Yik Yak and the secret web

Yik Yak

Shh it’s a secret! New social networks using traditional tools to reach new markets.

It’s not hush-hush that the social media powerhouses of Twitter and Facebook, with their algorithmically fine-tuned campaign structures, can offer a number of great, tried and tested solutions to individuals and businesses looking to promote themselves online. That said, pioneering marketers with a more experimental approach to getting a message out may find a fruitful new audience within the secret web.

So-called because of the anonymity of its users, the secret web changes the terrain where online conversations are concerned. In California, it led to the creation of alternative e-commerce hub Silk Road, an infamous website that used a veil of privacy to trade drugs, fake IDs and other counterfeit goods. Elsewhere, internet users dive into the controversial folds of the anonymous 4chan /b/ thread to vent poison about their exes and leak undesirable images of celebrities, adding fire to The Fappening. Alternatively, Whispher is the place for secrets, continuing the confessional tone the PostSecret mastered many years ago.

Meanwhile, there’s yet another new social media platform. Welcome to Yik Yak, a social media smartphone application that was launched in 2013 to allow users to share their thoughts, from “Should I get out of bed for my 9am lecture?” to “Dying with man flu”.

Yik Yak socks
Yik Yak socks – ideal Christmas present?

Targeted at students, two ‘yakkers’ from Atlanta, Georgia, recently set up their stall (in person, not a virtual experience) at the University of Derby, giving away green socks in exchange for downloading the app. The idea is that its users (mainly students) can share their inner most thoughts, fears and hopes, in this anonymous environment. As Yik Yak is promoting its wares on campus, the student leaning is clear, and is evident when I log in from Derby or Birmingham to discover individual arguments. With this new technology, we’re witnessing something of a digital transformation, as individuals engage in honest and often brutal conversations, ranking strangers on their wit, intelligence and wordplay.

Yik Yak and Whispher change the nature of social media networks. Most work because you can see each other’s connections, check out ‘friends in common’ are ask for an introduction to their conections. Does this mean more and more secret social media platforms will develop? What’s clear in the US is that these sites can be used for bad, as well as good. Bullying is rife and as a result, you can’t yak if you’re under 18. Some of the content is puerile and Yak HQ are trying to improve this via gamification ‘Earn Yakarma points – get rewarded for posting awesome Yaks.’

While largely untapped, the marketing potential here is clear. Thanks to the anonymity within its community, Yik Yak has kept a corporate vibe firmly at bay, making it fertile new territory for infiltrating real conversations, both to learn about your customers and to promote your product to them. The hyperlocal nature of the app, too, makes it a ripe tool for marketing campaigns, especially when it comes to boosting your brand’s presence at an event. The time you spend before disclosing your identity is, of course, completely up to you.

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