One of the reasons that anonymous social networks like Whisper have gained traction is that many of us have aspects of our identity that we feel a need to share but don’t want our friends and family to know about. For example, I have a friend (no, this is not me) who doesn’t want his family to know he is a conservative. I have another who didn’t want his family to know he was dating outside his religion. On Whisper, you can talk about it, and get feedback about it. And unless the NSA wants to out you, you don’t have to worry about mom and dad finding out.
But being on these sites makes you vulnerable in another way. It is a powerful advertising platform precisely because we feel more open and revealing when we are anonymous. We are more likely to share personal information with advertisers. We are also more susceptible to a targeted ad that allows you express an aspect of your identity while keeping it secret.
For example, let’s say that a closet conservative is on Whisper. A conservative group can buy an ad that encourages her to donate to a conservative cause or vote for a conservative candidate. They can frame the advertising message along the lines of “In the ballot box, no one knows you are a conservative.” Playing on the “On the internet, no one knows you are a dog” meme, but personalized and resonant. And with a call to action that the advertiser wants.
I tried Whisper once, but it didn’t work for me. But I have enough secrets that I can see the attraction. And I know enough psychology to know why the ads work.
Do you use any anonymous social networks? Any stories to share?