Recently, I have joined no less than three alumni groups on Whatsapp. My school, college and management institute batchmates have all chosen this medium to re-connect. We initially found each other on Facebook. One batch tried to stay in touch through an email group, but it fizzled out. Finally, we chose WhatsApp as a way to stay in touch daily, and so far, this seems to be working the best. We can add upto 50 members in a group, we can share stuff and keep the conversation going. We don't have to open a site, log in or post, we just have to message, which makes the entire process so much more informal. It seems to be working really well.
My mom acquired a smartphone a year ago, and she is already on a couple of WhatsApp groups. One is a spiritual/prayer group (and I know of a reiki group too). Mom, Dad and I are on a WhatsApp group too, and it's as good a way as any to stay in touch.
Even more interestingly, I know a group of extremely talented artists who are collaborating and inspiring each other on WhatsApp.
You may say that this is nothing new, and BlackBerry Messenger always performed this role. But I think BBM was always more elitist and select. There was that whole big deal of sharing or not sharing your PIN with people you met. WhatsApp is way more inclusive, and cuts across age, profession and most importantly, phone platform. You don't need to spend a bomb on an expensive phone or a data plan, to have access to WhatsApp.
What is interesting to me is that the messaging app is performing or perhaps usurping a role that belonged to other channels. Facebook was the original meeting place for old school and college friends. Yahoo Groups (or any other platform like Google Groups) was the way to stay in touch with interest groups. And email was the favored way to share links, attachments or videos.
Now you can do all of these on WhatsApp. And chances are, you do it more often here than you do through other mediums.
Of course, this functionality is not exclusive to WhatsApp, and can be performed by any other messaging application like Line, Hike, WeChat or Kik. I am writing about what I am observing in my own environment. Even though BBM has *finally* arrived on Android, the reception has been lukewarm at best, though the BB diehards are at it. Or, everyone including me downloaded it, but it never gets used as much as WhatsApp. I have never been a BlackBerry user, but I took to WhatsApp right away.
One more observation. There is a regular kitty party (if you will pardon the cliche) happening 24X7 among certain women I know on the messaging app. People share their new hairstyles, wardrobes, cars, work achievements, holiday plans, temperatures in whichever part of the world they are in - and much more. If I were a marketer, I would be racking my brain to think of interesting ways to be part of these conversations.