As if Snapchat and WhatsApp weren’t enough to take up your mental space labelled “New apps I feel I should know about” along comes a “private social network” that’s been making a name for itself in the past few months. Yik Yak lets users anonymously see and send messages from people geographically close to them. What makes YikYak unique and why should B2B professionals learn more about it?
The Story Behind Yik Yak
Launched in 2013, Yik Yak was founded by Brooks Buffington and Tyler Droll who met each other during their college days while both taking the same app-building class. Once the two graduated, finance and pre-med respectively, the two decided to continue their idea from the app development class and Yik Yak was eventually launched as an anonymous messaging service. The biggest goal was to create a service that was completely private when it came to personal text messages to friends and family while also keeping the messages localized.
The age of apps creating anonymous messages or “self-destruct” files have begun to rise because of privacy concerns from users that believe government agencies could have backdoors that allow them to snoop on their data. Also, there is a great need from users looking to get away from the constant barrage of blatant advertising found on other social networks.
The Business (And Controversy) Behind Yik Yak
What makes Yik Yak different is that it is a fully fledged anonymous messaging app. Think of it as an anonymous Twitter app. You don’t need login credentials and your don’t even need a username that needs to be associated with a real name. There is also no two-step verification such as the credentials found with Twitter or Google where your phone number is tied with your account. In fact, you download the app and can immediately begin writing messages in a public Timeline.
However, there are no images on this Timeline. No links can be added to your messages. You are only allowed to read Yik Yak messages that were sent within a 1- mile radius which makes the app highly localized. Within that radius you can choose how many people to share it with.
This is where Yik Yak monetizes its services. For 99 cents, you can share your message anonymously with 1,000 people. If you want more people to see what you have to say, you can pay either $1.99 or $5.00 for 2,500 or even 10,000 people within your radius. This type of geo-fencing is an emphasis that the Yik Yak founders highlight with their start-up. The aim is for people to have localized social network communities without having to giving up privacy.
Unfortunately, the app has caught some flak in the news and was labeled as a “bullying app” by several media outlets because of its anonymous nature. There were high schools in Chicago, Connecticut, and other cities throughout the U.S. that had rampant bullying epidemics that even included school faculty and administration. After much coersion, the founders decided to ban the app within the vicinity of high schools and middle schools.
This isn’t the type of outcome Buffington and Droll wanted and are making an effort to make Yik Yak a legitimate geo-targeted messaging app. In fact, there are even benefits for businesses that want to get into the Yik Yak game.
Major Yik Yak Features:
– Geo-targeted to a 10-mile radius around the user
– Completely anonymous, you don’t even need login information
– No photos or links can be used, only text
– There are tabs for New and currently trending or “Hot” Yaks
– You can Peek into other communities not within your radius or even internationally
– Similar to Reddit, you can Upvote and Downvote posts on your feed
– Yakarma, also like Reddit, is your karma meter on the app
As for the business implications for Yik Yak, because it is still a relatively new app that only started to gain much of its popularity in 2014, there isn’t much of a known commercial presence or apps that can help businesses improve their standing in the app. It is still in a phase where the app is finding a foothold in the busy social network industry but has captured a lot of attention with college aged users and teenagers (similar to how Facebook won attention early on campuses).
Regardless, geo-fencing and targeting is a smart way for businesses to focus on smaller segments of a specific audience, especially small to medium businesses. Special, targeted promotions can be placed into a Yik Yak community and when people open up the app to browse through their timeline, that user can find the promotion and redeem it. Alternatively, it could be used as a type of “treasure hunt” game by savvy businesses looking for a unique guerilla marketing campaign to try for branding, new marketing campaigns, or even competitions and sales.
Anonymity is tricky for businesses because of branding but businesses eager to reach a younger crowd could certainly use Yik Yak to their advantage. There are no names associated with a Yik Yak message and that means clever or catchy writing to grab the user’s attention is much more important than imagery or video. This is also a highly localized, personalized channel businesses could tap into rather than blasting out a massive multi-national campaign.
It will be keen for a business to keep an eye on Yik Yak as it continues to grow and find its place next to social networking giants like Twitter, Facebook, or even Snapchat.