Take Dark Social into the Light


If you’re still not 100% sure what dark social is, it is essentially when any type of content is shared via private messaging applications like WhatsApp, WeChat, Instant Messenger, Snapchat, email, or text messaging. The term was coined in 2012 by Alexis Madrigal in his article The Dark Social: We Have the Whole History of the Web Wrong, claiming that the sharing that can be measured is only a very small portion of social communications, whereas most sharing is done over private channels.  

The logic behind dark social is that when someone you know shares something in a private forum, you’re more likely to trust that source of information as opposed to reading a recommendation from a stranger on Facebook. The problem with this type of private communication for marketers, however, is that it cannot be measured for all the cool things digital marketers like to monitor like leads, page views, conversion rates, engagement, and more.

So how can you take dark social traffic into the light if you cannot follow and/or monitor it?

The key to capitalizing on dark social is to shift your content strategy to leverage dark-social sharing. In other words, invest in developing thought leadership that others will follow, leverage your customers so that they can tell others about your product or service, and create engaging and valuable content that influencers are prone to share to help spread the word about your company. 

  1. Invest in fostering experts and evangelists in your own company. Create a Center of Excellence (COE) around a specific subject matter (or several), perhaps niche topics, and ensure the subject matter experts study and understand the topic and project a single, unique voice. Back these experts with excellent content creators that will be dedicated to producing content for dark-social targeting.
  2. Once you have your community of experts, have them join conversations in private or public social channels where other experts converse. For example, target experts in Twitter with lots of followers so that they can promote you through their network. When you’re on their radar, you’ll be on the radar of their followers. By becoming a leader in your category or joining other leaders in that category, your message will be spread by those that recognize your value.
  3. Avoid any sales talk when you’re ‘sharing your gospel.’ People use dark social because they are looking for privacy, they want a community where they can learn and exchange ideas, not an arena where they will be bombarded with ads about ‘added value’. 

In dark social, the more people you target, the more your message will be spread. The more you focus on and reach special communities, the more you will cover. Since you cannot quantify and measure leads, you can measure interest indirectly by monitoring increase in content demand. 

Once you have a dark-social strategy in place and you feel you have a unique voice that is being heard, start looking into measuring tools (for example, short URLs or social-sharing buttons). But this should not be done before cementing your thought-leadership position and creating content that people will share in the dark. 

With over 15 years of experience in everything marketing and everything digital, at Xtra Mile we can help you grow your dark-social network.

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