Apparently, Yik Yak is not doing too well at the moment. TechCrunch noted that the app had “zero significant growth in over a year”. After the massive funding round led by Sequoia Capital, growth has not been as positive as the company had hoped. After the great hype and strong initial growth, not so much has happened.
An inside source has hinted at the possibility of Yik Yak releasing a traditional chat feature for its app, meant to turn this slouch around. However, Yik Yak might find itself in very competitive waters if it does so – SnapChat has just released a huge update which not only includes chat options, but video call and phone call as well, among other things.
So what can Yik Yak do that could lead to stronger growth?
Filtering Hate Speech – A huge issue has been hate speech in the app. Multiple colleges have tried getting the app banned, as the anonymous nature of the app allows cyberbullying. Yik Yak could put more emphasis on censoring hate messages. The problem with doing so is that it jeopardizes the “free speech” nature of the app – while it can (and should) be argued that censoring hate speech and fighting cyberbullying is necessary and unequivocably a good thing, it may (and it pains to say this) lower engagement and other KPIs Yik Yak may be going for.
However, instead of blatantly deleting hate speech, Yik Yak could filter messages containing hate speech. Similar to Google’s Safe Search, Yik Yak could create the option for users to only read “safe” messages. Of course it may be tempting for users to see unsafe messages as well, but giving the option already improves the user environment. This idea can be developed further – e.g. giving users only a limited number of switches from the safe environment to the unsafe environment, thus saving the bullied user from returning to reading the negative things that made them switch to safe mode in the first place.
Verified Accounts – What Yik Yak could also do is use the anonymous nature of the app for good. College students often have problems they rarely talk about – feeling they can’t keep up with the class, feeling homesick, having difficulties living in their dorm, health issues they do not want to communicate because they are embarrassed.
If Yik Yak really is looking into a chat feature, it could be very helpful in giving certain faculty members verified accounts. As an example, an anonymous student could then reach out to a university psychologist if the student is experiencing depression. The student, who may not be comfortable in meeting a psychologist in person, can now ask questions and get the advice or help he/she needs.
Ideally, having verified accounts for professors could be useful as well. However, considering the problems Yik Yak has had in the past regarding hateful messages, it is highly likely that professors will be exposed to a similar amount of abuse, since the anonymous user cannot be tracked down.
Adding Polls – Taking the verified university account feature further, another useful addition for Yik Yak could be polls. The university often has questions to its students, but the way of asking these questions can often lead to biases, skewing the results of the survey. As an example, universities often send out surveys to the university email addresses of the students. The surveys are meant to be anonymous, but must be answered using the unique email address the student has obtained by the university. See the problem here?
With Yik Yak, universities could send out polls to their immediate surroundings, so that the poll only reaches people currently on the university campus. The results will be less biased than other forms of surveys, and will be completely anonymous. By having closed questions (limiting the options of answers for each question), the potential problem of sarcastic and (again) hateful comments is diminished.
Yik Yak is in the nice position that it already has a lot of engaged users – it will be interesting to see what Yik Yak has in store to achieve the turnaround it currently so badly needs.