Meta, formerly Facebook, plans to connect its social media-for-work platform with WhatsApp to let retailers, hotels and other companies message announcements to their frontline and office workers.
Meta said the integration, set to launch later this year, will allow companies to share Workplace posts on WhatsApp, a smartphone messaging app Facebook acquired in 2014. The company said WhatsApp's popularity makes many employees likely to use the application.
Workplace by Meta is a work-oriented social media platform akin to Facebook. Using Workplace, businesses can post company news and information, keeping employees informed about developments that might affect them.
Workplace's reach is limited, though. The product has only about 7 million paid subscribers. In contrast, WhatsApp has more than 2 billion monthly active users worldwide.
WhatsApp is used daily at work because of its small footprint and ease of use, according to Constellation Research analyst Dion Hinchcliffe. "I've [heard] from digital workplace teams that say they find 10% to 20% of their workers are using it instead of their official communication tools."
Frontline workers are especially likely to use their phones for work, making mobile apps an ideal avenue for reaching them. According to a 451 Research survey of 699 employees, about 62% of frontline workers use their smartphones multiple times a day for business purposes, instead of only 41% of office workers.
Meta emphasized connecting corporate offices with their workers in announcing the WhatsApp integration. The company said its research found that most frontline employees don't believe their companies effectively provide corporate news and updates.
"Our integration with WhatsApp is designed to help [bring] frontline employees closer to their organizations and ensuring the information they need to do their jobs is at their fingertips," said Workplace product director Ujjwal Singh in a statement.
Meta has taken other steps to leverage WhatsApp's popularity to address enterprise communication needs. In June, the company announced updates to the WhatsApp Business API to broaden the ways businesses could communicate with their customers. The move was part of a larger push by Meta to improve business-to-consumer messaging on its platforms.
Meta's competitors also focus on frontline workers. This month, Microsoft introduced a slew of features, like extended walkie-talkie functionality and integration with scheduling software, to make its Teams platform more useful to non-office-based employees. Microsoft has been trying to tap into the frontline worker market for years.
Big tech companies like Meta and Microsoft compete with smaller companies already serving frontline workers. 451 Research analyst Raul Castanon noted that companies like Yoobic, Beekeeper and Orion Labs have communication products built for frontline work.
Mike Gleason is a reporter covering unified communications and collaboration tools. He previously covered communities in the MetroWest region of Massachusetts for the Milford Daily News, Walpole Times, Sharon Advocate and Medfield Press. He has also worked for newspapers in central Massachusetts and southwestern Vermont and served as a local editor for Patch. He can be found on Twitter at @MGleason_TT.