Why you can’t ignore dark social

Date: 10/05/2017 Written by: Rosie 4 minutes to read.
Digital Marketing

Dark Social refers to private online communications, such as emails and secure browsing. A lot of content is shared through Dark Social so never take the performance of your content at face value. You may not always be able to see your content being distributed across your target audiences, but that doesn't mean it isn't being shared. Well, some of the time anyway.

Before we start...

This is not a blog about the Dark Web (the scary part of the World Wide Web that is only accessible by means of special software, allowing users and website operators to remain anonymous or untraceable and where unimaginable things happen). Today we are talking about Dark Social. Put simply ‘Dark Social’ is content sharing through ‘private channels’ of communication. Instant messaging, emails, secure browsing, are all examples of these private channels where normal audience analytic practices won’t work.

Take a moment and replace the word ‘dark’ with the word ‘hidden’ and that will make it so much easier to understand. This private sharing is harder to track than content shared on public platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, so many of us creating campaigns and marketing our content simply don’t know how we are being shared or talked about.

Have you ever created (what you thought) was an excellent piece of content, thrown it up on social media and been greeted with sub-par audience engagement? That horrible sinking feeling that any content creator and/or marketer feels when their work doesn’t reach audience engagement expectations. Keep that experience in mind when you read the following:


77% of content is being shared via ‘Dark Social’.

That piece of content that you thought had failed miserably, might have actually performed admirably within the ‘dark social’ sphere. This could mean you are changing your marketing approach because of poor results from your outdated analytic tools. Also it is worth thinking about your audience demographics and how they use dark social,

“46% of consumers aged 55 and older share only via dark social. As opposed to those in the 16-34 age group, where only 19% do so.”

This is most likely down to the egotistical nature of the current generations youth, where they want to paint a picture of their perfect life on social media, rather than quietly share content with friends and family behind metaphorical closed doors.


Don’t get too hasty now

However, don’t be naïve. If your post fails to engage audiences don’t think “It is being shared on dark social”. To put it bluntly, if people are not sharing your content as much as you would like, it most likely means that the content is not good enough.


Remember social media is public

Social media is the perfect image of ourselves. The side of us we show the world because we have full control over how we are perceived to our friends and family. Which does mean your content might be incredible, but audiences might be worried to share it on their public profiles in case of possible judgement or criticism. I have personally fell into this category as I have not shared particularly ‘nerdy’ content on my Facebook wall, but instead frantically shared it with my friends in private chats. Although it can be difficult to work around the somewhat silly anxieties of not wanting to look nerdy (in my case at least), if you are posting content about “Top 10 signs of prostate cancer” for example, there is a legitimate reason for the anxiety barrier stopping your audiences for publicly engaging with that content.

This is where using research can help! Find out what your audiences think, get face to face with them and get unfiltered and honest feedback on your content. From there you have a solid foundation on what content needs to be created to engage with your target audience.


Ready to get involved with Dark Social?

To make the most of ‘Dark Social’ you need to make your content easy to share. People in this day and age are incredibly lazy and impatient, if it isn’t instantaneous, they move on.

Here are a couple of tips to get you started:

There are an increasing number of dark social tools that are emerging as businesses slowly come to realise how important Dark Social is. We have teamed up with some experts dedicated to working in Dark Social so if this is something you are interested in exploring then do give us a call (or Skype us and enter Dark Social with us!).


This is a new opportunity, get creative!

With the fear of sounding cliché, times are changing, and quickly. Content creators and marketers need to keep on evolving to keep up with audience engagement trends. Dark Social is an exciting opportunity to get creative, discover innovation and create impact, so what are you waiting for? Go help shape the future of marketing.


Upcoming blog: How to measure your impact in Dark Social?

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