How will Facebook get their 16 billion back from WhatsApp?

FB and WhatsAppHot off the press and the cause of endless Tweets and press coverage in the digital world this week is Facebook’s $16/19 billion acquisition of Facebook. But where the conversation fell short was in understanding exactly how Facebook intend to reclaim their investment. While WhatsApp had grown to become the instant messaging medium of choice for most people around the world – WhatsApp has over 450 million MAUs, with 70 percent of those active each day –  the rather raw, bug free and no questions asked sign up procedure is more or less what fans love about the product.

WhatsApp user growth compared to Skype and Facebook

WhatsApp user growth compared to Skype, Twitter and Facebook

No doubt Facebook bought WhatsApp not only to ensure its own platform will live longer  – it seems very few people have even installed the new Facebook Messenger app – if I use the fact I continually get asked if I should invite my friends to do so when using it myself – but to also exploit their user base for yet to be mined, advertising revenue. However, in recent months we have seen what Facebook’s own monetisation strategy has done to the platform. Not only have teens become sick of Sponsored News posts from brands they have no interest in – let’s face it, does anyone want to see a promotion post for washing powder or yet another run of the mill car brand?! – based on recent first hand media experience, Facebook itself is realising clients are starting to see that true engagement is not necessarily paid for.

If you ask me, Facebook has no interest in WhatsApp, or its fans. They have bought the platform to exploit it, indulge agencies and clients in media rich strategies without caring if they ultimately alienate WhatsApp users as a result. Will it work? Yes. It will be at least a few years before WhatsApp users jump ship to something better. Would I recommend advertising on WhatsApp to a client? Sure – strike while the iron is hot! But, as with all social media, it will run it’s course, but I have no doubt the end won’t come before Facebook has made double its investment in advertising revenue.


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