Naira Bonilla will show you how to connect with diverse communities and create strong relationships using WhatsApp, the #1 messaging app in the world.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right. Naira, I got 2:00 Eastern. Is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started?

Naira: Yeah. Go ahead.

Steven: All right. Awesome. Well, good afternoon, everybody. Good morning if you are on the West Coast and if you’re watching this recording, I hope you’re having a good day no matter where or when you are. We are here to talk about using WhatsApp to increase engagement with multicultural communities. Awesome. I’m looking forward to this one for a long time. Glad you’re all here. I’m Steven. I’m over here at Bloomerang, and I’ll be moderating today’s little discussion as always. And just a couple of quick housekeeping items, just want to let you all know that we are recording the session and we’ll be sending out the sides as well as the recording later on today. So if you have to leave early or maybe you just want to review the content later on, don’t worry. We will get all those good resources in your hands later on today.

But most importantly, chat in. We’d love to hear from you throughout the hour or so. So ask questions, use that chat box. There’s a Q&A box as well. We’d love for these sessions to be interactive. In fact, we may call on you to answer some questions of ours as well. So do that. We’re going to save some time at the end for Q&A. So we’d love to hear from you, introduce yourself if you haven’t already. You can send us a tweet. I’ll keep an eye on Twitter as well, but don’t sit on those hands. Don’t be shy. We’d love to hear from you. 

And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, welcome. We do these webinars just about every Thursday throughout the year. We love doing them. It’s one of the favorite things we do here at Bloomerang. But if you’ve never heard of Bloomerang beyond the webinars, we are also a provider of donor management software. So check that out if you’re interested, maybe you’re shopping for a new solution before the end of the year, you can go to our website. There’s all kinds of goodies on there that you can check out. But don’t do that right now because I have been so excited for this webinar for many, many months. It’s been circled on my webinar. This is an awesome topic and I’m so delighted to join from beautiful, yes, Barcelona, Spain. That’s right, folks. Naira Bonilla is here. Naira, how’s it going? You doing okay? It’s a little hot there, but you’re okay, right?

Naira: All good here. Yeah.

Steven: And it’s not too late. It’s only like 8:00 p.m. 

Naira: 8 p.m. Perfect. It’s still daytime.

Steven: But a little weird. So thank you that you’re, you know, cutting into your evening to do this for us. I’ve gotten to know Naira over the last . . . we met June 2020, I think, was the first time we started emailing each other. She’s awesome, folks. She’s been blogging for us. She spends a lot of time doing workshops, helping orgs with communications. In fact, for you, environmental folks listening, special focus on environmental orgs. She’s got a heart for that. So you might want to check in with her if maybe if you fit that cause type. But like I said, you could listen to her sharing wisdom on podcasts, and webinars, and events and fill, you know, hours of your day and it would be worth it. So I’m really happy that she’s been so gracious to carve this into her schedule because she’s got a lot of really cool perspectives that, honestly, us Americans, I know not all of you were Americans listening on, but we need to hear this stuff and we’ll benefit from it. So thanks for being here. I’m going to stop sharing. I’m a pipe down because I want to hear all you have to say about this. So let’s see if we can get your slides going.

Naira: Okay. Yeah. I’ll start sharing my slides. So can you all see my slides?

Steven: Yeah. It looks like it’s working. There we go. Yeah. Cool. Take it away, my friend.

Naira: Okay. Okay. So hello, everyone. I’m really happy to be here with everyone. And so I’m going to talk today about using WhatsApp for connecting with diverse communities and I’m going to give you six steps to do this. So we’ll break this very, very complex topic and like there’s so much to talk about this, but I’ll break it down for you in six steps. 

So, first, a little bit about me. So this is me in nature here on the right. So I got interested in communication topics because of my interest in nature actually, because I like nature a lot, I like environmental causes, I like corals, I like the sea. And these are all very complicated topics sometimes, and so I started researching ways in which communication can help us explain very complex topics in very simple ways. And this also led me to work with a lot of social projects because it happens a lot of times the same, right? There’s a lot of very complicated concepts. There’s a lot of acronyms. There’s a lot of things going on and it’s important that we find ways to explain them so everyone can understand, right? 

So this is how I got interested in communication. So I’m a communication consultant, a communication strategist for nonprofits, mainly. I work mainly with nonprofits and social enterprises that want to have a bigger impact, that wants to increase their audiences, and that want to interact with diverse communities. So people that speak multiple languages or that live in different countries that have different ways of communicating and of seeing the world.

So I’m originally from Columbia. I’ve lived in the U.S. for a while. Now I live here in Spain. I’ve lived in Egypt. I lived in various places and this has also continued to spark my interest for communication, right? And I’ve noticed how different people communicate, how different people interact. And so I have more than five years of experience creating online and offline communities to support social and environmental causes as Steven said and I worked a lot in Latin America. So using everything I’ve learned to spark action across Latin America and to create communities and inspire people to take action on social and environmental issues. So this is me. 

And so I’m going to ask you some questions throughout the chat and throughout this this talk. And I’m going to ask you to write in the chat some of the answers. So this is my first question for you, and is do you want to reach more diverse communities? So type in the chat one, if this is your case and type in the chat two, if this is not your case, and I’ll tell you how goes. Lots of ones. Great. Perfect. So it’s working. So you’ll see, I’ll ask you more things during the talk.

