Sponsoring a Student and Taking a Chance

I have become a broken record stating that the part I like most about my job is interacting with college students on a daily basis. They help me reach my goals for our social media program and I do my best to help them as well.

In an effort to attract more people to their services, especially students, many social media apps have a “college rep program.” The makers of these apps will recruit and train students to grow their social media service on their respective college campuses.

A few weeks ago I met with a student at Coastal named Emily. She had recently become one of these social media reps. However, she wasn’t a rep for one of the many apps that pop up for a few weeks and then disappear. Instead, she signed on with a popular app that has proven to have a little more staying power. I am talking about Yik Yak.

Yik Yak is an app that makes a lot of folks working in higher education very nervous and uncomfortable.

Yik Yak is an app that makes a lot of folks working in higher education very nervous and uncomfortable.

Emily needed my help. Up until our meeting, she was fulfilling her Yik Yak rep duties by catching up with students as they walked to class or entered the dining hall. It was an unofficial, hit-and-miss, guerrilla type strategy. Not that there was anything wrong with what she was doing, it was just that she was limited. She came into my office and asked that #CCUSocialMedia sponsor her.

What does it mean to be sponsored at Coastal Carolina University? It means that a third party individual or group (such as Emily working for Yik Yak) must be backed by an official office on campus. The official capacity watches over the sponsoree and does what they can to help the third party reach their goals. Perhaps the most coveted advantage of a third party that is sponsored by a Coastal entity is that they receive tabling privileges out on Prince Lawn.

Emily Little is a freshman from Mauldin, S.C.

Emily Little is a freshman from Mauldin, S.C.

During her pitch, Emily told me that her goal was not just to “recruit more members for the #CCU herd” but to also clean up our Yik Yak feed. Of course I brought up the Yik Yak Takeover I organized a year ago. I told her it worked great for the day but things went back to normal shortly thereafter. She countered that it would be a project she would be able to focus on for a much longer period of time as opposed to the one day we devoted to it. I then grilled her with questions about her role as a Yik Yak rep. I explained how tough of a decision it was for me to sponsor an individual who is working for a service that allows users to be so openly critical of CCU.

As one final vetting measure, I had Emily come in and talk to our #CCUSocialMedia Student Advisory Group about her plans. They interrogated her with more questions and comments than I did! With the approval of our Vice President for University Communication, I decided to sponsor her. For someone who had gone to great lengths to prove she wanted to help both Yik Yak and Coastal Carolina at the same time, I couldn’t refuse. After all, it was a great PR move. Students naturally think that all college institutions automatically despise Yik Yak. When they see a university actively working with the service, it sends a message of collaboration instead of fear and resentment.

This past Friday, Emily had her first event on Prince Lawn. Offering items such as t-shirts, pens, masks, and extremely popular socks, her table was packed for the full three hours. The merchandise was used to make both Yik Yak and CCU happy as students received the smaller promo items for signing up for the service and the more premium items for sending out positive Yaks.

#CCUSocialMedia was successful in sponsoring Emily, a student rep for Yik Yak.

#CCUSocialMedia was successful in sponsoring Emily, a student rep for Yik Yak.

As with our Yik Yak Takeover, the stream was filled with positivity. However, there was one major difference. Absent this time around was an effort by an unhappy minority to hijack the positive vibes. When we did the Takeover, we received pushback from some who hated the idea of CCU staff getting involved. With this a sole student-driven effort, we didn’t see anyone trying to combat the optimism.

Emily and I at the Yik Yak table on Friday.

Emily and I at the Yik Yak table on Friday.

#CCUSocialMedia tried to help out Emily more than just organizing her table and checking up on her. We devoted Instagram and Twitter posts on our main accounts during the event. I also sent our student videographer out to do a short story on Emily’s efforts. When I asked Emily at the end of the day if she was happy with how it all turned out, she said YES.

Emily's Yik Yak table was packed the whole day.

Emily’s Yik Yak table was packed the whole day.

When it comes to pushing your brand, it is important to think outside of the box. Sometimes this entails working with a rival brand that might seem counterproductive at first glance. We pulled this off by sponsoring someone working for Yik Yak. Of course it wasn’t just “someone working for Yik Yak”…it was one of our students. The fact that we got to help her was the best part of it all. Don’t Blink.

How Should I Utilize Yik Yak?

The newest social media phenomenon, especially when it comes to the area that I specialize in, is here. If you haven’t heard of it yet, you will very soon. Yik Yak is a community messaging service that has taken college campuses across the country by storm. Of those universities heavily engaged in the service, Coastal Carolina University is one of them. Before I go any further, let me explain the twist of Yik Yak…

It is completely anonymous.

Get used to seeing this, it is the Yik Yak logo.

Get used to seeing this, it is the Yik Yak logo.

The service is organized by communities. A community is an area defined by a 10-mile radius. If you fit within those parameters, you can communicate with other smart phone possessing folks also in that area. Visualize a Twitter feed for a second. This is similar to how content is displayed in Yik Yak. However, the major wrinkle is that instead of a handle identifying who the message is from, there is absolutely nothing to distinguish who says what. It is a complete free-for-all of text streaming up and down the screen with no one to attribute the content to.

When a user posts something on Yik Yak, it is called a Yak. Users can respond to Yaks. They can also vote Yaks up and down. If a Yak is supposedly voted down enough it is deleted from the community. Rules state that you can’t post phone numbers, bully other users, or fill communities with spam.

Before you download Yik Yak on your smart device let me warn you…it is not for the faint of heart. Realize that you have college students releasing every thought that enters their head with the knowledge that whatever they say is completely anonymous and carries with it absolutely no consequences. As you can probably imagine, communities that are especially active are filled with heavy sexual content, drug references, and bad language. But if you can get past all that, Yik Yak is pretty fun.

After a lot of searching, this was one stream of Yaks that I could post that weren't inappropriate. This is from the Coastal Carolina peak and it gives you a feel for what Yik Yak is all about.

After a lot of searching, this was one stream of Yaks that I could post that weren’t inappropriate. This is from the Coastal Carolina peak and it gives you a feel for what Yik Yak is all about.

This past weekend when I was in Columbia for ESPN College Gameday I was following the University of South Carolina Yik Yak community pretty intensely. It was a lot of fun seeing what others were saying about the Gameday experience and I was enjoying interacting with fellow users. It made the waiting process go by much quicker.

However, when it comes to the school that I work for, I don’t utilize it to socialize. In fact, to be completely honest, I haven’t yet developed a social media strategy for Yik Yak yet at Coastal Carolina University. Rather, I am still experimenting with it and seeing which direction I want to take. For the past several weeks I have sprinkled CCU updates and marketing messages within our community. These Yaks have garnered both positive responses and sarcastic comments from fellow users. The main problem for someone in my position is that my Yaks carry no more credibility or significance than the dude sending out Yaks regarding the inappropriate things he wants to do to the girl in the dining hall. Whereas with every other social media service I am able to take on the respected identity of Coastal Carolina University, with Yik Yak I am just regarded as a nerd sending out G-rated messages.

For any social media marketer to turn a blind eye to Yik Yak would be a major mistake, especially those working on college campuses. Coastal Carolina University has a presence on this new service that is very involved. It is now my job to figure out the best way for CCU to effectively enter the discussion. Any ideas would be appreciated. Don’t Blink.