The Miami Dolphins just became the first NFL team to incorporate the Yo app — which allows brands to send push notifications to smartphone users’ locked home screens — into its social strategy. While the move would have been laughable just a few months ago, many brands are now finding that Yo is a valuable tool for connecting with younger audiences.
When Yo launched on April Fools’ Day 2014, the app had only one functionality: sending the word “Yo” to contacts. The app gained notoriety and even ridicule when it was valued at $10 million in July of 2014, but since the summer Yo has been quietly adding features to its API, and now brands can send content as well as geo-targeted advertising to subscribers.
Right now, when Miami Dolphins fans send the team a Yo, they receive the fight song in return. But senior vice president and chief marketing officer of the Dolphins Claudia Lezcano says that the team has plans to offer exclusive content on the platform.
“We look at Yo as another channel on which we can provide fans with exclusive and behind-the-scenes content as well as breaking news and game day information,” Lezcano says. For example, the Dolphins could Yo their subscribers every time the team scores a touchdown and send a clip of the action.
Yo currently has 3 million users, according to the company’s head of business development, Ryan Morris, and most of those users are a young, highly engaged audience. “We are currently reaching the Millennials,” Morris says. “The tech-savvy high school and college students and young professionals that are continuously finding new ways to engage and interact with brands.”
Lezcano agrees that Yo offers a level of engagement that sponsored posts on traditional social media like Facebook and Twitter can’t buy. “Unlike other platforms such as Twitter and Facebook where fans seek out the content, Yo is delivering the message to the forefront of their phones. By subscribing to our account, we know that a user is eager to receive our content,” Lezcano says.
The NBA and USA Today are already using Yo for tailored content that appeals directly to fans. For example, fantasy basketball enthusiasts can subscribe to NBASTATS to stay connected to players and teams even when they can’t catch the game. And USA Today sends its subscribers a daily news brief with links to its top five stories. Pop culture weather vane BuzzFeed has also recently adopted Yo to send out trending news items to its broad fan base.
Just a few months ago, Yo was a punchline, but early adopters are finding it a stealthy way gain an invitation to what Morris calls “the most sought after marketing space available: the locked home screen of a smartphone.”