Perfect. I can see someone said that they work in India. Great. Yes. WhatsApp is huge in India. Okay. Perfect. Lots of ones. Great. We’re all on the same page here. So . . . Oh, wait. So step one is find how your audience communicates. So in this case, it’s WhatsApp because today we’re going to be talking about WhatsApp. And here’s some impressive stats about WhatsApp. And WhatsApp has more than 2 billion users worldwide. It is the top messaging app in the world, but it’s also considered a social media app. So it is grouped in the category of social media because people use it a lot. I’m going to show you some stats in a minute. In the U.S., there’s suspected to be 86 million users by 2023. Right now it’s about 65 million users and it is mainly used by the Latinx community in the U.S. So more than 50% of the Latinx community uses it and there’s more than 29 million messages sent on WhatsApp per minute. So this is massive.

And why are Spanish speakers mostly using WhatsApp? It’s because it’s a way to connect to their families back home. So do you see in this map, WhatsApp is a top social messaging app in the world. So this is . . . all the green is WhatsApp. So we have Canada. We have all of Latin America. We have Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe. And it far surpasses the next one, which is Facebook Messenger. And WhatsApp is the favorite social media platform in the world. So it’s WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, a close third, but it surpasses all of the ones. So people are using WhatsApp all the time for different purposes. And the idea is that as nonprofits, we can go where the people are. So people right now are on WhatsApp and we can use it as a way to start a new channel of conversation with people that is complimentary to how we already communicate with volunteers, with donors, with, you know, our support base.

So why do people love WhatsApp? So WhatsApp is available in multiple languages. So you can download the app in any language almost. It’s encrypted, so that means that a third party cannot hack and read your messages. It’s immediate, so if I send a message now to someone in the other side of the world, they will receive it immediately. It works in areas with slow internet. So this is really important in areas that, so, for example, in Latin America, in certain parts of Asia, in Sub-Saharan Africa, that the internet is not as fast. So when you use WhatsApp, you send the message, what WhatsApp does is that it stores it and then when you have even a little bit of connection, it sends it to the person, and the same for receiving messages. So it’s a great tool for areas that have low internet connection. 

And another great thing about WhatsApp that not other messaging apps have is that you can share audios. So you can share post notes, you can share files and since a really long time ago, like now there’s other apps that can do that, but in WhatsApp this has been from our really long time. Audios, files. You can share PDFs, you can share presentations, you can share pictures, you can share videos, links, you can share your location and they’re all stored in your WhatsApp chat. So if you have some sort of like institutional channel with people that you’re communicating with, I don’t know, your group at your organization with your donors or something like this, you will have like a record of all the things that you’ve sent them. 

And it’s free with a phone plan. So in some areas of the world, if you send an SMS, it’s expensive, like you need to pay for that, it’s not free. Sometimes if you make a call, you need to pay in some plans in some countries. But if you have the normal internet plan, you can just download the app and you can use it.

So now I want to know from you, so type in the chat yes if you use WhatsApp and type no if you don’t use WhatsApp. Okay. Some yeses, some nos. Not yet. Okay. It’s almost equal some, yes. Some, no, someone said depends on the country I’m in. All the time. Yes. But personally, yes. Exactly. Yeah. Good. 

So yeah. Some people, most people use it now only for personal communication but it is changing with a lot of NGOs, a lot of nonprofits across the world using it for a more professional purpose, and I’m going to show you how in some examples that you can use it. 

So the second step, now we have that first step done. The second step is talk to people in their language. So this is very important in communicating with diverse communities. First, don’t assume what they know or how they communicate. So, especially in digital communications, sometimes, like it’s happened to me before, for example, that I’ve assumed that everyone sits down in a computer every day, right? Like I’m mostly sitting in a computer and I think like, “Oh, I’m going to send an email. Some people are going to see it quickly.”

But if I’m working with communities that have a more hands, you know, a job that they’re like on their feet every day, they’re not going to have the email, they’re not going to be communicating through email. So don’t assume how they’re communicating and also don’t assume what they know or what they don’t know. Some stuff, some words, some places, some cities that for some people can seem very obvious for others are not. Like I was working with an organization the other day and we said like, “Oh, Stanford . . .” something about Stanford. And someone said like, “We don’t need to put the country because it’s obvious that’s in the U.S.” and I said, “No. Well, probably not obvious because we have a global audience, maybe someone from Japan doesn’t know where Stanford is.” Right? So always keep that in mind.

Culturally specific communication is the second thing. So always consider what are some aspects of the culture you’re working with. So, for example, is it a hierarchical culture? Is it a culture that, you know, respects elders a lot? Is it a culture that there’s some taboos regarding some topics, for example, mental health or like different topics? If there’s taboos, to consider this. If it’s, you know, a more formal community or a more relaxed community where, you know, you can just come and joke and, you know, from the first day. So all of these things are important when we consider it and also in written communication. So sometimes we think written communications, you know, we get kind of a free pass from this, but no, it’s really important. And with some cultures, you know, when you write an email, it has to be super formal, right? You have to be, “Hello. I hope this email is [inaudible 00:14:25] where. Dear, blah, blah, blah.” And in some other . . . people from other cultures, you can just say, “Hi. Can you please send me this?” And that’s fine. The same happens with WhatsApp with all written communication.

