Digital & Social Media

Not Everybody Loves a Secret—But They Are Intrigued

Not Everybody Loves a Secret—But They Are Intrigued
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While anonymous posting used to be commonplace in the early days of the Web, most sites and social channels have pushed in recent years for full disclosure. Now, perhaps as a reaction, users are pushing back, and mobile app developers are meeting that demand.

In recent months, a bevy of apps have started to emerge that focus on anonymous postings, and while people are usually quick to say they don’t believe comments from those unwilling to give their name online, somebody certainly is at least reading them.

One recent entry is the aptly named app, Secret, the product of two former Google engineers that was able to raise $10 million for development. It joins several other popular competitors, including Whisper, which has claimed on Business Insider that it has reached 3 billion (with a ‘b’) monthly page views, Confide and Yik Yak. There also are a handful of websites that also encourage anonymous posting.

Probably most famous among these is GlassDoor.com, which is a job and career site that allows employees anonymously to dish on things they love and hate about their companies. Glass Door is an example of a no-names site that has been mentioned by BusinessWeek and the Wall Street Journal as a disrupter that is changing the face of job search and salary transparency. In 2012 it raised $20 million to take its product outside the U.S.

Is anonymity making a comeback or even taking over? Can brands ignore these apps and sites because anonymous postings won’t be believed? Or should they worry and begin to monitor them? While there is no certain answer at this point, debates about the virtues of anonymity are beginning to spring up around the Web, and it’s likely that there will be more use of these apps in the short run rather than less, if only because of the attention they’re getting.

A survey conducted by TRUE of 1,000 adults in the U.S. shows that younger adults are more open to the idea of posting anonymously; more than a quarter say they do it themselves sometimes. Three-quarters of older adults — those 35 and older — said they never post anonymously.

Anonymous social media

Some people are clearly intrigued by the concept of anonymity: Are comments more likely to be true because posters can speak their minds without fear of repercussions? Or less likely because there are no consequences — at least for them? While slightly over half said they disregard anonymous posting, 44 percent said they would be skeptical but might believe an anonymous post. Those people are very likely to try to check out such a rumor if it is about a company or person they are familiar with.

Anonymous social-believability

Anonymous social-attitude

For brands, the best advice is to put these apps on your radar. Popular note-taking app Evernote is a story of caution for those who think they can simply tune the new apps out. An anonymous posting on Secret from a person who said he or she worked at Evernote claimed the company was about to be acquired. The posting was picked up and eventually made it to some popular Silicon Valley blogs. Eventually, the CEO was forced to post that there was “not a shred of truth” to the rumor. And while the rumor went away for now, just think if Evernote were a public company.

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About the author

Ephraim Cohen, senior vice president and senior partner, leads FleishmanHillard’s social practice for the firm’s East region. Among his previous roles, he was executive vice president of innovation at MWW, where he led the development of new approaches and platforms, and founded and ran The Fortex Group, an industry community-building firm targeting the media, music, video and marketing industries.

Colby Vogt is a research specialist, providing expertise in primary and secondary research and management consulting. His background includes developing digital media methodologies to measure PR initiatives, working with clients in such sectors as consumer goods, finance, automotive and manufacturing. Among his previous roles, Vogt managed several Fortune 500 accounts for the Gallup Organization.