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WhatsApp communities

WhatsApp communities

Meta-owned WhatsApp have been developing new features to help people get the most out of their groups – and these features can be utilised by sport and physical activity organisations to support people to be more physically active. With Meta owning both Facebook and WhatsApp; it’s no surprise many of the features explained in our previous section (Facebook groups), are now available and being used by organisations in WhatsApp as an alternative place to build and grow digital communities.

WhatsApp groups are a feature within WhatsApp that allows users to create, join, and participate in group conversations with multiple people. On the other hand, WhatsApp communities allow people to organise WhatsApp groups into larger categories; creating a community which existing groups, or new groups, can be added to.

You can think of a WhatsApp community as the ‘umbrella’ which contains all your WhatsApp group chats; whereas a WhatsApp group is a single chat shared with multiple individuals. A community can contain various groups and all sub-group members.

The main difference between a WhatsApp community and a WhatsApp group is the purpose and scale. A community will be created by an admin and consist of multiple interconnected groups (up to a maximum of 50 groups) often focusing on a shared interest with a maximum of 5,000 members, whereas a group is a single chat with a maximum of 256 members.

WhatsApp groups and communities are both great tools to be used by community sport and physical activity organisations to support people to be more physically active.

WhatsApp groups:

With a maximum capacity of 256 members, WhatsApp messaging, and to some extent WhatsApp groups, are popular amongst activity providers; often used as an effective and efficient way to communicate with members and participants. Using a grassroots sports club as an example, a Hockey Club might have a junior section, adult section and social section. The junior section might have different teams (Under 11 girls/boys, Under 13 girls/boys, Under 15 girls/boys), along with the Men’s A Team, Women’s A Team, Men’s B Team, Women’s B Team and a social section.

The Hockey Club might use a different WhatsApp group for each section/age group/team. This would enable the club admins to quickly and easily provide mass updates to all members, participants and parents.

The Hockey Club might also have a ‘welcome’ WhatsApp group consisting of individuals who have expressed an interest in the Hockey Club. They might use this WhatsApp group as a way of keeping those who have expressed an interest in the club engaged in conversation, or to create a supportive environment where these individuals can freely ask questions/get answers.

WhatsApp communities:

WhatsApp communities provide activity providers with the opportunity to house different WhatsApp groups under one umbrella community. Using the Hockey Club above as an example, who have multiple WhatsApp groups to service each section/age group/team, using WhatsApp communities would enable these groups to be housed under one community.

WhatsApp communities bring advantages for both community owners (in this case the Hockey Club) and the participating members. For the Hockey Club, a WhatsApp community would help to reinforce the bond between the club and its members, provide the club with the ability to organise and bring related groups together under one umbrella, and allow club admins to reach members with important updates by sending announcements (another useful feature!). On the other hand, the WhatsApp community would also help provide club members with a strong sense belong; allowing them to stay connected by exploring different groups and conversations.

WhatsApp can serve as a platform for building communities around shared interests, hobbies, or goals. Members can connect with like-minded individuals and engage in discussions related to their common interests, alongside offering several benefits for communication and collaboration among a group of individuals:

  • Community engagement: The level of engagement in WhatsApp often depends on the nature of the community and the preferences of its members. However, a lot of individuals use WhatsApp daily, and therefore appreciate this method of communication; a constant stream of messages in a chat format.
  • Privacy settings: WhatsApp groups and communities can be set as public or private. In private groups, members can only be added by the group administrator, providing some level of control over who joins. Admins can also restrict who can/cannot post messages in groups. This can be useful for the purpose of important announcements; an admin might set up a dedicated group within their community to be used for the sole purpose of important admin announcements (without group discussion), with another group within the community used for ongoing conversation between group members.
  • Real-time communication: WhatsApp groups facilitate instant communication among group member with messages delivered in real-time, allowing for quick responses and discussions.
  • Collaboration: WhatsApp provides a platform for collaboration, enabling members to work or engage together on projects, share ideas, and coordinate activities in a centralised space.
  • Media and information sharing: Members can easily share photos, videos, documents, and other media files, all contained in one place; an efficient way to disseminate information to a targeted audience, and useful for sharing updates, and multimedia content relevant to the group’s purpose.
  • Personalisation: Members can personalise their group experience by setting custom notification preferences. This allows individuals to control how and when they receive notifications from the group.
  • Mentions: Users can mention specific members in a group chat using the ‘@’ symbol followed by their name. This feature helps draw attention to specific messages and ensures that important information is noticed.
  • Quick feedback: WhatsApp allows for the rapid exchange of ideas and feedback, particularly useful for organisers and activity providers when it comes to making quick decisions or gathering input on specific matters. Polls and surveys can also be used easily.
  • Voice and video calls: WhatsApp supports voice and video calls, enabling group members to have discussions in real-time. This is especially useful for online community building, enabling members to easily stay connected when they’re in different locations.

Similar to Facebook groups, the interactive behaviour from members in WhatsApp groups and communities makes them a great option for supporting people wanting to become more active. The more motivation, support and encouragement people get, the more likely they are to continue their fitness journey.

The features covered above can be used to build a community around a given topic, such as getting into running, and then enable easy connections with others. Members are encouraged to perform the activities whilst the group creates inspiration and motivation as well as a support network.

The ability of groups to show other people ‘like me’ enjoying activities through the posts they share are also inspiring.

WhatsApp case studies

For the reasons outlined above, online communities formed through WhatsApp can be a fantastic resource to help support people to be more active. The case studies we cover below provide some great examples of organisations that have supported their target audiences to become more physically active and maintain these habits over long period of time.

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