All around UM’s campus, students are downloading Yik Yak, a new social media app launched in November 2013. Yik Yak allows users to connect anonymously by showing posts from people near their location, and is being used across college campuses nationwide. The app recently reached No. 5 on the iTunes App Store ahead of Instagram and Snapchat.
The Miami Hurricane got the chance to speak with the co-founders of Yik Yak, Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington, two 23-year-old fraternity brothers from Furman University, about the origin of the app, how it has evolved in such a short time and what’s next.
The Miami Hurricane: What gave you the idea to start Yik Yak?
Tyler Droll: We were working on a couple of other ideas for apps, and in October 2013 we came up with the idea for Yik Yak. The idea came up when we looked at our campus, and we saw that there were a couple powerful Twitter accounts. You know these anonymous Twitter accounts that say witty things about what’s going on around campus and what not. The thought was there has to be more than five funny kids on a campus, so why not give that power to all the student body? So we thought by using location instead of trying to gain followers, you could be instantly connected with everyone around you.
TMH: How was it first trying to get Yik Yak off the ground at Furman, and what was the most difficult thing about getting it started?
Brooks Buffington: Well, when we first made the app it was mostly our friends and family downloading it, so we weren’t getting the legitimate feedback on it. So when we launched Yik Yak back at Furman, we actually told everyone that we made it for Harvard kids. It started spreading across campus and that’s when we knew it was big, because no one was downloading it because they were our friends but because they really thought that it was a great product.
The biggest hurdle we faced was that Yik Yak doesn’t work really well if only a few people are using it. So, we started talking to and emailing a lot of different student organizations telling them that Yik Yak is awesome and hilarious. They would pass it on and that’s kind of how we first spread. Then, spring break happened and everyone told everyone about it on spring break and from there it’s pretty much been organic growth.
THM: What uses did you envision when you first started the app, and what uses do you guys see for it now?
TD: At first, it was more for just funny comments that were relevant to campus life. We’ve seen it grow into a much broader thing, where the biggest thing now is how quickly news will spread. We’ve had times where people are struggling to get people to attend their charity event but then they post on Yik Yak and have been able to get a large number of people to show up. At some places it’s helped out a lot getting the word out about severe weather like flooded roads and power outages and things like that. Gameday is huge too where we’ll have featured colleges who are playing each other that weekend. Also, things that are socially relevant, like Ferguson for example, where you can look in and see a live feed of what people are thinking and talking about, that’s where Yik Yak has it’s huge potential.
THM: What are the biggest obstacles that Yik Yak faces now?
BB: One of the challenges we face is starting new communities because Yik Yak doesn’t work that well if only a few people are using it. Also, making sure that Yik Yak is used appropriately. We want to make sure that every community that we’re developing is a constructive community and a positive community. That’s something that we’re always trying to make sure we can do better.
THM: What does Yik Yak’s future hold?
BB: Right now, we’re really focusing on building out that “Peek” feature a little bit more where you can look into other colleges and communities. We are going to try and make that more robust so you can see what people are saying all around the country.
You can download Yik Yak from the app store for iPhone or Android.