What is Yik Yak and Why Are College Students Using It?

Earlier this year I heard about the app Yik Yak from a friend that worked at NC State. After doing a little research I found out that it had cyber bullying problems. As a social media pioneer (please take this as a joke), I felt it necessary to check out Yik Yak and see what it had to offer. I first downloaded the app in March of 2014 and it wasn’t all that active. After giving it up I was no worse for the wiser. Well, that all changed today when another friend from UNC told me it was all the rage. Here is why.

What is Yik Yak?

Think of Reddit meets Secret meets Snapchat. Yik Yak is a┬álocation based bulletin board that is completely anonymous. There are no usernames, no links and no photos. You have 200 characters to say “What’s on your mind?” It is looks like this:

what-is-yik-yak

Photo Credit

Notice the up and down arrows. This is very similar to Reddit. There is also a Yakarma (Reddit has Karma) score that can be accumulated by getting upvotes, posting comments and being generally active on the app. There are three tabs that are available: New, Hot and Peek. On the latest version of Yik Yak for the iPhone the top has a default New tab on the left and a Hot tab to the right. On the bottom of the tray there is are clickable tabs for Home, Peek, Me and More.

Basically, you go on, post what you are feeling and see what happens. You have the opportunity to upvote and downvote anything you so desire. You can even upvote your own “Yaks”. As a Yak gets popular it hits the Hot section where it can truly take off. In the Chapel Hill area the current Hot Yaks have a score of 119, 88, 83 and 64. If this app is so popular you may wonder why the score is not higher. Timing.

A Yak can only remain visible for up to three hours. After the three hour timeframe has elapsed the Yak will disappear from the Hot section. If you post a Yak and it gets little to no engagement it will disappear in a matter of minutes. If a Yak gets 5 or more votes it will show up in the Me section on the bottom of the app. I have yet to determine just how long these “engaging” Yaks stay in this section. I quickly noticed that Yaks that received lots of downvotes disappeared in a matter of minutes.

You also have the ability to reply to any Yak. Replies can accumulate up and downvotes as well. In my short time on Yik Yak I have noticed that some users have entire conversations through the reply option. Questions like “where can I get pizza at UNC?” or “what time does the women’s soccer game start?” are common.

This may sound a whole lot like Reddit. It really is but the difference is the location and the users. There are lots of females on Yik Yak. This is not so on Reddit. Reddit has been criticized for the dominate male population. Remember that I am viewing Yaks in Chapel Hill, North Carolina so that may have an effect but my friends in Raleigh and at NC State have mentioned there is an equal distribution of males to females on the app. This is huge for virality. The college guys are going to go where the college girls are. Remember that when you post a Yak only those within a five to seven mile radius of you will see it.

Why is Yik Yak So Popular?

Yik Yak is anonymous, location based and it is a game. The fact that you can accumulate scores makes this app extremely popular. No one wants to submit a Yak that gets zero upvotes. You may wonder about cyber bullying and people calling out others by name on Yik Yak. This was a problem in the beginning but the users police what gets popular. Tonight someone came on Yik Yak in Chapel Hill and posted the same Yak about 20 times in a row. All were immediately downvoted and that particular “spammer” was not to be heard from again.

Just like Reddit, when the users police the community it makes it a much better place. If Yik Yak continues to grow at UNC and on college campuses this is a great sign for the future potential of being bought out by a company like Google, Facebook, Snapchat or Twitter. In fact, I would strongly recommend Google to look at this app now before it gets well over the $10 million in funding it already has. Go ahead and throw $200 million at it now before it blows up Google. You will thank me later.

The fact that Yik Yak is location and GPS based means that rival universities will have a field day when they make a trip. Can you imagine Kentucky students when they travel to Louisville for a game? Can you imagine Duke and UNC students heading over to each other’s campuses? I already know that NC State and UNC have had a flame war over Yik Yak and it is just getting started. The location based anonymous sharing is going to remain extremely popular for years to come. Just wait until Yik Yak adds cities and towns.

Can Yik Yak Make Money and How?

The answer is absolutely not. Well, not right now. Just like any other social network, it has the potential to make money from advertisers if it gets enough users. As one of my good friends pointed out, these fad social media apps are going to struggle to make real money with ads as the users are way too young to display high price ads. Very few college students are going to go out an buy an Audi or purchase a brand new home.

That is where Google comes into play. Google can purchase this app and wait for these college students to get older. In case you didn’t already know, Google prints cash with search advertising. They could spend $1 billion a month for the next 24 months and still be fine. Obviously, the Yik Yak creators cannot do this. In the next three months there is going to be an explosion of interest in Yik Yak. After playing with it for a few hours I can tell you that the users love it and it is short term enough to keep their interest.

