Can Yik Yak Evolve from Liability to Opportunity For Universities?

Can Yik Yak Evolve from Liability to Opportunity For Universities?

Author: Forge Team

17 March 2016

Yik Yak has switched tracks. On March 8th, the popular anonymous, location-based messaging app got a little less anonymous with the introduction of optional usernames that carry across conversations.

It’s an interesting twist that has the potential to change the relationship between the app and universities.College campuses around the country have been struggling with how to monitor the app’s conversations, which can often veer towards bullying. Some have gone as far as to ban the app outright, which can actually stifle important conversations.

Here’s the rub: prospective students will check Yik Yak when they visit campus. It’s inevitable, and until now, schools had little if any control over what those potential students would see on the app. And a positive campus visit can easily turn sour with just a quick scan of local yaks.

Imagine having a great meal in a fantastic restaurant, and then using the restroom and seeing the walls covered in inappropriate graffiti. Suddenly, that food doesn’t taste as good. That’s what visiting students experience on many campuses, and it cancels out all the hard work admissions and marketing offices do to recruit students.

This update changes the relationship in a couple key ways. First, it gives users a small amount of accountability, which could decrease abusive conversations. More importantly, it gives universities the ability to create an official Yik Yak presence.

We just entered a new age of Yik Yak, where universities can use the app as part of their marketing strategy. And the schools that don’t embrace the app are leaving student impressions up to chance.

Here’s what schools should do to take advantage of the new tools.

Start Slow

Pick an appropriate username, preferably one consistent with your Twitter, Facebook and Instagram account names, and test the waters. Post something general and friendly (“Good morning, here’s the weather, have a great day!” posts tend to do well). Ask what students want to see from the account.

Announce the Username in an Official Communication

It would be easy for a student to create a mock username to poke fun at the administration. While that’s fine and good, it needs to be crystal clear which username is the official school account. The username should to be formally announced, perhaps in an email digest or school newspaper.

Keep It Light When Possible

Conversations on Yik Yak aren’t dissimilar to conversations on Instagram or Snapchat. Light, observational humor tends to rise to the top. Feel free to use it to make official announcements, but realize that content that doesn’t feel authentic won’t find an audience.

But Get Serious When Needed

Smoke on Yik Yak can lead you to fires on campus. Students often turn to the app to anonymously voice serious concerns, ranging from mental illness to faculty issues. The official school account can engage with these yaks and steer students to appropriate campus resources.

Trust Your Students

It often only takes a handful of upvotes to boost any conversation on Yik Yak. Likewise, a few downvotes can torpedo inappropriate content. Admissions teams should recruit tour guides and other trusted students to actively curate yaks.

Focus on Events

The account takes on a greater importance during important admission events, such as open houses and visiting weekends. In those circumstances, when visiting students are even more likely to be using the app, there needs to be a concerted effort to create positive conversations.

If It Works, Embrace It

In the best-case scenario, school engagement will create a completely different atmosphere on the app. If that happens, invite visiting students to check out what’s happening on Yik Yak and maybe even interact with current students using the app. It just oozes confidence in your student body and would be a key distinguisher from schools that have banned it.

Forge’s Education Marketing Group is exclusively focused on driving institutional reputation, an optimized enrollment funnel, and alumni engagement for colleges and universities. To learn more about Forge or our Education Marketing Group, email Jesse Strawbridge.