Everything we know about dark social

Dark social is simply the hidden side of social media: Direct messages between friends, any kind of sharing of content or brands that isn’t out in the open. It’s frustrating for brands because they want to know where people are hearing about them and their products, and they want to help keep customers, fans and followers happy.

This is much harder to do if your biggest fan is always sending links to your sales via messaging apps (or texting, or email, etc) and you have no idea it’s happening.

So what’s the state of dark social in 2018? What can brands do about it, if anything? We did a little research that we’ll share, and let you draw your own conclusion about what’s best for your brand.

Got questions or something we missed? Find us on Twitter @UnionMetrics.

Who is tackling dark social?

Econsultancy put out a report earlier this year in conjunction with IBM Watson Marketing on the state of dark social. It found that only “4% of respondents regard dark social as a top-three challenge”, signaling that most brands either aren’t aware of the amount of activity taking place via dark social, or they simply aren’t making something so difficult to track and measure a priority.

The most recent numbers around dark social sharing we were able to find were from 2016 from a RadiumOne report. Statista made a chart based on it:

dark social sharing

The full report is definitely worth reading for more details, even if it’s not immediate data.

So what can brands do?

Some brands have moved into these same dark channels to meet their customers where they’re already sharing: WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and other places.

Brands wanting to move into this space need to be careful to do it right, however. A lot of consumers are active on these apps because they want to have private conversations with their friends and not hear from brands. But if a brand designs a chatbot or other opt-in option, that could be an unobtrusive way to go.

Just have a good sense of humor about it, because bots have a long way to go until they match human interaction capabilities.


Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash