The 2016 Social Media Race: Yik Yak

Election season is here, and it seems like everyone and their grandmothers have tossed their names into the nomination ring. And with the parade of candidates also comes the wave of new social media tools that millennial campaign staff members nominees are quickly adopting to reach younger voters and help their campaigns make a splash.

With Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube now a given as campaign tools, we take a look at the new platforms that have emerged, who’s using them, how they’re used for the campaign, and who’s leading the social media race. Today’s post focuses on Yik Yak.

Yik Yak

Yakkety Yak, the kids are definitely coming back. To Yik Yak that is, the social media app that features a livefeed of anonymous posts (“yaks”) from users within a five-mile radius. Users can also upvote (like) or downvote (dislike) posts, with the most popular yaks getting upvoted to the top of the feed.

It’s been all the rage across college campuses – for better and for worse. While used as a tool to share thoughts freely and support community members, it’s also been linked to cyberbullying, threats, and racism, with some schools calling for a boycott of the app. Despite the negative incidents, most college students have not abandoned the app. It’s been used as a popular way to honestly talk about the election, especially as presidential nominees visit college campuses and most students get ready to rock the vote for the first time. 

Who’s using it: Unlike many other social media networks popular for campaigning, Yik Yak’s users are anonymous, so it’s not a platform for a nominee to maintain their own profile. Instead, the app has been used for (typically younger) voters to share their unbridled sentiments and discuss election topics and nominees.

How it will impact the election: Given the anonymous nature of the app, we likely won’t see any yaks directly from the nominees. Instead, it will be a forum for unfiltered discussion, real-time reactions, and a barometer for how younger voters are feeling about candidates, election issues, debates, political opinions, among other topics, by region. Political commentators have been turning to Yik Yak to gage young voter sentiment. Supporters will campaign, share, and upvote posts backing their nominees. It’ll also be used as a way for users to encourage one another to register to vote and cast their ballots.

Who’s leading: Initially, the nominee to cause the biggest ripple on the app had been Senator Ted Cruz. Following the announcement of his bid for the presidency at Liberty University in March 2015, students took to the app to voice their unfiltered opinions, and their responses made headlines. The overwhelming reaction left some to declare the 2016 election the “Yik Yak Election.” Since then the tides have turned, as Donald Trump surpassed the Texas senator last month to dominate 61.3 percent of yak mentions vs. Cruz’s 12.4 percent. On the Democratic side, Yik Yakkers are feeling the Bern, with Senator Bernie Sanders leading 55.3 percent to Hillary Clinton’s 44.7 percent.

Next up: Periscope and other live streaming apps!