And another thing, make your communication accessible and inclusive. So having subtitles, having simple language, not using overcomplicated metaphors. So in English, for example, there’s a lot of sports metaphors and sometimes they’re very hard to understand for a person that, I don’t know, has never played baseball. Never played baseball before, you don’t know what third base, fourth base, you know, home run, you have no idea, right? So this is something important to consider. Have explanations if you’re working with complicated topics that need to, you know, there’s acronyms me to explain it always, you know, you have a little graph that explains it or hot footnotes, or always in this case, it’s always better to over-communicate in a way and to make sure that the message is super clear. And you can use emojis and GIFs, of course, depending on the context, but this is also something that you can use in written communication in WhatsApp and to be able to connect with people in different ways.

And the last thing is just be open to new ideas and cultures. And also something that’s important is the notion of time, for example, is different in different cultures or the times when you’re available. And this will happen if you have a WhatsApp channel with different, you know, with different partners, donors, whatever that sometimes for some people it’s okay to text you at 9:00 p.m. Like here in Spain, it’s very common for people like in a professional context, or, for example, if someone’s going to come and fix something in my house, it’s common that they text late, for example. It’s fine because people like have dinner late, but in other countries like I know in the U.S. or in Latin America, if someone texts you at 9:00 p.m., that’s already almost bedtime. That’s not an appropriate time to be texting, but even the simple things, you will probably encounter them if you have this open channel of communication with your audiences. 

And I want to show you just a very quick funny example I found. So this is how people laugh texting in different languages. So in Spanish, it’s with a J so it would sound an English jajaja, but in English, it’s with an H, but the H in Spanish is silent. So that doesn’t work. But in all languages, you know, you laugh in text in different ways. So this is just a very simple example to show how important it is to know your audience and to be able to communicate with them in a way that they will understand.

So I’m going to give you also a quick example. So this is me, this was me in the . . . No. Don’t type yet. Go back. We can’t go back. Okay. Don’t type yet in the chat. So this is me in the Amazon. So I was working in the Amazon for a really long time. And so when I got there, I was coming . . . so coming sort of as an expert, but coming from the city. I hadn’t lived in the Amazon before. So before I started interacting with this community, and it can be a community of any type, it can be a community of volunteers, of donors, of, you know, people that want to engage with parents, teachers, whatever. First, I started asking myself this question, “So what does the community know?” So in this case, I came from the city. I had a lot of, let’s say, the technical knowledge, but I didn’t know the reality of these people. So the first thing was like, “Okay, what do they know? What can they teach me?” 

The second thing is, why should they listen to me? So in a scenario where I’m not here to just impose my knowledge, but I’m here to show them, “Okay. This is some of the valuable things I can share with you and what are the ones that you can share with me?” 

How can I respect their knowledge? So I was working in the communities of farmers and indigenous communities and we were talking a lot about sustainability, about how to protect the rainforest, and then there’s the, you know, hard scientific side and the scientists say like, “This is the best way to protect the Amazon.” But then these communities were saying something a bit different. So it’s like, okay, how can I respect what they’re saying and we can still like get on the same page? 

And the last thing which is super important as how can I include the voices? And I’ll give you a bit more of a sample of this, you know, how can they share what they know? And WhatsApp is a great way for this because people can send you a voice note, people can send you a picture immediately and then you can have this dialogue with people. So now my action for this type 1 if you have asked these questions at some point or type 2 if you’re going to start. 1.5, love it. Yeah. 1, 2, 2, 1, 1, another 1.5. Okay. Perfect. A lot of 1s. Okay, great. I’m really glad that you have been asking yourself these questions. This is really important. Okay. Perfect.

So next, this is . . . So the main part, the step three, after you have all this, you know, you have to set up how you’re going to interact with this new community, with this new audience, then use WhatsApp effectively. This is step three. So here are some ways that you can use WhatsApp. So the first one is crowdsourcing information, so if you’re working with communities that are very spread apart. So I know there’s an example in India that nonprofits in India are using WhatsApp because, you know, it’s such a huge piece of land. The roads are not the best, it’s very hard to connect one way to the other. So you can send people a survey, for example, with just three questions or something like this. They can answer it on WhatsApp. They can send you a voice note also if it’s people that, you know, have a hard time writing or don’t have the time to write so much. They can send you a voice note.

You can, you know, if there’s something urgent and you need to have like a headcount or something, then you can ask on WhatsApp, and people can just send, you know, check if they are there, they receive message. So there’s different ways and since WhatsApp, you can send like documents and then some videos, you can send a lot of different things. So you can use it just to, you know, get a sense of crowdsource information from people. You can use it for community building too. So you can have groups on WhatsApp and you can have them with your volunteers and the people from work and to use them, if you are working in a place that you need constant communication but you’re not physically in the same city or physically in the same office, it can be a good way, you know, to do this.

