5 Tips for using Dark Social Power in Your Marketing

Celeste Huang
Senior Content Producer

Public conversations are disappearing as 84% of content is now being shared via dark social.

‘Dark social’ is when people share content via private channels, such as email, text or instant messaging apps like WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger or Snapchat, instead of using public social network platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. According to Hootsuite, the private sharing creates some hurdles for marketers to track and measure the effectiveness of content, making it more difficult to pinpoint social patterns or trends.

Dark social sharing and response often takes place via mobile devices. Statistics show that the click throughs are up from 53% in 2014 to 62% in 2016 on dark social sharing via mobile devices. As a link being shared privately between friends, the click throughs tend be higher as the shares come from trusted sources.

Many marketers are yet to realise the real value of dark social and why it is important to the business. Over 90% of social marketing budget goes to ‘traditional’ social networks even though 84% of sharing is happening in dark social, a disconnection pointed out in a recent report by RadiumOne.

Adidas Tango Squads: a dark social case study

Having said that, some brands have started to harness the potential of dark social sharing.

Adidas tracked the content that are shared on instant messaging apps during major sports events last year in order to build a more personalised and intimate relationship with its customers. The brand invited football fans to join its ‘Tango Squad’ on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or Line in order to receive exclusive content, new products and get up close to sport stars in the world. Content was shared here exclusively before being released to the public channels like Facebook or Twitter. By collecting the data on the Squads’ private sharing behaviour the brand was then able to tailor its marketing strategy to create better customer engagement and offer better brand experience.

So the rise of dark social is real. What can business do about it?

If we think positively, dark social actually poses a huge marketing opportunity, with the potential to reach a new demographic (stats shows age 55 and older only share on dark social).

So how can businesses harness the power of dark social sharing behaviour? Here are 5 tips to get you started…

1. Shortened, memorable URLs

Using shortened URLs that could be shared easily and neatly, this way it can also increase the capability to analyse the user engagement properly.

2. Sharing buttons

Strategically arrange the sharing buttons on your website, including channels such as WhatsApp, WeChat and Email that will help to make sharing easy.

3. Dark social tools

Tracking your dark social traffic using dark social tools can help analyse and get the insights of the user agent data.

4. Creating original content

As long as the content is creative and original, and consistent with your brand story, it will always be effective no matter where it eventually ends up. Think about how Adidas deliberately seeded content through WhatsApp first to create a community.

5. Revisiting your mobile social strategy

It might be worth having a look at your current mobile social strategy and make proper adjustment to tap into the dark social trend. This may mean a tweak of content that aims to redirect people to share on public social platforms, or investigating the integration options available from social communication providers to get hold of data.

Whether or not dark social will become marketers’ priority for the next coming years, one thing is for sure: as long as messaging stays the popular way of human interaction, dark social will continue to be a crucial channel where the treasure is hidden. The sooner we can understand and establish a strategy to deal with dark social, the sooner we can get out of the dark.

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