Getting Started with Twilio for WhatsApp

Twilio supports sending and receiving messages to and from WhatsApp users. The WhatsApp channel helps expand your reach and availability to your important contacts on any platform that is convenient for them. Best of all, WhatsApp messages are controlled by Twilio's existing Programmable Messaging API. Here's what you need to know to get started.

Twilio Sandbox for WhatsApp

In order to use WhatsApp in production, you must first submit your use case for review by WhatsApp. To get started building and prototyping your applications immediately, Twilio has created a sandbox environment for testing. The Sandbox allows you to send and receive pre-approved template messages to numbers that join your Sandbox, using a shared Twilio test number.

To explore the Sandbox, visit the "Learn" section for WhatsApp in the Twilio Console.

Using WhatsApp in production

In order to use WhatsApp in production with your own number and business profile, your business and use case must be approved by WhatsApp. Please complete the Request Access form to get started. To learn about the entire WhatsApp enablement process from start to finish, please see Connect your Twilio Number to your WhatsApp Business Profile (Twilio Docs).

Messaging capabilities

WhatsApp messages over Twilio Programmable Messaging have the following capabilities and limitations:

Templates and Session messages: Outbound messages to WhatsApp users must be sent using one of the pre-approved templates. These are generally transactional messages (delivery alerts, appointment reminders, etc.) sent to users who have opted in to receive messages from you. To see the approved templates for the WhatsApp Sandbox, visit Console. Once approved by WhatsApp, you'll be able to submit your own templates for approval for use in production.

All incoming messages, or outgoing replies to these messages within 24-hours, are considered Session messages, and don't need to follow a template. A messaging session starts when a user sends your application a message, and lasts for 24 hours from the most recently received message. For more info, please see "Templates and Sessions" in Rules and Best Practices for WhatsApp Messaging on Twilio.

Approved use cases: WhatsApp supports customer care, notifications, and mixed use cases over Twilio. WhatsApp does not allow promotional or marketing use cases, and will not approve Templates with promotional content.

  • Customer Care is initiated with an inbound message from an end user. When the first message is received from the user, it opens a conversation, in which the business can reply back with Session messages (non-template). The conversation will remain open for 24hrs from the last message received from the user.
  • Notifications use case is a uni-directional messaging service designed for the business to send alerts and informational notifications to users. Messages sent in this use case are required to use pre-approved Templates.
  • Mixed use case is initiated when a user replies to a notification message, thus starting a customer care use case.

Send a message to a WhatsApp user

To send a WhatsApp message, your application needs to make an HTTP POST request to Twilio’s Programmable SMS Message REST API resource with three required pieces of information; A recipient, a sender, and your message.

  • Recipient: The To parameter consisting of whatsapp: followed by the destination WhatsApp user number (using E.164 formatting).
  • Sender: The From parameter consisting of whatsapp: followed by the sending WhatsApp number (using E.164 formatting).
    • Until your Twilio number has been enabled, you may use the WhatsApp Sandbox number for testing and prototyping with WhatsApp.
  • Message: The Body parameter consisting of the desired message you wish to send.
    • New outbound messages must be sent using pre-approved templates. Responses within 24hours have no template requirement. See Messaging Capabilities above for more information.

Here’s an example cURL script:

curl -X POST https://api.twilio.com/2010-04-01/Accounts/ACXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX/Messages.json \
--data-urlencode "To=whatsapp:+13105555555" \
--data-urlencode "From=whatsapp:+12125551234" \
--data-urlencode "Body=Your appointment is coming up on {{Date}} at {{Time}}" \
-u "ACXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX:your_auth_token"

This example will contact the destination (310) 555-5555 from the sender (212) 555-1234 via WhatsApp, and send the following message:

Your appointment is coming up on {{Date}} at {{Time}}

To make this script work for you, make the following updates, and then paste it into a terminal window:

  • Line 1 update with your Account SID
  • Line 2 update with a valid destination
  • Line 3 update with a valid sender number
  • Line 4 update with your desired message
    • New outbound messages must be sent using pre-approved templates. Responses within 24hours have no template requirement. See Messaging Capabilities above for more information.
  • Line 5 update with your Account SID and Auth Token.

Additional Resources

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