Whatsapp etiquette for business

Is there one tick or two? Will the ticks go blue straight? How long does it take to read a message? Why hasn’t this person been online since 7.30pm last night? How do you mute these constant messages?

If any of those questions sounds vaguely familiar, then you, like millions of people around the world are fluent in Whatsapp. This messaging app has transformed the way the world communicates and with an estimated 1.2 billion users worldwide, it just continues to grow.

Many of us use Whatsapp to keep in touch with friends and family through groups and individual messages. Millions of videos, memes, sound notes and messages are fired across the globe 24 hours a day and Whatsapp calls keep growing in popularity.

This social network enables immediate, free and convenient communication and is ideal for work-related discussions. However, before you create a new group for clients and colleagues. Take a step back and think about the potential pitfalls of entering into a Whatsapp discussion with a disgruntled client or having endless conversations about work when you’re trying to unwind.

Here are some tips to ensure your business Whatsapp chats remain professional and keeps those work/life boundaries firmly in check.

Basic manners

Just like you ask someone if its ok to email them or to call at a certain time, it’s important to extend this basic courtesy when using Whatsapp. Before you start sending work messages within the app, always be sure to ask if it will be acceptable to do so. Some colleagues or clients may not appreciate being contacted on Whatsapp for whatever reason.

Similarly, when starting a group, always make introductions if the members do not all know each other, just like you would in person. The same applies if you are added to a group, always introduce yourself so your contact number can be stored.

Group size

You may be part of a group that swaps messages back and forth all day and while you love being in on the action, sometimes the messages can be distracting and a little bit annoying.

The same applies for business related Whatsapp groups. Ideally a group should contain no more than five people (eight is the absolute maximum and only if you really have to).

It’s important to keep groups to a manageable size to ensure everyone is heard. There will always be one or two people who post more than others and this might put others off engaging. Also, the more members, the more messages. This makes it harder for people to keep up with the discussion and important points may be missed.

Also, when you’re replying to a specific statement or question within the group, use the ‘reply’ function so it is clear exactly who you are replying to. If you want to expand upon the point, send a message to the person directly rather than swamping the rest of the group with details they don’t need.

Content of group & individual work chats

Before you start chatting, make sure your group name is relevant, clearly outlining what it’s about and what it’s for. Similarly, once you have achieved the aim of your chat, thank everyone for their participation and close the group. Treat it like a meeting. You’re all there for one reason and need to discuss that issue, once the meeting ends, leave.

A work-related group is not the right place to send jokes or memes. We all love to have a laugh, but as with face to face discussions, there’s always a time and a place. You may not know all the members personally, so what you might think is funny they may find offensive or irritating. Think before pressing send!

Who doesn’t love an emoji? Smiley face, sad face, dancing lady….there are so many to choose from. But when you’re responding to a serious work question, is an aubergine emoji really the right response? Use emojis sparingly, if at all. Just because you’re not face to face, this discussion will still reflect on you personally. Also, avoid using colloquialisms or abbreviations. Not everyone will understand what you’re trying to say or appreciate the informality.

Also, make sure to participate in a group chat. You don’t have to dominate the discussion, but you also don’t want to be the silent, creepy person in the corner reading every message but failing to respond.

Timing of messages

Working hours are the best time to send and receive business-related Whatsapp messages and definitely not on the weekend unless you know all the members are working on these days.

Occasionally you might need to send a message later than 5.30pm and that’s fine, once or twice. But any time after 8pm could be considered inappropriate or invasive. You might be a workaholic but your client isn’t. You could be ruining a really fun night for them by sending messages about work.

Be careful of what you say

Remember DJ Tommy Sandhu from BBC Asian Network? He found himself in hot water after posting messages that were considered sexist and homophobic in a Whatsapp work group. He was suspended from his job because of his comments and is still waiting to find out if he’ll be allowed back on air.

Posting offensive slurs or comments in a work Whatsapp group (or any group for that matter) is the height of stupidity. Keep your personal views to yourself and always keep it professional.

So, while Whatsapp is a great platform, always make sure you exercise a bit of caution when using it. Don’t get into trouble or ruin your reputation with a few carelessly typed out words!

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