WhatsApp is not the most popular instant messaging application in the United States, but it is the favorite of Latinos residing in this country. Proof of this was the COVID-19 pandemic, where it became one of the main mechanisms to keep ties open during confinement.
As part of Hispanic Heritage Month – which is celebrated from September 15 to October 15 and celebrates the contributions of people of Hispanic origin in the United States -, we review what explains the success of WhatsApp among Latinos in the United States .
What the data says about Latinos and WhatsApp
The confinements associated with COVID-19 prompted WhatsApp to overcome the barrier of 2 billion users worldwide in 2020. Numbers that also allowed it to establish itself as the third most used social network in the world, behind Facebook and YouTube.
In the segment of messaging apps, it far surpassed its sister Facebook Messenger – both owned by Facebook Inc. – which ranks in second place with 1.3 billion users, and China’s WeChat, which with 1.25 billion is located in third place, according to Statisa figures.
In the United States the figures are reversed. According to the same consultancy, 87 percent of users of instant messaging and / or video applications regularly use Facebook. WhatsApp only appears with 25 percent in fifth place, behind Apple’s FaceTime (34%), Zoom (34%) and SnapChat (28%).
However, the figures change when it comes to Latinos in the United States: more than half of them (52%) use WhatsApp, surpassing other ethnic groups, such as Afro-descendants (17%), Asian (15%) or whites (12%). The difference can be explained by the popularity of WhatsApp in Latin countries.
Proof of this popularity is that in mid-2021, the United States government bet on this application to stimulate vaccination among the Latino population.
Why WhatsApp is so popular with Latinos
In Latin American countries, practically everything happens and is communicated through WhatsApp: family news, meetings with friends, groups with co-workers, or from the university, everything is communicated through this platform.
This also makes it one of the most transversal social networks because although young people prefer applications such as Instagram or TikTok, they are all on WhatsApp, regardless of age or socioeconomic origin.
In fact, it is also one of the main remote service channels that some companies have chosen, including governments in the region.
But one of the main reasons for its popularity in Latin America is because it was one of the first mechanisms available in the region to maintain 100 percent free instant communication.
In this way, it made it possible to bypass the text message (SMS) rates charged by mobile phone operators in Latin America, unlike in the United States where the cost is integrated into the plans. And since it also works with Wi-Fi, it even helps you avoid using the data plan.
It is likely that these elements are the ones that ended up becoming a barrier that prevented the mass exodus that threatened the platform in mid-2021 to platforms such as Telegram or Signal, from finally bearing fruit.