Is Yik Yak for you? Probably not

In the latest mad experiment from the Sookio Lab, we look at the anonymous messaging app targeted at students which is taking campuses by storm…

Yik Yak is an app that knows exactly what it wants to be.

Functioning as a sort of digital toilet wall for users to scrawl their innermost thoughts for the local community’s enjoyment, I eagerly gave it a download for Sookio Labs, popped it open and was greeted with my first ever yak sighting…

…I think I’m going to like it here.

Yik Yak: The basics

  • Available for iOS and Android.
  • No account creation, the app ties to your phone, just download and go.
  • Uses location data to show yaks from those within a certain radius.
  • Offers the ability to peek into other areas and see what’s trending there.
  • Works on a continuous wall system with totally anonymous posting.
  • Repliers are identified with randomly assigned icons to facilitate conversation.
  • Yaks last for 100 days before expiring.

A bit of background

Since its launch in 2013, the app has come under its share of fire. With a target market so clearly defined as students of school and university age, coupled with the anonymous nature of the platform, the scope for unpleasantness was always there.

All the more interesting, then, is the focus with which Yik Yak is going after that demographic. Its Twitter feed spotlights top yaks from campuses around the world and encourages users to look out for the Yak at their college sometime soon.

Needless to say, I miss out on this demographic by some margin. So my first steps into yakking consisted of a subtle attempt to blend in…

…That seemed to go well. Emboldened, I decided to come right out and ask the question we’re all here for…

…That didn’t go so well.

See that little ‘–2’ at the right? That represents two downvotes. When a yak hits five it gets deleted. This does an incredibly good job of keeping the platform free of abuse, spam and marketing. My post was gone within ten minutes.

How should brands behave on Yik Yak?

As with any system of community moderation, the first hint that someone might be there to sell something is going to be met with contempt and hostility.

That being said, the openness with which people communicate when they’re behind the mask of anonymity can yield very positive results. The BBC, as part of a week of mental health coverage, asked Yik Yak users to open up about their own mental health. The response was nothing short of inspiring.

This marks the app as a fantastic listening platform. Charitable organisations can reach out and discuss the issues affecting their work in a given area, expecting a totally unfettered response.

If you’re selling something, it becomes trickier. The art lies in how you frame your part in the conversation. If you’re not trying to talk to students then this probably isn’t the droid you’re looking for. If that is your bag, you can reap a wealth of information and opinions on your sector or industry from a relatively short span of time spent posing as a hip millennial.

The anonymous nature of Yik Yak also serves as a kind of safety net. If you get rumbled as a marketing shill and your yak gets deleted, there are no long-term consequences. Just refine the kind of questions you’re asking and get right back in there.

Of course, it’s early days for the app and paid ads, promoted yaks and the like are a social media inevitability. For the moment, the app serves as a fast, responsive and honest means to garner opinion and get an insight into a very savvy, tech-conscious demographic.

The Yik Yak verdict

What struck me most about Yik Yak is how easy it is to use. Its purpose is clearly defined and articulated through an intuitive menu system. That user-friendliness leads to the smart money being on this app to corner the emerging trend for anonymity and transience in social media communications.

It’s also addictive. The fast, transient flow of communications makes it great for just picking up and checking when you’ve got a moment or sitting for prolonged periods and reading over messages from hours gone by.

Are you inspired to give Yik Yak a try? Let us know how you get on in the comments and share your experiences. Here’s my standout fave so far (I'm the boot)…

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