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EVENT INTELLIGENCE

Does Your Event Need an Anonymous Messaging App?

The app Secret creates a communication backchannel for event communities.

By Mitra Sorrells January 20, 2015, 7:30 AM EST

Secret uses a device's GPS to associate a location with each post.

Photo: Courtesy of Secret

When Secret launched in January 2014, the app was intended to provide a means for users to anonymously share their thoughts—on everything from their bosses to their boyfriends—with connections in their address book. Following an update in December that has made the app faster and more text-based, the company is now testing its application at events such as conferences and trade shows.

“I’ve always wanted to be able to open an app and just see what people are saying, what their opinions are, what’s going on,” said Chrys Bader, co-founder of Secret. “With things like Facebook and Twitter we find ourselves guarded, so everyone gravitates toward showing their best image, showing their greatest moments. Yet we all know life isn’t like that all the time.”

The company tested the concept at International C.E.S. in Las Vegas from January 6 to 9. The app uses geofencing to define the area where event attendees will gather. Users that open the app within that perimeter instantly see a stream of posts from others at the event, with each post only identified by its location of origin. Users can comment on any of the posts and also favorite them by clicking on a heart. The stream of posts is divided into two columns, one showing the newest entries and the other showing the ones that have been “hearted” the most in the last 24 hours.

“We saw people sharing pictures of products they were seeing, their opinions on panels, and giving a backchannel view of what was going on on the ground. And people were sharing more of their authentic raw opinions versus their careful curated thoughts that you might have on Twitter. We want Secret to be the second screen for events and shared experiences with the ultimate goal of providing more transparency into what’s really going on,” Bader said. Posts can include photos, and people outside the geofenced area can view the feed but not contribute to it. There’s also a direct message option so users can have a private chat, but those also remain anonymous with just the location as an identifier.

In addition to thousands of posts from C.E.S. attendees, Bader said they also saw brands using Secret to promote their parties and local businesses using it to offer discounts. “We wondered if people would perceive that as spam, but they seemed to love it,” he said.

In the case of C.E.S., Bader said his company worked independently to create the community to test Secret at a large event. For future events, he said he hopes to work with planners to set up feeds and determine the geofence parameters for their events. Eventually he would like to make Secret a self-service system.

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