WhatsApp Template Messages: Rules, Best Practices and Examples

If you’re getting started with the WhatsApp Business API, you’ll eventually run into template messages.

These automated messages play a critical role in your WhatsApp business setup. Template messages are so that you can:

  • Proactively write to customers or reply after the 24-hour service window has expired. Each message template is reviewed by WhatsApp to ensure that customers receive legitimate messages.
  • Respond quickly, conveniently and automatically to customer messages, such as FAQ requests or shipping confirmations.
  • Adhere to data privacy regulations by sending only messages that customers have consented to.
Image of WhatsApp message template
A message template consists of defined and dynamic content.

As useful as WhatsApp template messages are, however, each one goes through a strict approval process by WhatsApp. To help you with this process and get the most out of your template messages, we will cover:

  1. What are whatsapp template messages and why do we use them?
  2. How to set up WhatsApp template messages
  3. Rules and best practices for WhatsApp template messages
  4. Handy examples of WhatsApp template messages
  5. How to get started with WhatsApp for Business with Userlike

What are WhatsApp template messages and why do we use them?

WhatsApp template messages are pre-written, pre-approved messages that are sent by a business to opted-in customers via WhatsApp API. Examples are automatic login confirmations, delivery status updates and support-related messages that are used outside of your "service window." Apart from transaction-related message templates, non-transaction-related templates have also been allowed since 2021 (e.g. for newsletters ).

In addition to message templates, there is a second message type for enterprises: session messages. These include all messages where you responded to a customer reactively. So once a conversation is underway, you can send free-form (unverified) session messages.

WhatsApp conversation screenshot showing difference between session and template messages.

With WhatsApp Business, the end user is in control. Unlike email and telephone, "cold" contacting customers without their consent is not possible with WhatsApp.

For communication to take place, a customer must first take the initiative by explicitly indicating that they wish to receive a message from the business. They do this by either 1) sending the business a message first, or 2) opting in to receive notifications from the business.

When a customer sends a message, a 24-hour "service window" opens and the company can reply with a free-form session message. An agent can write a manual response or you can send an automated message from a WhatsApp chatbot.

If the company does not respond to the customer's request within 24 hours, the time window closes. From this point on, the company can only send previously approved WhatsApp message templates. To send a message, you need to receive the customer’s consent to continue the conversation. You are not allowed to send freely worded messages once the service window expires.

Image of conversation where consent was given

If customers agree to receive notifications from a company on WhatsApp, the conversation may only begin with a message template. Message templates can include everything from received payment confirmations, product availability notices, discount promotions and shipment tracking updates. Requesting customer consent (opt-in) for notifications usually happens on a company's website. Facebook explains the best way to get consent and its rules in their guidelines.

The reasoning behind WhatsApp template messages, as stated before, centers on customer experience. WhatsApp is committed to preventing “spam” (just think about your email inbox) and making the customer experience as enjoyable as it can. The messaging service has set up relatively strict messaging parameters as a result.

How much do WhatsApp message templates cost? Under the new WhatsApp 2022 pricing model, companies no longer pay per message template sent, but per 24-hour conversation. The fee amount depends on whether the customer or the company starts the conversation and in which country the sender is located.

An overview of each country’s prices can be found on Meta’s website.

How to set up WhatsApp template messages

WhatsApp templates are part of the WhatsApp Business API. You can gain access via a WhatsApp Business Solution Partner, such as Userlike. Contact us via this form and we will help you get set up with the WhatsApp Business API for as little as 90 Euros per month.

If you’d prefer to use another business solution, you can request access via Facebook here.

Image of Userlike's Message Center with sample customer conversations.

Once you have access to the WhatsApp Business API, the process for creating and sending message templates depends on the business software you chose in the previous step. You can set them up within Facebook’s Business Manager. Learn more about this process here.

