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Did you know that anonymous social networks are already rising rapidly?

In his latest article for FORTUNE Magazine, Vision Critical Founder Andrew Reid shares some interesting stats about anonymous networks. Whisper, for instance, already draws more than 2.5 billion page views a month. Snapchat has 26 million users.

The rise of anonymous social networks is showing no signs of slowing down as Facebook, the undisputed king of social media, is also trying to capitalize on the trend. Instagram, the popular Facebook-owned photo-messaging app, last year launched Direct, a feature that lets users share 15-second pictures and videos privately. And just earlier today, Facebook accidentally rolled out Slingshot, a Snapchat competitor that allows users to share disappearing videos and photos.

So, clearly, anonymous social networks are here to stay. What does this mean for your business?

"People and companies alike aren't sure just what to do yet with anonymous social networks," Andrew writes in the article. "But as Facebook, Twitter and the like history shows, their usage will soon explode and companies will have to be in the wings, quick to leverage for marketing efforts."

The birth of anonymous social networks is a direct result of customers being more empowered. As Andrew explains:

Over the last decade, the convergence of social, mobile, and cloud technologies has resulted in extremely informed customers. Before ever engaging with a company, customers know almost everything they need to, leading to massive changes in the way they buy. Customers are no longer passive observers - they've become active participants, educating themselves about products prior to making a purchase via social media and online review sites.

Still, there are many customers who fear where their information is going and how it's being used. Anonymous social networks provide protection - a shelter for unsolicited information that won't be used for advertising or surveillance; businesses have to start taking anonymous social networks seriously by listening and acting on the feedback.

Andrew thinks that in the future, companies will start using anonymous social networks for customer intelligence. For instance, a CMO might go to one of these networks to gather complaints about the company's products, customer service, and about the brand in general. Or a VP of marketing might go in and ask which colors the company's new products should be in, or which features they should launch next. The possibilities are endless.

In the meantime, however, companies need to listen to customers and engage them deeply. Andrew concludes, "Businesses should begin working with their customers directly, enabling them to share amongst themselves and with a company via an insight community, a secure online environment where customers feel comfortable that their information isn't misused, sold elsewhere, or exploited."

To read Andrew's article, please go to Fortune.com.

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Kelvin Claveria

Kelvin Claveria was the former Content Marketing Manager and was responsible for Vision Critical's blog and social media marketing program. Before joining Vision Critical's global marketing team, Kelvin worked at Dunn PR, a Vancouver-based public relations firm. His experience includes working with lifestyle, real estate, and non-profit clients to develop social media marketing and PR strategies. Kelvin has a Bachelor of Business Administration from SFU's Beedie School of Business.
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