Let's talk about Yik Yak, baby

It's been a few months since Yik Yak became the latest and greatest app to take the higher ed world by storm, and at the moment it doesn't appear as though it's going anywhere any time soon. Which, of course, leads us #hesm folks to wonder - is it time that we start using it for our marketing purposes?


For the most part I'm going to assume that everyone reading this has at least a passing understanding of Yik Yak, but for those who aren't familiar with it - Yik Yak is a mobile app that uses geo-location to create hyper location-specific message boards. As such, it's perfect for dense and confined locations like college campuses, and it gives the illusion of intimacy since it only allows people physically within the immediate vicinity to post to the message board. (For instance - I can post to UP's board when I'm on campus, but I can't when I go home from work, even though I only live a few miles away.)

Yik Yak is a pretty powerful tool - I'm not sure I've ever seen something that offers such a raw and honest window into the mood of the students - but it's not without controversy. Any message board that is anonymous leads to problems with bullying, sexual harassment, etc. In a lot of ways, Yik Yak is a natural progression from the "confessions" pages that were all the rage a year or two ago.

I've been "peeking" in on UP's Yik Yak board for a few weeks now, and for the most part it's full of inanity - seemingly endless posts about marijuana, drinking, relationship problems, and cute baristas. (It should go without saying - it's often very vulgar.)

But I've also seen it used to a pretty amazing effect when our campus was dealing with multiple power outages (it was the best place for up-to-date information on who had power and who didn't) and when an op-ed in our student paper divided opinions and caused emotions to run very high.

Just last night, I posted on it for the first time to promote an impromptu event. I definitely felt like an impostor, but I also felt like I saw a part of my future: for all its flaws, Yik Yak has tremendous potential to promote events and disseminate information FAST to a very diverse group. Why? Because there is no requirement for people to follow you first. If they are on the app, they will see your post - unless it gets "downvoted" by enough people, which seems to only happen when posts include personal attacks or specifically name people.

Let's go through a thought experiment. Let's imagine tomorrow is your first day as a social media manager at a college, and that for reasons unknown, the college you are now working at has ZERO social media presence. No Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram, no nothing. Now, let's say your boss comes to you in the morning and says that you have an hour to get students to show up to an event. Other than running over to the cafeteria and library to stand up on a table and shout at kids, what other options do you have? Well... it sounds crazy to say this, but I'm thinking that the single best thing you could do would be to download Yik Yak and start posting and commenting. I can't think of another place where you have the potential to reach a lot of students. (It's hard to gauge user numbers - Yik Yak hasn't released updated user numbers since February - but anecdotally I see students on it all the time.)

Am I saying Yik Yak is the future? Not at all. But I will admit to being more intrigued and excited about its potential for marketers than I have felt about any app since Instagram launched. (Yes, that includes Snapchat.)

Not sure about Yik Yak? First, steel your nerves... you're going to see a lot of vulgarity and idiotic, unflitered posts from 18 year olds. Then, dip your toes in the water by downloading it and checking it out when you're at your desk. If you want to check it from your home, there is a "peek" feature that allows you to see posts from your school but won't allow you to post. (And, actually, it's not limited to schools - it has a map where you can drop a pin and see posts from all over the world within a specific location... Ferguson, Missouri has a pretty amazing feed right now.)

I have the feeling I'll be posting about my experiments with Yik Yak more later, but until then... are any of you out there using it or have thoughts about it? Let me know how it's gone for you so far in the comments or on Twitter - @joekuffner.





Happy Thanksgiving!!!

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