In what seemed like a really smart move, British Vogue announced during February it was introducing a Whatsapp group.
Sound like an opportunity to be front and centre with what’s going on in the fashion industry at the drop of a hat in a group with other fashion people? As Vogue put it: “Joining our group means we’ll message you as soon as the creative director of Dior is announced, or the Chanel catwalk pictures go live, or the Oscars dresses land on the site: no more scouring Twitter or relying on tabloids for your latest fashion fix.”
Slightly punchy comments there (note both channels will definitely still be used) but, it does make an enormous amount of sense as a media entity to push the instant message route. I’ve been tracking how such closed networks can be a wonderful means for communicating directly with fans and customers on the brand and retail side – the power of Whatsapp, WeChat and Facebook Messenger means there’s growing expectation for personalised communications, the issue really is just being able to get in front of customers in the first place.
To do it on Vogue’s Whatsapp doesn’t actually mean in a “group” per se as there’s no conversation going on. Which is actually a real shame. Control worries aside (this is Vogue), being able to strike up a dialogue on the feed about whatever news is coming in seems like a far more appealing and native use of the platform.
Instead, this is about Vogue creating a broadcast list. To turn to the Whatsapp explanation: “A Broadcast List allows you to create, save and message a list of contacts instantaneously. Recipients receive your broadcast message like a regular message – directly in the individual chat. Recipients also do not know who else received the message and do not know that it was sent as part of a Broadcast List. When they respond, they only respond to you individually. In this sense, it works like the bcc (blind carbon copy) function in an email. In order for specific contacts to receive your broadcast message, they must have your phone number saved in their address books. This allows our users to control from whom they wish to receive broadcast messages. We work hard to curb spam in WhatsApp so that everyone has a positive messaging experience.”
Of course, the publicity around Vogue’s plans means it’s phone number was pushed out so creating a weighty broadcast list must have been fairly straightforward.
I finally joined it yesterday morning, and over the course of the day got three messages:
- “JUST IN: See every look from this morning’s Chloé AW16 show here: LINK”
- “JUST IN: See the Balmain #AW16 show – complete with corsets and model hair colour swaps LINK”
- “Introducing British Vogue’s April 2016 cover girl – Rihanna: LINK”
Note every comment comes with a link meaning it does indeed feel very much like broadcast and not so much the personable messaging tone you’d expect on Whatsapp. Considering it’s landing in my app – otherwise a very personal space – it feels out of place, cold and not very different to what you’d see on Twitter. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting move, and one that could easily be adapted over time to better suit the audience it’s targeting. If Vogue’s sensible, it has those links set up as trackable so it can at least see just how much traffic the platform is driving.
As an aside – whoever is running this channel is always online. Always. Got to imagine it’s pretty likely they’re also running their own personal Whatsapp convos on the same handset (work phone or not) as a result, which could make the endless requests to join the group pretty tedious. If you’re keen, the number is: +44 7481 340261.