How is Yik Yak Being Used?

While cyber bullying has been mentioned Yik Yak is being used in many different ways. Just tonight I saw that Yik Yak alerted UNC students there was a thief in one of the dorm rooms. There were also several updates of a guy singing and playing a guitar outside a dorm room. During a Friday or Saturday night I am positive there will be updates on the popular places to go. During UNC basketball games you can expect to see students anonymously reporting from their point of view. Even rival fans will chime in on a particular game. Can anyone say UNC vs Duke and Marcus Paige hitting a winning three?

This type of anonymous bulletin board has huge potential. Having been on the Internet for quite some time I can tell you that people are much more willing to post something when their name is not right beside it. There will always be a concern about students calling each other out but this is not the culture on Yik Yak at the moment. That is not to say it won’t change. If the policing of the app remains strong, with up and downvotes, and students remain engaged this app has the chance to become enormous.

Twitter has proven that fake or anonymous accounts can get popular quickly. In fact, the majority of the “non celebrity” Twitter accounts that have a large following are parody accounts for movie stars, TV characters, athletes or political figures. Yik Yak will allow you to say whatever you want about these celebrities. For the most part, the Yak that receive the most upvotes will be those that are funny or thoughtful.

Later tonight I am going to download the Android version and try it out. Over the next several days I am going to poke and prod around the UNC campus to see how students are using this app. I will say that this is the largest “fad” since Snapchat became popular back in October of 2012. We know what has happened since then; Snapchat is now a $10 billion business model. If you have used Yik Yak what do you think? Is it popular in your area?

Please note that at this point it is big on college campuses and not in towns and cities. Here are the college campuses in which Yik Yak is available:

