WhatsApp only approves very prominent businesses with a widely known brand. However, requesting approval is still worth a try. Plus, you do not need a verified WhatsApp business account to work with a WhatsApp Partner or WhatsApp CRM.
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:
- Add a New Twilio WhatsApp Channel to your Space
- Copy the Twilio Account SID and Auth Token to Rocketbots
- Copy your WhatsApp number to Rocketbots & paste the Rocketbots Webhook
1. To add a channel to your space navigate to Settings > Add Channel > Twilio
Next, you will be asked for a Channel Name, Greeting Message, Twilio Account SID, Twilio Auth Token, and WhatsApp Enabled Number.
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
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.
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.
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.
Paste this URL to Configure WhatsApp Number Number in Twilio for the following fields:
- A Message Comes In
- Status Callback URL
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.
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