Classic social network behaviour have been based on registering your details that proves your real identity. That’s why they ask basic personal things like your email address, phone number, date of birth and others like Facebook go further by asking where you went to school and where you work. You are the product and proving your identity is very important to their business.
However, we have seen the rise of a not-so-new concept where social networks where anonymity is key. They have become popular for the sole purpose of receiving questions from ‘anonymous’ people about anything, which would not be the case if the said person is known on his/her social networking accounts.
Sarahah and Curious Cat are the two new entrants in this space and they have hinged on the idea of letting people ask other people questions anonymously, which they can share on platforms like Facebook or Twitter. Their popularity has shown that there is this intrinsic need by people to ask each other questions they wouldn’t normally ask in a more revealing setting, and that is why you see so many troll accounts on traditional social networks.
You might be wondering why the likes of Facebook and Twitter have not yet come up with an anonymous chatting feature for their respective networks. The benefits seem immediate due to the increased engagement, which is a metric social networks love to display.
I believe the reason they won’t incorporate such features can be attributed to two reasons: advertisers and harassment.
Twitter and Facebook have a business model that focuses on being as favourable as possible to advertisers. That is where their majority of their revenue comes from, and it has resulted to them gathering a lot of data about us when we use their platforms. This involves them making sure that the audiences they have are genuine so that advertisers know that they are targeting real people.
Now let us go back to an app like Curious Cat. You really don’t need an account to post anonymous questions to a person. When they share their link on their Twitter profile for example, you can ask a question by default as anonymous. The only way you can share a question without being anonymous is by creating an account and turning off the ‘anon’ toggle.
Such kind of characteristics don’t work well with the advertisement focused platforms Facebook and Twitter have created. You need to know your audience so that you can present these to advertisers so that they can target their ads to. Sure you can target the audience who signed up for the service but majority at the current system prefer to post anonymously without necessarily signing up for the service.
I believe that the biggest reason these social networks won’t consider having an anonymous chatting feature is due to harassment.
At the moment, social networks are still grappling with issues of harassment done by trolls to other users, which is bad since it might make these people stop using the network, and that is not good at all.
Having a separate app or an in-app feature that promotes anonymity would cause a whole host of problems. Anonymity usually fosters and nurtures the ugly side of people and would lead to some community members being harassed.
This would be a nightmare for established social networks and a platform like this would warrant other expenses like having a dedicated department to tackle the harassment cases. This will compound the other existing harassment cases that they are grappling to solve on the traditional networks so it won’t warrant an investment.
In addition, multiple harassment cases would warrant advertisers shying away from the new platform and since these are ad funded networks, losing advertisers is not an option.
Social networks that are focused on people posting anonymous posts are better on their own and the bigger social networks know that very well. The liabilities outweigh the benefits and that is why I believe the likes of Facebook and Twitter won’t be too keen to start their own versions or alternatively buy them.
Don’t rule them out though, if you see them buying or starting their own, it means they have found a way to solve their shortcomings and that would be interesting to see.