Then sharing updates. So there’s another feature of WhatsApp that’s broadcast so you have a list of all the people that you want to share your message with and every time something important happens you can just broadcast to your entire list. So this is very useful. And also, if you want to share information that needs to be seen today because if you’ve share information on social media or on email, probably people are not going to see it right now. Some people might, but not everyone. But on WhatsApp, you’re more guaranteed that people will see it now because people are using it a lot as we saw before. And there’s also stats and like how much time people spend on WhatsApp and it’s just very, very high amounts. So you can do it like that.

So the broadcast, how the broadcast works is you make, if the person that wants to do the broadcast, anyone can do a broadcast. You put a list, you make lists, there’s an option there on WhatsApp and you make a list of all the people you want to include in the broadcast and then you just send the message. And every time you want to send a message to that same broadcast list, you can do it. And people can’t . . . like people can’t respond to the broadcast. They can respond to you one-on-one. But this is just to get information out there. And in a group and people can interact in the group or you can mute the group and then only one person can, you know, give updates and you can unmute the group at any time so people can talk, mute it again. You can do different things. So you can do it for organizing events, especially in places that, as I said, have low connectivity. 

You can communicate with donors. So if you have donors that are willing to communicate with you on WhatsApp or that they want more like direct contact with you, they want to have more information of the activities that you’re doing, you can, for example, send a donor pictures of real-time work that you’re doing. You can tell, “We’re here doing, you know, the work for what you donated for. Here are some pictures.” And then use other communication channels to do like a more general survey or to have a more like formal approach to your communications. 

And a peer-to-peer fundraising. So if you’re have a fundraiser, usually what is done on WhatsApp is to have a link that could you have a link to the place that, you know, you can donate money, you can send it to your contacts, and this works because . . . So in WhatsApp, you need to have the phone numbers of the person you’re communicating with.

So if I send you a message, then we know that there is a relationship, right? Like I have your number, you have my number, I’m communicating with you through WhatsApp. And then, you know, you can send the links of what you need of the fundraiser you have and personalize each message, right? Like, “Hey, the name, this is, you know, I’m in this fundraising. Would you like donate?” You can, you know, follow up. 

And so I see a question here. So why is it different? So the difference is that in many countries people don’t text. So people use WhatsApp as texting as their main communication is the main way to communicate with people and it’s an open conversation in WhatsApp. A text is more closed, like you send a text and that’s it. In WhatsApp, the communication is always ongoing and you can start it at any moment.

And here’s some headlines of some news I found. So “How WhatsApp is Being Used by Nonprofits in India,” how WhatsApp became the tool of choice for the World Health Organization during COVID-19. So the World Health Organization had a chat bot where people could write and they would get information about COVID in multiple languages. This other one, I found that an NGO in Lebanon was doing WhatsApp surveys with Syrian refugees to see what had been their experience in the country because the refugees, most of them, 80% of them had a phone but they didn’t have a computer, they didn’t have anything else. They had a phone that had WhatsApp so they could interact with the people from the NGOs and answer the questions that they were, you know, being asked immediately.

So WhatsApp in action. I have some examples here. I had to blur it out because it’s a real life example of my situation. So as I said, when I was working across Latin America, especially in the Amazon . . . Sorry. How can I go back? Okay. Let me see if I can go back. Okay. So when I was working in the Amazon jungle, there’s not that good, like the connectivity is not so good. So when we were organizing events, we were organizing different types of events, so to engage community to do a certain activity and, you know, like workshop or, you know, gathering people from different regions. And since the internet was really bad, we had to plan basically everything on WhatsApp. So you can see in this screenshot, it was, you know, some persons would like send the presentation, the other person would like write, “Okay. The next steps are this, this, and this,” and then we would just coordinate everything on WhatsApp because there was literally no other way. So this is one quick example I wanted to share with you. And yeah. 

So step four, step four is give people a reason to get involved. So this happens with all communication channels, but in WhatsApp, it’s extremely important because WhatsApp is a two-way street. So it’s not like social media that you just send a message that you, you know, send or like send a newsletter, send an email, or post something. You have a direct contact with the person. You are communicating with them one-on-one. So this gives you a lot of more options and a lot of more personalization for you to interact with people. And, of course, this takes time. So if you have the capacity, if like you should use it. But in a lot of situations where you need to have a more personal connection with the person, you can use it. 

So how do you give people a reason to get involved is to know what people want to share, what people want to hear, and to give them that person and give them a reason to keep coming back to you. So in this part, what I said before, sharing the local voices of the communities you work with is extremely important because WhatsApp is a way . . . it’s a very horizontal platform and there’s no hierarchy, right? Like anyone can send anything to anyone. This, of course, has its pros and cons, but it’s different from social media, from email because it’s like one institution sending something to the others. With you, you’ve kind of, if you have a WhatsApp account and you are contacting people, you can, you know, give them more control over the information, you can tell, you know, give them this control so they can share freely with their network in just one click.

And so this is what I said. So share local voices and also get people to take offline action. So this is also really important because most of the times we don’t want people just to stay right online and just to, you know, have a chat with you on WhatsApp, but to drive change. 

