How to Create Message Templates for WhatsApp: All You Need to Know

If you successfully applied for WhatsApp API and activated your phone number(s), this is the article to read! Learning how to create WhatsApp message templates is the next big task on your list.

However, before we dive into the process that is simple but strangely complicated at the same time, let’s have closer look at what is a WhatsApp message template and all the rules and privileges that make it different from the other messages you can send using WhatsApp API.

Message Types Available with WhatsApp API

Essentially, there are two types of messages you can send to your leads/customers using WhatsApp API Client integration:

  1. Session Messages
  2. Highly Structured Messages (HSM)


Session Messages

Session messages are reactive messages written in response to a customer inquiry. WhatsApp labeled them as “session messages” since they can only be sent within 24H Customer Care Window.

In other words, WhatsApp is granting you 24 hours to respond to the inquiry for free.

Session messages – being part of a private conversation between you and your customer – are not subject to a specific format or content rules. You can send text messages, gifs, images, videos, and even voice messages.

After 24-hours since the user’s last message, the session closes. If you wish to re-initiate a conversation after that time period, you need to send a paid message template.

Highly Structured Messages (HSM)

HSMs are the famous WhatsApp message templates you have been hearing so much about. They are the only way WhatsApp is monetizing the API service.

Before anything else, there are 5 key things you need to know about HSM. They are

  • Proactive & Reusable (common notifications business may want to sent to users automatically)
  • Highly Structured (the name doesn’t lie, they have to comply with very strict structure guidelines)
  • Subject to Approval (before they go live, the templates need to be submitted to and pre-approved by WhatsApp team)
  • Subject to User Opt-In (although there is no limit to the number of HSM you can send at once, you can only send them to users who previously agreed to be contacted)
  • Personalized Through Variables (template messages, although automated, allow for a level of personalization using simple variables)
  • (Optionally) Multi-Lingual (the templates allow you to pre-design the same message in multiple languages to connect with users in different countries)

Before, even with WhatsApp Business Account, you could only send up to 256 messages at once to a designated group or broadcast list. In that sense, HSM templates are quite a revolutionary step in the history of WhatsApp as well as one of the most attractive advantages of WhatsApp API.

Let’s look at all those rules that make them so structured!

Rules of Creating WhatsApp Message Templates

There are two rule categories you need to take into account: Content Rules and Formatting Rules.

Content Rules

To be able to send users automated notifications, you need to format message templates in accordance with WhatsApp policies which are considerably user-centric. You could say WhatsApp cares more about the value you will be providing to your customers rather than the value they are providing to your business.

And so, promotional and sales-oriented HSM submissions will be rejected – no exceptions!

Your template should fall under one of these categories: account update, alert update, appointment update, issue resolution, payment update, personal finance update, reservation update, shipping update, or ticket update.

Formating Rules

Template Name

WhatsApp message template name can only include lowercase alphanumeric characters and underscores.

Example: shipping_update | order_followup1

To speed up the approval process, WhatsApp advises businesses to use descriptive names for their templates rather than random ones like “message_124a” it will make it easier for the person that will be approving your message as well as for you who will manage in a sea of other templates.

Template Content

The content of your template needs also be meticulously formatted. Your HSM template:

  • Must be text-based containing only letters, digits & special characters, emojis and WhatsApp-specific formatting (see formatting table below)
  • Can’t have more than 1024 characters
  • Can’t include newlines, tabs, or more than four consecutive spaces
  • Must indicate variables with {{#}} – a numbered placeholder where a specific number represents the variable index (please note that your variables must begin counting at {{1}})



Template Translations

Although you are able to send template messages in various languages, WhatsApp doesn’t offer translation services. So, if you wish to address your audience in another language, you need to submit your own translation of the template.

Naturally, the translations must follow the same rules as the original template.

Reasons Your WhatsApp Message Templates Can be Rejected

Before we move on, let’s look at the common reasons for templates being rejected:

  1. The message template is regarded as promotional. For instance, the template:
    • offers a free gift and/or coupon codes
    • tries to upsell
    • Bids for cold calls (e.g., “Is this a good time to talk?”)
    • Sends a survey or poll to collect data
    • Includes certain words or phrases which make the template sound promotional (even if there is nothing wrong with the content of the template)
  2. The message template includes floating parameters (e.g., there are lines with only parameters and no text). See the example below – {{1}} and {{2}} are correct and {{3}} and {{4}} are considered floating parameters.
  3. The message template has faulty formatting, for example:
    • Features spelling mistakes
    • Includes incorrect variable format such as missing one curly bracket
  4. The message template contains potentially threatening or abusive content, for example:
    • Threatens users with a legal course of action
    • Threatens users if they don’t pay back their loans


Examples of Approved & Rejected Message Templates

In practice, things can get a little tricky and differences between what is approved or rejected very nuanced.

Let’s look at a few examples!

Welcome Message

Rejected:


Approved:


Followup

Rejected:


Approved:


Newsletter

Rejected:


Approved:


In a lot of cases, the differences are minuscule and sometimes it’s not even that clear why one message is OK while the other not.

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