The Rise of Dark Social

Dark Social

The rise of dark social media, how to track and put it to the best use, all simplified by Udit Bhambri of VML.

Picture this – you’re pulled into a meeting which you don’t want to be a part of. You are killing time by sitting at the back, browsing through your Instagram feed. You get a message by your training center asking you to join for a Sunday session by the bay. You get excited & pass on this invitation to couple of other friends via WhatsApp. What just happened here? Well you have just engaged in an activity called “Dark Social”.

Dark Social, is content shared by people via private channels such as WhatsApp, Instagram messages, Facebook Messenger etc., which is harder to track than content shared on public channels. Dark Social is a big piece of the public universe; it has become so big that 84% of all sharing is happening outside public networks (Source – RadiumOne Report).

The biggest dilemma most marketers are facing today is the ability to track traffic via dark social. However, the rise of dark social brings about some interesting marketing opportunities. The opportunity for brands to get closer to their audience by being a part of their conversations. For example, brands like Adidas have started experimenting with this medium by creating micro communities on WhatsApp & giving consumers access to special content & offers.

Dark Social presents an opportunity to experiment by rewarding your passionate followers with promotions and exclusive content tailored to their interests. For instance, Burger King could track how people talked about their new campaign and products by giving people an opportunity to download special emoji keyboard. This gave them a direct way to measure the reach in places which are hard to track.

Dark Social

To truly harness Dark Social, brands should focus on ‘Social’ aspect of sharing which remains true to human behavior & Dark just being the means to share. This presents an opportunity for brands to tap into the social behavior of sharing information & tailor solutions based on their behavior. Time Inc understood how articles from their website are shared via email. Tapping into this behavior Time Inc built specific share options to encourage people to share content on Dark Social channels.

As people share content depending on the relationship with another person, brands cannot treat Dark Social as one other channel to push brand messages & expect sales from this channel.

Going forward what brands can do to harness the power of Dark Social to build a genuine on-going relationship with consumers & create something meaningful instead of selling products. Brands should think about being a part of the conversations rather than spamming them with messages with the hope that something will stick.