So I’ll give you an example of also a work I did. So in one of the projects I was working on, we recorded podcasts with different communities that we were working with. So we interviewed them and we created a podcast. The goal of ours was to share the information as widely as possible. This was not a traditional podcast in which we wanted to like get rankings or something. It was just to get this communication across. And so what we did, we did like a little flyer on WhatsApp that had like the face of the person, the main highlights of the episode, and we send this to people with a little text and with the audio of the podcast. Sometimes it was short audios, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and sometimes they were really long audios. So they were like 40, 50 minutes. And we told them specifically, “This is a podcast about this topic. Please share it with everyone you know. This is free to use.” And people who are sharing it with everyone.

We also had our contact information in the flyers, all this. And then this was really successful because it was a great way for people to, you know, take control of this information, to share it with whoever they wanted and we were asking them something very clear, why are they going to do it? Because it’s a topic that is interesting for them. And when they were interacting with us, if they asked us a question or they had any doubts, we made sure to always keep the conversation going and to always, you know, share the most valuable information with this topic. 

So you can also see when you have these types of conversations. So are people interested in maybe this type of topic more than this and you can also use this as a way to know more about your audience. What are people asking more of? And that is something that you don’t necessarily get with a newsletter, for example. Not a lot of people will answer back to me that are saying like, “Okay, this was useful or helpful.” Or you don’t know if they will be sending to someone else. But with WhatsApp, you do, and you get more of this immediate feedback.

Okay. I have some questions here. I’m going to answer some, so there are more like the technical ones. So WhatsApp uses your phone number. So you need a phone number to use WhatsApp. So not a lot of people can connect to the same WhatsApp. It’s more personal, but there is WhatsApp for business. So it’s another app, but it works exactly the same that WhatsApp has and it’s more institutional. So you can set up this WhatsApp for business. You can use WhatsApp on a desktop, you have to connect it with your phone, but you can use it on a desktop. And with WhatsApp for business, you can like program automated messages so when you’re not online, you can program it to send a message and then get back to people when they come online or get them to, you know, whatever they need to do. You will like . . . you can even program all this. 

But yeah. You need a phone. Yeah. You definitely need a phone. So you need to have one. If it’s like an institutional phone, then that would be the WhatsApp phone and you can have it on the computer always and then multiple people can use it but it has to be attached to one specific phone. Okay. Perfect. So let’s continue. And then in the end . . . Yeah. The maximum person for group chat, I think is like 250. Yeah, 250.

Okay. So step five, we have now, how are we going to communicate, where people are communicating, how to communicate them, how to use WhatsApp effectively. So define what you’re going to use it for and using that way. Step four was give people a reason to interact with you and step five is get creative. And this is my favorite step because WhatsApp allows for a lot of creativity. And so the first tip I would give you is to just be curious to look how people are using it, how people in your communities are using WhatsApp, what they like to share, what they don’t like to share, combine it with other communication strategies. So I’ve mentioned a bit of this while I’ve been talking and this is, you know, this is not the sole communication strategy and it’s not going to replace what’s existing, but it can give your communication strategy like a breath of fresh air if you have this other channel where you can interact with people in a different way.

So it’s not doing the same of what you’re doing already in your social media, on your newsletters, on your website, on other type of digital communication. It’s more like, how can I combine it to either reach people that I’m not reaching with this other platform, and how do I get more of it? So, for example, there are . . . I mean, this is an example that I’ve also faced is right now I work with a lot of organizations in China, for example, and China doesn’t have social media. So like . . . And well, not the social media that we use. So no Facebook, no Twitter, they have their own version. So either my solution would be to create another account or to use some sort of messaging app that they are using and then I can get an account with. 

So in this case would be WeChat. I don’t use reach out and I don’t know . . . Like I haven’t started using it yet, but I’m in a moment that I’m thinking, “Okay. Maybe this is something I need to do if I want to connect with these people.” Because these people are not on social media. They are in something else. So this is what’s going to happen with WhatsApp sometimes, is like if you’re trying to communicate with an audience and they are not on your social media, so some people are receiving your content on social media or newsletter but some are not. So then where are they, if there are in WhatsApp, then this is a great addition to what you already have.

The other thing is ask for feedback. So as I said, you can really have this two-way conversation on WhatsApp. You can share proof of your work and you can, you know, just innovate in any way that you find that can be creative. You can send to PDFs. Sometimes you can send a PDF or you can send an image and ask people to edit the image or ask people to send an audio to you and then collect multiple audios from different people, then make a big audio and then share it back with the people that collaborated with you. So there’s just so many ways where you can, you know, get creative and use WhatsApp in very different ways. And I have some examples here for you.

So WhatsApp, the use of WhatsApp during COVID-19. So first I have on the left, this just a funny meme. Consumers always super important. So, yeah, government says work from home and all the fishermen in their house with their boats doing what? So these are the types of things that sometimes you see on WhatsApp. So you can break the ice with these types of memes. So sometimes it’s more informal. You don’t have to have this, like, you know, very structured communication that you might have in other channels. It’s more informal. You can just, you know, play with humor a lot. 

Other examples we’re doing COVID-19, so this is one example of another article that when people weren’t able to meet face to face, they were using WhatsApp to organize and to then do specific actions, you know, like offline. So people were organizing to help people in their neighborhoods. So help elderly people that couldn’t leave their house, people would organize on WhatsApp, and then it’s like, okay, I’m going to, you know, help this person get their groceries today, stuff like this.

