Think Anonymous

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~ by Olivia Humphreys

Think Anonymous: How Using an Anonymous Social Media App
Can Help You Reach Teens and Young Adults

In order to be successful in PR, you have to go where your target audience is. Lately, my target market has led me to publicize on a place I never expected: an anonymous social media app called Jodel.

Marketing to teens and young adults is hard. They’re the trendsetters and move from one social media platform to another in the blink of an eye.

Add to that the fact that I’m talking about HIV and substance abuse, and they’re as interested in my Facebook and Instagram accounts as they are at looking in a phone book for a phone number.

Overcoming the stigma associated with HIV and substance use disorders adds yet another barrier. It’s even more challenging when you realize Indiana has an abstinence-only sex education policy and that the information schools disseminate for sex education may not have to be medically accurate or culturally appropriate. So, not only do a lot of teens not know about sex and STDs, they really don’t know how to talk about these things openly.

But, it does not mean they aren’t talking about sex. They’re just doing it anonymously.

Cue Jodel, the most successful social media platform my organization uses. It’s also one most people have never heard of.

In a society that often shames us for talking about sex openly, Jodel provides the perfect anonymous sphere to have these important conversations.

For those of you who don’t know what Jodel is, it’s basically an anonymous Twitter based on your location. In Bloomington, Yik Yak was the anonymous king for several years until this past summer, when it forced users to lose their anonymity. Since Yik Yak turned itself into Twitter, everyone turned to Jodel to continue posting anonymously.*

In an effort to reach more people, I started monitoring Jodel, answering any questions people had and dispelling myths surrounding drugs, alcohol, mental health or sex. I studied the platform, the way people spoke, what got upvoted and downvoted and the best ways to interact with people.

And then I started publicizing. It started with a simple post saying my organization was offering free HIV testing on the Indiana University campus.

To my surprise, it worked! In two days, a whole third of the people who came for testing – 5 out of 15 – came because of the Jodel post.

My favorite success story was the guy who posted that he needed some condoms before the weekend. I replied and told him I had free ones and that he should to come get a free HIV test as well. He asked if he could just get the condoms, and I said sure. When he showed up for his condoms, he decided to go ahead and do the test as well.

I am fairly confident I could not have had an interaction like that on any other platform and yielded the same result. Not because of my abilities as a marketer, but because people don’t normally post about needing condoms on Twitter or Instagram.

In the six months I’ve been on Jodel, I’ve had countless interactions with people regarding sex, drugs, alcohol, HIV, mental health, sexual assault and the stigma associated with each of these. And I know for a fact they are all in my geographic target audience.

While I love Jodel because the engagement and insight gained by using it is second to none for the purposes of my job, there are some pros and cons to be aware of.

Pro: You’re talking to people in your designated geographic location. For me, that is Bloomington, Ind. You can also set your location to any place you want.

Con: For those of you who have to have numbers to quantify your success, there is no way to measure who exactly you’re reaching or how many people you have reached. The only thing you can track is upvotes and comments.

One thing you can track is which Jodels are the “loudest” or have the most upvotes. This post had the second most upvotes the week it was posted.

Pro: You can easily have discussions with people about a number of topics and gain great insight into what the people in your area care about and are concerned with.

Con: Since it is anonymous, it’s home to trolls.

Pro: Since it is anonymous, you can actually address the trolls. I’ve had a decent number of people try to troll me regarding HIV, and have actually put someone so far in their place they deleted their comment. The trick is to not be mean, but instead present them with reliable information and help them realize the error of their ways.

Con: Jodel actually prohibits you from advertising a product on its app for sales purposes.

Pro: If you’re trying to give away free things as a promotional tactic or gather insight on a topic, you can definitely do that.

The moral of my story is this: sometimes to get ahead you need think outside the box and try something crazy (like posting on an anonymous social media app). In the land of social media, don’t be afraid to utilize and test platforms outside of the traditional Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Especially if they’re free and easy to use.

While Jodel may not be the exact social media app that suits you, there are literally hundreds of other apps and online forums out there that may cater directly to the audience you’re looking for. All you have to do is find them.

*Yik Yak has since returned to its original format, but the usage, at least in Bloomington, is substantially less than it was.

by Olivia Humphreys | email | LinkedIn | Twitter









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