Should Marketers Use Apps Like Whisper or Yik Yak to Reach Millennials?


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Social Media Week

Whisper had 20 million monthly users in December 2015, and Yik Yak reported 3.6 million monthly users at the start of 2015. With potential audiences of this size, is it worth it for marketers to invest time and money in these apps?

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Whisper and Yik Yak are social media platforms that allow users to share anonymous posts on mobile and online. The services differ in a few ways. Whisper users post text over images and Yakkers tend to post mostly text.

Yik Yak focuses on a specific geographic region so users see posts only within a 1.5 mile radius of their location, while Whisper tailors people’s feeds based on geographic location. Whisper is bigger with more users, while Yik Yak tends to be more intimate, less commercial and frankly more lewd.

According to Business Insider, Whisper had 20 million monthly users in December 2015, while Yik Yak reported a smaller base of 3.6 million monthly users at the start of 2015. At the end of January 2016 Yik Yak was ranking as the 40-50 most downloaded social media app, while Whisper was ranking 20-30th according to App Annie.

Marketers may be wary of anonymous messaging services, particularly on Yik Yak since there are many objectionable posts using foul language and emphasizing bodily functions. Why might a marketer want his or her brand associated with this? Three reasons:

1. It reaches young people who are looking for something to do

The target for anonymous messaging apps is teens and college students who use the service to talk about teachers and their peers during class, vent their outrages and look for people who may be open for a conversation. People who use these services have time on their hands and may be in-market for ways to reduce boredom.

2. Anonymous users talk about brands

Which brands are they discussing? On Yik Yak there are three general categories: food, fashion and entertainment. For example, recently in New York someone asked when new tickets for Hamilton will go on sale and someone else asked how the new OJ show was.

However, most complain about brands such as “GAS IS NOT CHEAPER THAN GUAC ON MY BURRITO @CHIPOTLE WASSUP.” Whisper is more curated and seems less natural. It takes more effort to create a text over image post than simply typing in a thought. Therefore, the spontaneity is lost on Whisper and fewer mentions of brands pop up.

3. You could be a pioneer in an uncluttered space with a potentially responsive audience

Though people mention brands, few brands actually post on Yik Yak. The app appears to be building its following before venturing into revenue development. As such there is no paid advertising and commercial messages are presently not allowed according to the terms of service.

Whisper accepts paid advertising and works with Coca Cola, Disney, Hulu, MTV, FX and Paramount. As you can see it’s the beverage and entertainment brands most interested in this type of service as an ad platform.

How could you use anonymous messaging apps? First, do an experiment and post an offer so you can then determine the response. Give kids a reason to share the item with their friends and provide a unique code that must be redeemed so you can measure the results of your strategy.

Another option is to post a non-commercial, but branded message. Coke did this in September with an ad against cyberbullying posted on Whisper.

For right now, I suggest your paid media goes to Whisper, while stealthy marketers may want to test Yik Yak.

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Randi Priluck

Professor of Marketing and Director of the MediaStorm Masters in Social Media & Mobile Marketing, Pace University

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Dr. Randi Priluck is Professor of Marketing & Director of the MediaStorm Masters in Social Media & Mobile Marketing at Pace University. She currently teaches graduate Social Media & Mobile Marketing Strategy and undergraduate Social Media in Marketing. Her book, titled Social Media & Mobile Marketing Strategy is forthcoming from Oxford University Press and she has published widely in a variety of marketing academic journals including: The Journal of Advertising, The Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Psychology & Marketing and the Journal of Consumer Marketing. The MediaStorm Masters program is a joint effort by the Lubin School of Business at Pace University and MediaStorm, the second-largest independent media planning and buying agency in the U.S. Media Storm works with some of the most well-known digital, entertainment, and retail brands in the world. The agency brings a unique media model that places unpaid media at the forefront. Founded in 2001, it has offices in New York City, Los Angeles, and Connecticut. The program offers students opportunities to work directly with MediaStorm executives and their clients on special projects in social media & mobile marketing.



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