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It was 1996 and I was on the Internet. My family had purchased a computer that came with one of those annoyingly ubiquitous AOL starter CDs and before I knew it, I was hooked. I surfed for potential colleges, used Instant Messenger to chat with my friends and constantly made my parents angry by using the phone jack to connect to the web.

Once the 2000’s (and faster internet connections) rolled around, I started to build my online “identity”. In 2002, I created a Friendster profile. In 2003, I blinged out a MySpace profile. In 2004, Facebook came along.

Fourteen years later, I find myself managing Blogger, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest accounts. With multiple accounts, each of which allowing me to share information about myself, I struggle every day with exactly what I should share.

Enter the private and anonymous networks. Social sites where you can share things online that you don’t want your mom or random high school people to see – or, well, judge.

Here are some private and anonymous apps we’re seeing  gain popularity, especially among college students:

  • Secret – This app allows you to share what you’re thinking or feeling without your name or profile attached to the comments. It features a customization tool that lets you add a photo or color backdrop to your secret, for example. Once posted, the more people that find your secret interesting by tapping the heart button, the more it is shared. Because you log in with your phone number, Secret will populate other “secrets” from friends or friends of friends. You can also comment anonymously. This app is free and is gaining popularity on college campuses. In May, Secret.ly will expand to Android.
  • Whisper – Similar to Secret, Whisper allows you to publish anonymous thoughts over different backgrounds. One difference between the two apps is that Whisper does not link up with your phone contacts.
  • Backchat – This app’s mission is to make messaging fun and engaging again through anonymous messaging. Once you receive a message, you can look at a list of clues to try and guess which friend sent the message.

There are also popular apps like Snapchat and Confide that allow you to share photos that disappear. Frankly allows you to text people and the chat is erased once the user reads the message. These apps further demonstrate that people want to share pictures and information, but don’t want them to live on the internet forever as with other social sites. Facebook is rumored to be working on anonymous apps.

What does this mean for marketers? I’ve posted my thoughts on Secret (just kidding).

Social sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have become part of our daily routines and sites like Secret and Whisper aren’t going to cause them to suddenly disappear. However, I’m seeing a trend within my own social communities of people sharing less. It’s important that as we brainstorm creative ideas for our clients, we keep in mind that consumers – especially the younger generation – may not be open to sharing on the same level that they used to, or affiliating themselves with branded content.  Trends seem to be shifting to more private and anonymous communication and consumers may be less willing to participate in social media campaigns that require them to share personal information, pictures or thoughts.

On the flip side, networks like Secret, Whisper and even Tumblr could serve as platforms that marketers use to uncover relevant, consumer conversations and gain insights.

Do you use an app like Secret or Whisper? If not, would you consider using it?

Brandi Smith
Brandi Smith
Senior Social-Digital Strategist

A strategic communications professional with 10+ years of experience, Brandi has managed a plethora of award-winning public relations and social media campaigns on behalf of CPG brands. With an emphasis on consumer lifestyle, food, beverage and fashion clients, Brandi specializes in leading the integrated planning and execution of brand management strategies designed to generate both consumer awareness and engagement. Throughout her career, Brandi has served clients such as Kellogg’s, Kimberly-Clark, Jim Beam and White Wave Foods while employed at Ketchum.

After living in Chicago for a number of years, Brandi returned to her hometown of Pittsburgh. She holds a B.S. in Public Relations with a second concentration in Sport Management from West Virginia University.