Seven League’s long-term partnership with European football giants Valencia CF has involved many days spent in Spain during 2014.
And, if there’s one notification alert sound that’s pinged more than any other in that time, it’s been the WhatsApp noise. In the office, around the stadium, and on the streets of the city, it’s near-ubiquitous to the trained ear.
Armed with this unscientific anecdote, plus data showing Spain as the top European country for WhatsApp usage, and also qualitative research with fans, we added a new share button to the club’s website in October.
Until recently, WhatsApp share code only worked on iOS devices, but is now Android compatible as well.
Other publishers have experimented with similar button- Buzzfeed added one in February, and created a stir with the story that it was used more than the Twitter equivalent.
What they lacked at the time (or didn’t reveal, at least) was whether WhatsApp shares resulted in significant traffic back to the site.
After all, it’s a one-to-one or one-to-few mechanic (max group size on WhatsApp is 50), lacking the potential reach of one-to-many channels like Facebook and Twitter.
There’s plenty of talk about ‘dark social‘; sharing activity which can’t be tracked outside of GCHQ (emails, texts, phone calls, lunch-queue conversations etc.).
Anything which begins and ends on your own website should always be measurable though, even if the medium is a messaging app.
Using a combination of Event Tracking in the site’s Google Analytics code, and utm parameters in the share urls, we’ve had this in place for a few weeks now at Valencia.
The data below comes from the first few weeks of operation, and reveals a nuanced picture.
Firstly, the WhatsApp share button has clear value for driving referral traffic back to the site. Under regular conditions – the ebb and flow of daily content, with no outlier spike articles – WhatsApp shares are a close 2nd behind Facebook across all platforms, and dominate on mobile.
Even when we include the desktop data, WhatsApp drives more referrals than any other platform; 1.8 referrals for every share, compared to 1.5 for Twitter and 1.1 for Facebook.
On mobile only, WhatsApp accounts for almost half the share actions, and over two thirds of resulting referrals.
In these regular, non-spike conditions, the potentially greater reach of one-to-many shares on Facebook and Twitter is outperformed by the impact of a one-to-one (or one-to-few) message via WhatsApp.
However, when spikes occur, the one-to-many platforms power-up.
Since we’ve been tracking the data, there’s been one major spike article: local rivals Levante chose not to honour a past tacit agreement to keep ticket prices down for away fans, and in response, Valencia announced they would be subsidising tickets by 50% for their travelling supporters.
In this situation, WhatsApp still performs strongly for shares – still #1 for mobile – but referrals from Twitter and Facebook accelerate significantly, with almost 10 referrals for every share to Twitter, and 7.5 for each share on Facebook.
So, if your site’s traffic profile is dominated by spike articles – if you’re Buzzfeed, a major news publisher, or even just a clickbait farm – one-to-many share channels will probably still be more important to you.
But if you’re a club or a brand with a more traditional traffic pattern, with spikes around specific events, then the high conversion rate of one-to-few messaging shares can definitely bring you benefit.