If you want to reach people outside the 24-hour window and want to take the next step with your WhatsApp Chatbot, you need to get approved for the WhatsApp Business API.
So in this tutorial, I will explain when you need to get approved and how you can get approved for the WhatsApp Business API and use a chatbot on WhatsApp.
We will cover:
- What policies you need to be compliant with
- When you need to apply for the WhatsApp Business API
- How to apply for the WhatsApp Business API
Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
The 24-hour window on WhatsApp
Before we can determine if you need to apply for the WhatsApp Business API, we first need to understand the message rules on WhatsApp.
Basically, every time a user sends a message to your WhatsApp chatbot, a 24-hour window will open. Within this 24-hour window, you can send any message to the user, with absolutely no constraints.
Also, it’s important to understand that the 24-hour will reset, every time the user sends a message.
Here is an example:
- User sends message to chatbot *24-hour window will open*
- User says nothing for 8 hours *There are 16 hours left in the 24-hour window*
- After 8 hours, the user sends another message *24-hour window will re-open*
Outside the 24-hour window, we cannot send any message and we need to use WhatsApp Message Templates.
For now, I will not go into the Message Templates, but if you are interested in these, I recommend reading this post.
When do you need to apply for the WhatsApp Business API?
So now we know what the 24-hour window is, we can determine if you need to apply for the WhatsApp Business API.
There are two kinds of conversations with WhatsApp chatbots:
- User-initiated conversations: when a user starts a conversation with your business. Then, your business has 24 hours to reply to that message (these 24 hours is called the “24-hour window”, as I explained above)
- Business-initiated conversations: when a business starts a conversation with a user after the “24-hour window”
If you only want to reply to user-initiated conversations within the 24 hours, you don’t have to apply for the WhatsApp Business API. You can just use your WhatsApp chatbot and you don’t have to worry about anything.
But if you want to send messages outside the 24-hour window, you may need to get approved for the WhatsApp Business API.
More specifically, if you want to send business-initiated conversations to 50 unique customers (or more) in a rolling 24-hour period, you need to get approved for the WhatsApp Business API.
To make it even easier for you, I created this cheatsheet:
Which WhatsApp policies do you need to be compliant with?
If you want to get approved for the WhatsApp Business API, you need to be compliant with three policies:
And below, I will shortly explain them one by one.
WhatsApp Business Solution Terms
This is a really short document explaining all the different parties and rules that are involved, such as the administrator of your business account, third parties and restrictions.
I would just quickly read through this document, but it is all pretty straightforward.
WhatsApp Business Policy
The WhatsApp Business Policy describes how you can use your chatbot with WhatsApp, because WhatsApp wants you to create a quality experience.
And what is most important here, are the rules of opting-in. With WhatsApp chatbots, they are two ways users can opt-in (so that you are allowed to message those users):
- Someone gives their phone number + permission that you can message that person via WhatsApp
- Someone start a conversation on WhatsApp with your WhatsApp chatbot
And it’s important that you stick to those rules, because WhatsApp doesn’t want to become a “spam channel”, such as email.
There are some other use cases that the chatbot can start the conversation, but in 90% of the cases, a user must start the conversation (by directly starting it or by giving permission).
This document also includes other things, such as that you need to comply with the law of your country and privacy of data. But again, also really straightforward. So the most important thing here is that you can understand the rules of opting-in and are compliant with it.
WhatsApp Commerce Policy
The WhatsApp Commerce Policy describes which products you cannot sell on WhatsApp.
For example, you cannot sell illegal products and services, drugs and tobacco items.
You have a lot of product categories that are not allowed on WhatsApp. And if you sell one of them, you will not be approved for the WhatsApp Business API.
So, I just recommend reading through this document and determine whether you comply with this policy.
Apply for the WhatsApp Business API
After you’ve read through those policies and are sure you are compliant with them, you need to go to a WhatsApp Business Provider.
By the way, if you are using ManyChat and want to get approved, here is a complete video about it.
A WhatsApp Business Provider is a company that makes sure the messages you send are delivered to the user, and the messages the user sends to your chatbot are received by your chatbot platform.
By the way, the process is almost exactly the same for every other WhatsApp provider. For example, I approved one of my clients through Kaleyra, which has exactly the same process.
So if you are using Twilio as a WhatsApp Business Provider, you need to fill in this simple form:
Here you need to fill in general information, such as your first name, last name, Twilio Account SID, etc.
Also, with every WhatsApp provider, you need to fill in your Business Manager ID.
So how do we get that?
You need to go to the Facebook Business Suite, click on Settings and then choose More Business Settings:
Then, you need to scroll down, click on Business Info, and here is where you can copy your Business Manager ID:
P.S. Don’t share this Business Manager ID with anyone else, because then they can get access to your business…
So just fill that in at the form and submit it!
Approve request of WhatsApp Business Provider
After you’ve filled in the form, the WhatsApp Business Provider (in our case, Twilio) will send you a request to apply for the WhatsApp Business API on your behalf.
And it can take a couple of days before you get this request, but once you get it, you will get an email and you need to go to your Facebook Business Manager Settings.
I currently don’t have anything to show you, but it should appear under “Requests” in your Settings:
It says something like “Twilio wants access to your business” and then you just need to click on the Approve button.
Verify your Business in Facebook Business Manager
When you’ve approved your WhatsApp Business Provider, you need to verify your Business inside the Business Manager.
Verifying your business means that you need to prove that you are the owner of the business, which can be done in multiple ways. For example, you can:
- Verify it with your phone number
- Verify you are the owner of the website
- Or send legal documents of your business that you got from the Chamber of Commerce
By the way, for a client of mine, we needed to verify his business. But we had a problem. His Facebook Page name was different than the legal name of his business. So what we did is we went back to the Chamber of Commerce, included his Facebook page name as a trade name and then uploaded these documents to Facebook. And that worked!
And Facebook lets you verify your business through a form, which you can access inside Facebook Business Manager by going to the Security Center and clicking on Start Verification:
What if I cannot start the Business Verification?
It could be that the Start Verification button looks like this:
And if you hover over it with your mouse, it gives the following message: “This business is not currently eligible for business verification. The button is disabled unless your business needs access to certain features or you need to show people more information about your business.”
If this is the case with you, it’s probably you don’t have a WhatsApp Business account (yet).
So what you need to do is install the WhatsApp Business App on your phone and create a WhatsApp Business Account.
Then after that, you need to go to WhatsApp accounts in the Business Manager and click on Add WhatsApp account:
Here, you need to fill in your phone number and click on Continue:
Now, WhatsApp will automatically send a code to that number so you can verify it. After this, you probably can start the Business verification.
How long does the WhatsApp Business API approval take?
Essentially, this process takes up three steps:
- Filling a form of your WhatsApp Business API provider
- Approve the request of your WhatsApp Business API provider
- And verify your business on Facebook Business Manager
In general, this process takes up 5-15 working days, but it depends on how long your WhatsApp Business provider takes.
For example, for a client of mine we did it through Kaleyra. And Kaleyra took about one week to send us the request and then Facebook verified us in 4 days. So we got verified in about 11 days.
Also, what is good to know is that every approval is for the combination of your phone number + the WhatsApp provider.
This means that if you switch phone numbers or you switch from WhatsApp providers, you need to apply for the WhatsApp Business API again.
Now It’s Your Turn
And that’s it, that’s how you can get approved for the WhatsApp Business API.
If you have any questions on how you can get approved for the WhatsApp Business API, please leave a comment below and I will reply as soon as possible.