So this is a way also to act. Another way that WhatsApp was very useful during COVID-19 is sharing information about fundraising events. So this yellow one, it’s in Spanish, it’s one information that I got. I’m not in Columbia anymore. I live in Spain now. So this one, this is a type of information that I wouldn’t get if I’m not, you know, watching Colombian TV, if I’m not up to date with Colombian newspapers. And this is just, you know, a way that you can send it quick . . . if you have a group that is interested in these things, you can send it on and people can be connected with other realities from other parts of the world. So this is also really important.

And another thing is like screenshots. They are very also common on WhatsApp. You can see a screenshot from an institutional channel. This was from the ministry of transport, the screenshot on the right. And share it with people in a very immediate way, right? So it’s like, okay, I’m going to screenshot this and share it. And that’s why I mean with that it can be a complimentary thing also to what you’re already . . . to the strategies that you’re already having. 

And . . . Okay, now we are almost done. It’s perfect because we’re going to have time for questions. I’m sure you have a lot of questions. So the step six is to review your progress. This is really important because since WhatsApp is very fast paced, you have a lot of chats, you have a lot of communication, then you have to kind of stop a bit and think like, “Okay, like, why is the audience using the WhatsApp? How are they using it? How can I do it better?” 

So if you’re using it to communicate with people that are in areas that are very spread out, so you can see what’s the frequency of the communications we’re having, how many people, if it’s a group, that you really want to get people engaged, how many people in the group are actually participating? Why are they participating or not? And are there opportunities for people to participate in these groups? How can, you know, I make it more interactive . . . not interactive, but like more comfortable, a comfortable environment for people to participate?

And sometimes, definitely not over-communicate with people on WhatsApp because until now, there are ways that people like organizations are using it for more professional purposes, but it’s still a very like personal use, right? People use it to communicate with their families. And so don’t overshare, right? There’s not sometimes if you write, if you send the messages and broadcast and you’re sending them like 10 a day or 20 a day, maybe that’s a bit too much, right? So you need to . . . That’s a lot of trial and error and we need to play with that a lot. So, yes, that is one thing.

The other thing that, in fact, reviewing your progress when you use WhatsApp is to use all of the functionality. So I’ve mentioned already WhatsApp for business. This is a great, great tool. And as soon as that started, so it was like WhatsApp thought only businesses were going to use it and then they quickly realized that nonprofits were using it, NGOs were using it, governmental agencies were using it, like international organizations, like the World Health Organization use it. So then they started also tweaking these tools to get people, you know, to broaden the reach of the types of organizations that are using WhatsApp. 

And now WhatsApp is rolling out a payment feature in Brazil. It started only in Brazil. So you can pay on WhatsApp, you can transfer money to someone so that in the future can be a way to get like donations from people, especially in crisis situations, for example. You can use this as a very fast way to get donations. So these are just some of the examples of ways that you can, you know, review and see what’s working and what’s not working. So these are the steps.

So to recap . . . So I have used WhatsApp to connect with people that are not tech-savvy. So you don’t need to be tech-savvy to use WhatsApp. It’s very, very easy to use. Everyone can use it at any place. Like I said, it’s in multiple languages. It’s very intuitive. I’ve connected with people that are scattered geographically that don’t have easy access to information so that sometimes [inaudible 00:42:58] to be like, don’t have the internet. So this is a good way to fill in this gap that speak different languages. So, you know, you can use the same message translate it to different languages to send it to different people. 

People that don’t feel heard and that WhatsApp has provided a way for them to organize and share their voice and share what’s important to them because this is the way that they communicate and it’s what we use the most and why we feel that we’ll get them heard by a person faster, because that’s also one thing, when you communicate on WhatsApp, there’s someone on the other end and you know that a person will answer this, right? At some point you’re going to be interacting with the person. In other ways, you don’t really know who it is. Like WhatsApp, the fact that, you know, there’s this person there, you kind of have a more of a sense of connection and knowing that someone will help you solve your issues.

And WhatsApp has helped the organizations that I work with provide a better support for their volunteers, their workers, their communities, their donors share their message with wider audiences, increase trust in projects, and in their organization, and have a two-way dialogue. 

So my last question for you is type act if you want to get these results, if you want to use WhatsApp or see what some of these benefits with the organizations and the communities that you’ve worked with. Okay. Great. Yeah. I love seeing that a lot of you want to act on this. And this is a great starting step for you all. Act more. Yes. I love that. Okay. Perfect.

So those were my six steps. So you have all the steps you need to start innovating in your communications and supporting new audiences. And now we can go to the Q&A. Before, you’re going to get a copy of this presentation, but definitely let’s connect. I want to hear from you. You can find me on LinkedIn, Naira Bonilla, my name. You can write into contact at or on my web site, Today, it crashed. [Inaudible 00:45:32] today. It crashed earlier today and I didn’t have time to fix it before the call, but definitely, you can write to me, you can contact me. If you contact me on LinkedIn or by email and you want to talk on WhatsApp, I can give you my WhatsApp. And I like to have this one-on-one conversations with people, so really feel free to contact me. And if you want to work together in any way, we can have a chat and make it happen. So okay, Steven, over to you for the questions and . . . 

