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New in Mobile Marketing Cloud: free-form WhatsApp messaging

WhatsApp is one of the most popular mobile messaging channels for businesses to engage with their audience. However, WhatsApp requires that business-initiated messages are templated and pre-registered, with the exception of messages sent as a reply to a user-initiated message. In this article, we'll take a closer look at the possibilities of user-initated messages (free-form messages).

Depending on who is initiating the conversation and in what time frames, there are two types of messaging that the WhatsApp Business API supports. 

User-Initiated messages (Free-form): These are responses to user-initiated messages, which can be any type of message within 24 hours of receiving the message.

Business-Initiated Messages (Templates): These are pre-formatted and non-editable messages approved by WhatsApp, initiated by a business that can be sent at any time. 

WhatsApp Opt-In requirements.

Before we go deeper into the messaging types, it's important to mention WhatsApp Opt-In requirements. If you want to reach out to and initiate a conversation with your customers with outbound messaging via the WhatsApp Business solution, you need permission (opt-in) from that customer. This active opt-in can be obtained via any channel you already use to communicate with your customer, for example your company website, app, email, SMS, store and even WhatsApp itself.

Free-form messages

Free-form messages (i.e. any non-messages templates) can only be delivered within the first 24 hours since the customer last contacted your business. To send a message outside the 24-hour response window, you must use a pre-approved message template.

However, free-form messages are an interesting opportunity for organisations that want to engage more intensively with their audience. The advantage of free-form messages is that they do not need to be approved by WhatsApp and that they are completely free because you make use of the 24-hour response window. Within this window, you can send any type of message you want.

There’s a wide variety of use cases where free-form WhatsApp is the ideal solution. Imagine a festival where visitors receive real-time updates on everything that is happening during the day (e.g. parking notifications, crowd control, line-up updates). This is just one example of how we, in cooperation with We Own The Night, lifted customer engagement during their live shows to another level through use of free-form messages. Opportunities are endless, and the following elements are available on our platform to send to your customers:

  • Text – are just regular text messages that can contain up to 4096 characters per free-form message.
  • Documents - file sizes can be up to 100MB and should be a PDF, DOC, PPT or XLS.
  • Images – can be sent together with a caption of maximum 3000 characters. Image sizes can be up to 5MB and should be a JPG, JPEG or PNG.
  • Audio – files sizes can be up to 16MB and should be a AAC, AMR, MP4 or OPUS.
  • Video – can be sent together with a caption of maximum 3000 characters. Video sizes can be up to 16 MB and should be a MP4 or 3GPP.

Learn more on how to send free-form messages.


WhatsApp Business message templates are specific message formats that businesses use to send out notifications, alerts, and customer care messages to people who have opted-in to receive messages. These may include appointment reminders, shipping information, issue resolutions, payment update, and now they can be enriched with interactive buttons. Here, you can read everything you need to know about WhatsApp Business Message Templates.

Interested in sending free-form messages to your audience? Contact us or request a demo.

Speak to an expert Mobile Marketing Cloud

Interested in sending free-form messages to your audience? Contact us or request a demo.

Speak to an expert Mobile Marketing Cloud
Is product marketer for the Mobile Marketing Cloud. Tom connects the dots between the product, marketing and sales teams.

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