Social media platforms continue to amaze us with their ability to help make, maintain and build connections. Extensive friend lists and followers are always there to listen to our ramblings and reply. But what about the apps that give no attachment to a username? Anonymous apps provide a unique outlet for users and new opportunities for brands, but they can also have a negative impact.
Some of the most popular anonymous apps include Whisper, Secret and Yik Yak. The majority of users are high school and college-aged, and posts typically consist of silly confessions, complaints and comments on current events. They are great for getting things off your chest or sharing opinions you wouldn’t necessarily reveal under other circumstances.
However, not all unidentified posts are harmless. Just before the spring semester ended at Ohio University, police officials received information of a video threatening American students posted to location-based app, Yeti. Although police eventually concluded the post was not targeted at Athens, Ohio, all public schools in the area were closed and Ohio University officials took extra security measures.
This type of material is not uncommon for such apps. Multiple suicides have been linked to abuse on Ask.fm, a site where users ask questions and receive anonymous answers, according to NoBullying.com. While cyber bullying can occur on all social media platforms, anonymous apps allow users to say whatever they want with no repercussions to themselves.
These incidents have parents and teachers worried and are even enough to keep brands wary of getting involved. Using such a controversial app poses a risk to a brand’s image and trustworthiness. There are also ethical concerns with brands joining anonymous apps. Since it is impossible to identify the user, it would be all too easy for companies to pose as excited customers, talk negatively about a competitor or give untruthful information about their own products or that of a competitor’s.
But not all companies are shying away from the opportunity. Some platforms, such as Whisper, offer advertising opportunities. Brands and companies are able to identify themselves and associate any messaging they put out with the brand. MTV took advantage of this to promote its show ‘Virgin Territory.’ Most users of anonymous apps are between the ages of 18-24, the perfect target audience for MTV and other companies marketing to young millennials.
This post aligns closely with native advertising in that it looks like an average user’s comment until you realize it’s sponsored by MTV. By using similar themes and language to typical Whisper users, MTV does a good job of making their content fit within the app.
Whisper also recently launched a polling function, which allows users to give their opinions on everything from late night snacks to civil rights. Brands can then purchase the results. The empowerment users feel from remaining nameless may work towards the benefit of brands looking to gain thoughts on controversial or secretive topics.
The username is centric to basically all of our favorite social networks. We tweet at each other’s handles, ask people to follow our Instagrams and share our Snapchat names with all of our new friends. Removing this norm brings chaos to the social media world, but for some, it might just be worth the risk.
How do you feel about anonymous apps? Let us know!
Emily Barber is a senior majoring in Journalism-Strategic Communication, minoring in Marketing and receiving the Social Media Certificate. She is also the VP of External Relations for Scripps PRSSA. Follow her on Twitter @emilybarbershop.