Christian Kurz in the News: Anonymous social networks could be a window to what’s running riot in consumers’ heads

Christian Kurz, VP – research, insight & reporting at Viacom International Media Networks, shares Chakrabarty’s view. The company conducted a study ‘Comedy Across Borders’ that explored the impact of humour across 13-34 year olds. One of its results proved that the meme you post on Facebook makes you who you are.

Economic Times:

“Itake pictures of men I find attractive out in public.” “Sometimes I fake drunk text, just so I can get my point across.” “Really struggling with envy of my friends who have never had to work for anything and got everything they’ve ever wanted out of life because it’s been given to them.

I hate that I’m so jealous.” “I feel like it builds character when I make it through a work day hung over as shit :-P” “One of my coworkers is bitching about another coworker unfriending the both of us on Facebook. I told her to get over it.”

These lines are not a collection of Facebook status updates. They are, however, from a social network called Whisper, and were carefully picked from content ranging from Tweet size, heartbreaking confessions to outrageous claims and X-rated posts. Whisper is one of a new generation of anonymous social networks and messaging tools which allow users to share their musings with nameless masses in real time.

It’s a lot like Twitter and Facebook, yes. However, when thoughts and feelings are too personal or scandalous or embarrassing or simply not suitable to share on your Facebook page that’s frequented by a 1000 close friends, co-workers, distant cousins, nosy aunts, mom, dad and the neighbour’s dog, then an anonymous social-network is where one must go.

The need for selective sharing would also explain the popularity of messaging app SnapChat which allows users to send self-destructing texts, photos and video clips.

In an age when our digital lives have turned us in to fulltime managers of our personal highlight reel, mature and new users are feeling the need to express themselves in a more truthful fashion. A recent study by MTV found 80% of the individuals interviewed, all between 13 – 25 years, think that people’s social pages are too happy or too fake.

It’s no wonder then that apps like Whisper and Silicon Valley’s favourite source of saucy tales Secret, among other similar offerings, are getting attention from users and investors. And yes, in spite of a real threat of these platforms becoming a tool for bullies and people who wish to spread dangerous gossip, rumour and defamatory content.

(Whisper got flak for a gossip post about actor Gwyneth Paltrow cheating on her husband, Coldplay’s lead singer Chris Martin. This was right before the celebrity couple’s “conscious uncoupling”.) In fact, Whisper and Sequoia Capital closed a $30 million Series C round and some of Secret’s investors include Google Ventures and actor Ashton Kutcher’s venture capital fund A-Grade.

Just how long will these networks manage to keep a fickle audience’s attention once the novelty wears off ? Well, our guess is as good as yours. For now though, more and more users are yearning for a modicum of honesty in an ocean of carefully cultivated online profiles and identities.

For them, the anonymous social network is the go-to vent station and/or confession box.

DDB Mudra Group, “Anonymity is slowly becoming the preferred identity online. Hence the success of features like College Confessions on Facebook. Although anonymous networks will not become a mass phenomenon, they will cut into the time spent on Facebook.”

Besides, he believes, apps like Whisper allow free expression to groups of people, such as the LGBT community online, who would otherwise refrain from sharing certain messages on legacy social networks.

Christian Kurz, VP – research, insight & reporting at Viacom International Media Networks, shares Chakrabarty’s view. The company conducted a study ‘Comedy Across Borders’ that explored the impact of humour across 13-34 year olds. One of its results proved that the meme you post on Facebook makes you who you are.

“Users have multiple personalities so they may not want all of it to reveal, and hence the need for some amount of anonymity. But Twitter and Facebook allows them to have a persona and they seem to love it. I don’t therefore think that anonymous portals will have a huge significance in the time to come. But they’ll remain in the ecosystem.”

So where does that leave the advertiser in this web of tweets, posts, secrets and whispers? As people spread their waking hours between the real, virtual and virtually anonymous lives they lead, no doubt marketers will be left with more sleepless nights. And just when they’ve almost, kind of, figured out what to do with Facebook and its real-time cousin Twitter.

Naturally, Whisper’s +10,00,000 global downloads and Secret’s limited geographic spread (the company recently announced its global expansion plans), are not enough to get agencies and marketers excited or even bothered just yet. The numbers, after all, aren’t impressive.

However, says Chakrabarty, “it would make sense to understand the medium now, while marketers can explore and experiment freely on it.” These sites could become a testing ground for more elaborate marketing campaigns on developed social media platforms. And a rather cheap one at that.

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