If you're using Userlike as your WhatsApp support solution, you can add new templates within the Userlike Dashboard and send them to WhatsApp for review. Creating message templates is then very simple:

  1. Click on “Add template” in the lower right part of your WhatsApp channel settings.
  2. Define the template’s language, category and content.
  3. Click “Create Template” to submit it for review by WhatsApp.
Screenshot showing how to create a WhatsApp template within Userlike.
Creating a WhatsApp template within Userlike.

You can monitor the status of your message template in the lower part of your channel settings. Once a template has been approved, you can select it as your default template message in your WhatsApp channel editor.

Screenshot showing how to select the WhatsApp template in your WhatsApp channel.

When one of your operators then tries to reply to a conversation of which the service window expired, they get to see this message and the option to send the template.

Screenshot showing notification message within Userlike's Message Center that the use of a template message is requires.

Rules and best practices for WhatsApp template messages

Because of WhatsApp’s focus on customer experience (which we agree with), there are several rules and best practices to follow that will raise the odds of getting your template message approved.

Template messages must be sent after the 24-hour window

We’ve been over this already, but the 24-window for template messages bears repeating. If a customer starts a chat, you can continue the conversation on WhatsApp for up to 24 hours after the last message sent to you as you would in a normal WhatsApp conversation. After the time window expires, you can only reply with previously approved message templates.

If this window does pass, make sure you mention the previous conversation thread to make it clear to your customer.

WhatsApp Business: Privacy, examples and first steps

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Spam is strictly forbidden.

WhatsApp Business templates are designed to only send helpful information to customers. Intrusive promotional messages or surveys are not approved by WhatsApp.

However, as mentioned above, non-transactional messages (promotional messages) are allowed. For example, as long as the customer has opted-in, you can share tips or discounts. However, if your messages attract negative attention (e.g. if they are sent too frequently), you risk customers reporting them to WhatsApp as spam.

The name of your message template may only include lowercase letters, numbers, and underscores

That’s right - no weird special characters allowed.

Remember that your message title will be read by someone outside your business, someone that has the power to reject your message. It’s important here to be as clear as possible about what your template message contains.

The content of your message should be mistake free and shorter than 1,024 characters

Clean spelling and grammar should come as no surprise. WhatsApp wants its customers to be satisfied with their business interactions, after all.

As for the 1024 characters? This ensures businesses are clear and to-the-point in their communication.

Various topics are not allowed in your template messages

There are quite a few things that will get your message rejected, including mention of explosives, drugs, illegal services, and harsh or inappropriate language.

Basically, if it sounds sketchy to be sending to a customer, it’s probably not allowed. Use common sense and make sure to check out the full list here.

Remember WhatsApp’s message limit

The number of users you are allowed to contact in the 24-hour period is divided into four tiers: 1,000, 10,000,100,000 and unlimited. However, these limits don’t apply to conversations started by users.

Anyone who registers their phone number for the first time starts with Tier 1. WhatsApp automatically adjusts the tier to suit individual needs, as long as the messages are classified as high-quality (i.e. not spam). Facebook explains details about the tiers here.

Your message should follow WhatsApp-specific formatting guidelines

Creating WhatsApp template messages isn’t as simple as writing whatever message you want. Instead, WhatsApp has very specific formatting requirements which every template message must follow.

The most important thing to remember is that dynamic content that changes based on the customer (names, reservation dates, etc.) is represented by double curly braces: \. Again, guidelines can be found here.

Handy examples of WhatsApp template messages

Of course, none of this information about WhatsApp message templates does you any good if you don’t know how to use it. That’s why I’m showing you some of the best WhatsApp template messages you can use once you’re set up and ready to go. These template messages are essential for most businesses - regardless of the industry.

a) Reaching out to a customer over 24 hours after they last contacted you

What to name it: 24_hour_window

What to say:

I’m sorry that I couldn’t respond to your question yesterday, but I am happy to help you now. If you’d like to continue this conversation, please reply with “yes.”

b) Providing a customer their receipt information after a recent purchase

What to name it: payment_update

What to say:

We have received your payment for your recent order \. We will ship it as soon as possible. Here is your payment receipt.