Steven: Yeah. That was awesome. Thanks, Naira. That was really fascinating. I really loved what you said at the beginning about the inclusive language. It seems like that could extend even beyond WhatsApp to any of your communications, right?

Naira: Totally.

Steven: That’s awesome. So, yeah, we got some questions in here. If you haven’t asked her a question already, we probably got about almost 10 minutes, which is awesome for Q&A. I’ll start with my own, Naira. It kind of struck me that . . . And correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like if you already have a Facebook strategy, then a lot of that could kind of translate over to how you use WhatsApp. Is that a fair statement? Maybe there’s some differences, but what do you think about that?

Naira: Yeah. Definitely. Definitely. You can use some . . . The idea is not to reinvent the wheel, right? If you have something that is working on Facebook but you’re trying to communicate with people that are not on Facebook, you can use the same strategy you have and engage people in a similar way. Yeah.

Steven: That makes sense. So Natalie here asked about maybe introducing it. So let’s say you’re a nonprofit, you’re here in Indiana or wherever, you do all that you want to get going and follow your great advice, how would you let people know? Would you maybe put it in like email newsletters and maybe even Facebook posts like, “Hey, we’re on WhatsApp now, you know, check us out here.” Is that a good way of doing it?

Naira: Yeah. Definitely, that would be a good way, letting people know that they can join a group. So you can have a link. You can like create a link on WhatsApp. It creates it. You know, you click like Create a Group and then Share Group Link and then this link, you send it to people. So you can tell them if you want to join our group, click here. So if you want to join this group to get updates on this or like the specific purpose of the group, people click on the group and immediately they get added the group. So that is one way you can do it or another way, if you want people to text you, so tell them we are on WhatsApp on this number if you have any questions or if you want to contact us for this, text us on this WhatsApp number and we will answer you in whatever timeframe.

Steven: Very cool. There’s a question in here I think is really pretty interesting and important. Since it’s a two-way communication, you’re going to have group discussions, people are going to be chiming in, what about like kind of moderating the discussion, right? So maybe someone’s being abusive or, you know, saying wrong information or things like that. Any tips for kind of dealing with that? It seems like, you know, that’s just kind of maybe something that happens on every social network, but any specific tips for WhatsApp and mitigating that kind of thing?

Naira: Yeah. That’s a harder . . . Because the one thing you can do, you can just delete the person from the group and that’s it. Like you have the power to just delete the person from the group and then you don’t have to engage with that person anymore. But yeah, it is hard, you know, you have to be kind of like there moderating. What you can do is if you have a group, you can sometimes mute the group, no one will be able to talk and when you are there and you want to engage or ask a specific question, you unmute the group and then you start the conversation again.

Steven: Okay. So not too dissimilar from Facebook once again.

Naira: Yeah. Exactly.

Steven: I’m glad you said boot them. Like just kick them out of there, right. It seems like some handwringing over this sometime. I’m pro just kicking them out. So I love it. Here’s a cool one from Andrew. Older folks, our seniors. We love them, but maybe sometimes not as tech-savvy. Have you seen that? You showed kind of the country breakdown, but is there a demographic differences in using WhatsApp or is it pretty universal?

Naira: There are differences I need to check, but WhatsApp definitely more equal in terms of like the social media platforms. So people of all ages use WhatsApp. So it’s not specific to younger audiences. There are other social media or messaging, you know, platforms that are used more by younger audiences, but WhatsApp’s definitely used by people from all ages. So it’s so, so easy to use if a person knows how to use . . . like it’s easier than texting, I feel. You know, sometimes with texts you don’t know, it doesn’t send. So yeah, it’s very intuitive and it’s used by people of all ages.

Steven: Cool. Another Facebook similarity there. That’s great. Yeah. I guess maybe something like TikTok or something like that would skew younger, huh? Right. Yeah.

Naira: Yeah.

Steven: That makes sense. Although, I don’t know. You never know with people. It seems like those older generations, they are always migrating up and then something new gets invented and, you know, gen Z’s and Y’s go somewhere else. What about resistance to sharing the phone number? It seems like that . . . Is that even really an issue because if they have a WhatsApp account, it’s connected to their phone number, is the phone number kind of opaque or hidden, or would you have access to that as well?

Naira: You have access. So then that’s why you need to be very open with like who you are and that’s why, you know, the other person knows who you are, right? So it’s not like this random person is texting me. So you know this person. And like, you know, you can see other people’s phone numbers, but it’s sometimes . . . most of the times it’s not an issue because you know everyone’s on the same page, right? And like what you can do to get these numbers, like for people to get these numbers is when you’re collecting any other type of information, you specifically, you know, you tell people, if you want to, you know, us to send you this type of information on WhatsApp because you don’t like, you know, you’re not on your email all the time, you want to receive other types, you know, more up-to-date like now, right? I can send you something on WhatsApp, you can see it now. So if you want to get like the latest scoop, then give us your number. We’ll add you to a group. You can add people on to a broadcast and that way people won’t see other people’s numbers.

Steven: Very cool.

Naira: So then you can do that option too, but you will know that person’s number and they will know your number, but they don’t have to see other people’s.