College and University with Yik Yak

  • Abilene Christian University
  • American University
  • Appalachian State University
  • Auburn University
  • Babson College
  • Ball State University
  • Baylor
  • Bellarmine University
  • Belmont University
  • Bentley University
  • Birmingham-Southern College
  • Bloomburg University of Pennsylvania
  • Bocconi University
  • Boise State University
  • Boston College
  • Bowling Green State University
  • Boston University
  • Bradley University
  • Bridgewater College
  • Brigham Young University
  • Brown University
  • Bucknell University
  • Butler University
  • California Polytechnic State University
  • California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
  • Campbell University
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Case Western Reserve University
  • Central Michigan
  • Chapman University
  • Charleston Southern University
  • Christopher Newport University
  • Clemson University
  • Christopher Newport University
  • Coastal Carolina University
  • Colgate University
  • College of Charleston
  • College of Idaho
  • College of William & Mary
  • College of Wooster
  • Colorado State University
  • Columbia University
  • Cornell University
  • Davidson College
  • Denison University
  • DePaul University
  • Dickinson University
  • Drexel University
  • Duke University
  • East Carolina University
  • East Tennessee State University
  • Eastern Connecticut State University
  • Eastern Kentucky University
  • Eastern Michigan University
  • Elon University
  • Emerson College
  • Emory University
  • Fairfield University
  • Florida Atlantic University
  • Florida Gulf Coast University
  • Florida State University
  • Fordham University
  • Franklin and Marshall
  • Frostburg State University
  • Furman University
  • George Mason University
  • George Washington University
  • Georgetown University
  • Georgie College & State University
  • Georgia Southern University
  • Georgia State University
  • Georgia Tech
  • Gettysburg College
  • Gonzaga University
  • Grand Canyon University
  • Grand Valley State University
  • Hamilton College
  • Hampden Sydney College
  • Harvard University
  • High Point University
  • Hofstra University
  • Illinois State University
  • Indiana University
  • Indiana University/Purdue University at Fort Wayne
  • Iowa State University
  • Ithaca College
  • Jacksonville State University
  • James Madison University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Kansas State University
  • Kennesaw State University
  • Kent State University
  • Kutztown University of Pennsylvania
  • Lafayette College
  • Lehigh University
  • Liberty University
  • Longwood University
  • Louisiana State University
  • Louisiana Tech University
  • Loyola University Chicago
  • Loyola University Maryland
  • Lynn University
  • Marquette University
  • Marshall University
  • Massachusetts Maritime Academy
  • Mercer University
  • Miami Ohio University
  • Michigan State University
  • Middle Tennessee State University
  • Middlebury College
  • Mississippi State University
  • Missouri State University
  • Monmouth University
  • Muhlenberg College
  • Nicholls State University
  • North Carolina State University
  • Northeastern University
  • Northern Illinois University
  • Northwestern University
  • NYU
  • Occidental College
  • Ohio State University
  • Ohio University
  • Ohio Wesleyan University
  • Oklahoma State University
  • Old Dominion University
  • Ole Miss
  • Oregon State University
  • Penn State
  • Pepperdine University
  • Princeton University
  • Providence College
  • Purdue University
  • Radford University
  • Randolph College
  • Rice University
  • Rollins College
  • Rutgers University
  • Saint Joseph’s University
  • Saint Leo University
  • Saint Louis University
  • Salisbury University
  • Sam Houston State University
  • Santa Clara University
  • Savannah College of Art and Design
  • Seton Hall University
  • Sewanee, The University of the South
  • Shippensburg University
  • Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania
  • Southern Illinois University
  • Southern Methodist University
  • Spring Hill College
  • Stanford
  • Stephen F Austin University
  • Stetson University
  • Stevens Institute of Technology
  • Stony Brook University
  • Suffolk University
  • Susquehanna University
  • Syracuse University
  • TCU
  • Temple University
  • Tennessee State University
  • Tennessee Tech University
  • Texas A&M
  • Texas A&M University Commerce
  • Texas State
  • Texas Tech
  • Towson University
  • Trinity College
  • Trinity University
  • Troy University
  • Tufts University
  • Tulane University
  • University of Maryland Baltimore County
  • UC Berkeley
  • UCLA
  • UConn
  • UNC – Chapel Hill
  • UNC – Greensboro
  • UNC – Pembroke
  • UNC – Wilmington
  • UNC – Asheville
  • UNC – Charlotte
  • Union College
  • United States Air Force Academy
  • United State Navel Academy
  • University of Buffalo, State University
  • University of Alabama
  • University of Alabama in Huntsville
  • University of Arizona
  • University of Arkansas
  • University of California, Irvine
  • University of Central Arkansas
  • University of Central Florida
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Cincinnati
  • University of Colorado – Boulder
  • University of Dayton
  • University of Delaware
  • University of Denver
  • University of Florida
  • University of Georgia
  • University of Hartford
  • University of Hong Kong
  • University of Houston
  • University of Illinois
  • University of Illinois Chicago
  • University of Iowa
  • University of Kansas
  • University of Kentucky
  • University of Louisiana Lafayette
  • University of Louisiana Monroe
  • University of Maine
  • University of Mary Washington
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • University of Massachusetts Lowell
  • University of Memphis
  • University of Miami
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Missouri
  • University of Nebraska – Lincoln
  • University of Nebraska at Kearney
  • University of Nevada Las Vegas
  • University of New Hampshire
  • University of New Mexico
  • University of New Orleans
  • University of North Alabama
  • University of North Dakota
  • University of North Florida
  • University of North Georgia – Dahlonega
  • University of North Texas
  • University of Notre Dame
  • University of Oklahoma
  • University of Oregon
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • University of Rhode Island
  • University of Richmond
  • University of San Francisco
  • University of South Alabama
  • University of South Carolina
  • University of South Florida
  • University of Southern California
  • University of Tennessee
  • University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  • University of Texas
  • University of Texas at Arlington
  • University of Texas at San Antonio
  • University of Tulsa
  • University of Vermont
  • University of Virginia
  • University of Washington
  • University of West Florida
  • University of West Georgia
  • University of Wisconsin
  • Valdosta State University
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Villanova University
  • Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Virginia Tech
  • Wake Forest
  • Washington & Lee
  • Washington State University
  • Washington University in St. Louis
  • West Chester University
  • West Point
  • West Virginia University
  • Western Carolina University
  • Western Kentucky University
  • Western Michigan University
  • Westminister College
  • Williams College
  • Winthrop University
  • Wofford College
  • Yale University

Feature Categories on Yik Yak

There is also a section for featured categories in which you can view some of the best Yaks on a popular topic at the moment. In late August 2014 these Featured Categories are

  • Instead of the Ice Bucket Challenge
  • Yik Yak Dating Tips
  • Freshman Tips (Definitely Not Fake)
  • Hogwarts
  • The Working Wolves of Wall Street
  • Sports HQ
  • Capitol Hill’s Politicans

These categories are exactly what people are talking about on social media. This is what makes me feel as if Yik Yak has a very bright future. If they continue to allow smart college students to dictate and police the content this could be a huge player in the social media space. Even during the VMAs tonight I spent more time looking at Yik Yak than Twitter. Is this a sign of the times?