What the WhatsApp acquisition by Facebook means for schools' marketing


Hey, what’s up? I’m sure you have heard all about Facebook’s recent purchase of WhatsApp for $19 billion (£11.4bn). It sounds a little crazy, right?

WhatsApp is a free (for the first year, $0.99 per year after that) messaging service. It is a mobile only service, that replaces the need for SMS. So really, WhatsApp doesn’t make much money, if any at all. Why then would Facebook pay $19 billion for it? That’s $42 for each of the app’s 450 million users. And the cost of running this service isn’t cheap.

The reason Facebook has bought it is primarily for two reasons:

  1. It has a huge number of young users
  2. It is mobile only

With Facebook’s recent pursue of Snapchat for $3 billion, it is clear that they are trying to own young people’s smartphone usage.

Facebook know that can’t be the number one social utility on people’s smartphones, without the help from other startups. It isn’t like Facebook cannot develop WhatsApp, or Snapchat, or Instagram - they can (and have tried!).

The problem Facebook has is that people, and in particular young people, will always be on the look out for new, cooler ways to socialise with their friends.

Another problem Facebook has is that adults tend to follow young people. Often, teens are often the early adopters, and adults are the late adopters.

This means that there is almost a cycle with social media usage:

  1. Young people adopt
  2. Adults adopt
  3. Young people find something new
  4. Adult usage plateaus
  5. Overall usage declines

What does this all mean for schools and their marketing?

Simply put, schools need to think similar to Facebook when it comes to their marketing. This means being alert to new social channels, and reacting quickly to trends.

It also means to always look to the future. Facebook has a huge number of users - bigger than any other social media platform, by far. But that doesn’t mean it will always be the case.

Kids move rapidly when it comes to social utilities. That will never change. And we also know that adults will often follow teens when it comes to social channels.

What kids use today, adults will use tomorrow.

Are you using it as part of your schools’ communication strategy? Let us know in the comments. Or tweet us @intSchools.