Steven: Okay. That makes sense. And I love what you said about the transparency. That’s always key, right? Yeah. That makes sense. What about accessibility? Jordanna is here asking about, you know, do they have like screen reading or, you know, where it’s whatever appears in the text is heard through the phone? Does it have those kinds of features?

Naira: I’m not sure.

Steven: Okay. Something to look into.

Naira: Yeah. That’s something to look into.

Steven: Okay. I kind of believe it that at least they’d want them to do that if they don’t already have it. Such a big company, but yeah, that’s . . . We’ll have to look into that, Jordanna. Hopefully they do. 

Another one, we got a couple minutes, so if you haven’t asked a question, now is the time because I’m getting to the bottom of the list here. Who have you seen kind of runs it? Is it marketing? Is it fundraising? Is it like the ED? Who have you seen kind of be the owner? Is it the same as who would own any other social network or maybe email marketing?

Naira: Yeah. I think it makes sense, but when it’s someone that is managing the other social media because you can have . . . like it can complement, right? And you can have a sense of what people are asking, what people, you know, but it also depends on, you know, your main goal for this, right? So if you’re using it to contact with donors, maybe younger donors that are on WhatsApp or donors that maybe are in a group together because they know each other, something like this, then it would make sense that the person that, you know, is in contact with them uses it. So I’ve known that in the past, there are people that, they use their personal WhatsApps, right, to talk with the donors or like the board of directors of things like this because this is the way, you know, the person that is in charge of this, right? The donor manager. But also it depends. It depends on how you’re using it at an organization. You know, there can be three people in the organization that use it, right? And then we can use it for different things, but they they’re each using them on their own WhatsApp. It’s not the same one.

Steven: That makes sense. Or maybe there’s different groups for each. That could be another way to segment it, right?

Naira: Also. Yeah. From different groups.

Steven: That makes sense. This is really cool. I just love having you to talk about this stuff. Speaking of groups, you mentioned there’s like a 250-person limit to the group. Is there a limit to how many groups you can create?

Naira: I believe not.

Steven: Oh, wow. Great. Okay.

Naira: I believe not. I believe you can create as many groups as you want.

Steven: Okay. Nice. Very cool. Wow. I’m going to run out and download it. In fact, a lot of the families at my son’s school are using it. So I probably should have done that already, but this is really neat. And, you know, while we got you in the final seconds here, you obviously have an amazing perspective. Is there anything else you’re seeing that maybe us, you know, North Americans should kind of keep our eye on as demographics are changing or shifting and then wanting to do more to engage with everyone in our community?

Naira: Well, no. What I said already, like WhatsApp really has like such a big reach and the U.S. it’s not that common and people use, iMessage a lot, for example, but when you leave the U.S. and people don’t have iPhones, which is one big barrier.

Steven: Oh, interesting.

Naira: And yeah, like it’s not common at all. So like that’s also an issue [inaudible 00:56:07] for me, for example, when, you know, this app Clubhouse came out, it was only on iPhone, exclusive on iPhone and the rest of the world was completely locked out of this conversations that were happening and I think Clubhouse didn’t succeed a lot because, well, they limited their own audience, right? They limited just who can use it, but then WhatsApp, what I really like about it is that it’s just . . . anyone with any phone, it can be the oldest smartphone, it will work. And I’ve tried it because I’ve lost my phone many times and I’ve had to smart phones that don’t even call anymore, but they have WhatsApp. So that is something that, yeah, that I find so fascinating and so interesting and just how people are using it to organize at a local level or like a grassroots level and just people of all ages. My dad uses it. He lives in a tiny town. He uses it to organize for everything like to protest, do things. And it’s just, yeah, it’s fascinating.

Steven: That’s cool. Big opportunity here. Thanks for enlightening us. This was awesome to have you. And you got your contact information on the screen, do you reach out, folks.

Naira: Yeah. I know that it was a lot of questions that weren’t answered, so feel free to reach out.

Steven: Yeah. Definitely reach out, connect with her. And like I said, you folks on the environmental cause-type, you might want to check her out as well. Naira, this is awesome to have you. Thanks so much for doing this.

Naira: Yeah. Thank you for having me. This was great.

Steven: And thanks to all of you for hanging out. Always good to see a full room. I know we’re getting close to year-end fundraising time, so I appreciate all you folks joining in in here. Like I said at the top, we did record it. So be on the lookout for me . . . for an email from me with the slides, with the recording and join us. We got a great webinar coming up next week, speaking of year-end fundraising, Giving Tuesday, all that good stuff, we’re going to be talking about it. My buddy Jesse Lane is going to talk about his four-step plan for year-end donation. So check that out. We’ve got lots of other good topics come up. We’ve got capital campaigns, all kinds of good stuff coming up on our webinars schedule, usually on Thursdays, usually in the afternoon. So check that out. Register. Even if you’re not free, you’ll get the recording by just being a registrant, like you’ll get the recording of the session. 

So we will call it a day there. Like I said, be on the lookout for an email from me. Naira, open up that door, get some fresh air in there. Thanks for doing this in the hot, closed room there. It was awesome to have you, and thanks to all of you for hanging out. Have a good rest of your Thursday. Have a good weekend, stay safe, stay healthy. And we’ll talk to you again soon. Bye now.

Naira: Yeah. Thank you so much.

Steven: See you.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.