c) Letting a customer know that their product has shipped

What to name it: shipping_update

What to say:

Your order for \ has been shipped and is currently on its way to you. The expected delivery date is \. With this tracking code you are able to follow the progress of your shipment \. Please let us know if you have any questions!

d) Giving a customer information on an upcoming appointment

What to name it: appointment_update

What to say:

You have successfully scheduled your appointment at \. It will take place on \ at \. Send us a message if you have any questions. We look forward to seeing you then!

e) Giving a customer information on an upcoming reservation

What to name it: reservation_update

What to say:

Thank you for your reservation at \ on the \. We look forward to welcoming you! You can check in on the day of your reservation anytime after 14:00. Feel free to send us a message at \ if you have any questions.

f) Updating a customer about a scheduling change or delay to a planned trip

What to name it: transportation_update

What to say:

Your scheduled flight from \ to \ is currently delayed. Estimated departure time is \. We will let you know about any further updates.

g) Sending ticket information to a customer

What to name it: ticket_update

What to say:

Here is your ticket information and boarding pass for your flight from \ to \. Send us a message if you need more information. Enjoy your flight!

h) Letting a customer know that they have successfully created an account with you

What to name it: account_update

What to say:

Dear \, you recently registered with us as a customer. Just letting you know that your account registration was successful. Thanks for joining!

i) Informing a customer of their financial situation (if you are a financial institution)

What to name it: personal_finance_update

What to say:

We have received your balance request. Your current balance for account \ is \. Please send us a message if you have any further questions.

j) Giving your customer a status update about a problem your company is currently experiencing

What to name it: issue_resolution

What to say:

We are currently experiencing an issue with \. We will let you know as soon as it is resolved. In the meantime, you can reach customer service at \ should you have any questions.

k) Giving the customer a general information alert

What to name it: alert_update

What to say:

Hi \, welcome to \! We are happy that you registered with us. If you have any general questions, feel free to send us a message. Hope to hear from you soon!

l) Asking a customer who has inquired during a holiday to message again within working hours

What to name it: auto_reply

What to say:

Thanks for your message \. Unfortunately we are unable to respond to your request during holiday hours. Please reach out again during our normal working hours (Monday-Friday, 8 AM - 7 PM, EST) and we will be happy to help you.

How to get started with WhatsApp for Business with Userlike

WhatsApp template messages may at first appear as an administrative nuisance, but they are actually a great way for WhatsApp to safeguard the customer experience – ensuring that it stays everyone’s favorite communication channel.

Userlike logo circled by various messenger app logos.

If you’re looking to offer this channel to your customers, then Userlike can help. Besides an easy setup of template messages, we offer you effortless and quick access to the WhatsApp Business API. Unlike most other business solutions for WhatsApp, we offer one flat fee – no unexpected charges.

What also sets us apart is that you get more than just WhatsApp. With any of our plans, you also get an advanced website chat solution, and access to other messaging channels like Messenger, SMS and Threema.

While WhatsApp is the leader, your customers are actually divided over the different messaging apps. With Userlike, you cover the most important ones – and always offer the optimal contact channel wherever your customers are. When they are on your website, through website messaging; when they are going about their day, through their favorite messaging app.

As just one of many examples, Userlike client Toyota uses WhatsApp as a contact channel between them and their customers. WhatsApp not only allows Toyota to communicate quickly and effectively with a large customer base, but ensures a wonderful customer experience all around.

Interested in doing the same?

Userlike offers:

  • An expert set-up that guarantees your WhatsApp template messages work straight from the beginning.
  • An easy-to-use interface so you are always on top of your customer communications.
  • Features like tags, smart routing, and analytics that maximize the effectiveness of your customer service.
  • A transparent pricing structure.
  • Integration with a wide range of other messaging apps (not only WhatsApp) to ensure you are reaching your audience on all platforms.

Want to take full advantage of the power of WhatsApp API in customer communication? Fill out Userlike’s WhatsApp API access form here!