Dark social- what brands need to know...

Dark social- what brands need to know...

It's Tuesday the 9th of July and an excited Tom Markland walked into the Cubaka office chuckling to himself about the video just shared with him on his football team's WhatsApp group (A man passed out in a pub with a dog showing a lot of affection to the back of his head).

As he lent across the desk ready to show the rather amusing video to a colleague he was met with that ever-familiar sound "Ahh, I've seen that mate"...

Tom was devastated It's like asking someone to guess the price of a bargain you just purchased and they respond with "I don't know one billion pounds...".

Disappointed, Tom turned to his Gary Vaynerchuk podcast on "Why facebook ads should be taught to kindergarteners" and got on with his day.

Joking aside, It's situations like these that are an ever-increasing part of our lives, dark social content in all it's weird and wonderful varieties is being shared more than ever and brands need to rise up and pay attention.

So what is Dark Social?

Dark social is essentially social sharing that can be less accurately tracked.

Say you click a Facebook Ad for a 'fierce' Boohoo outfit and go onto purchase it, the brand can easily track where that order came from and attribute it to the Facebook ad spend.

However, if your friend posts the outfit in the 'Marbella Babes 2k19' WhatsApp chat and you order the outfit, you'll still look fierce at Ocean beach, but Boohoo's Google analytics will see the order coming from a direct link. And, as a result, be unable to attribute the sale to any ad spend.

This is because when someone copies the link it moves from a secure (https) to a none secure (http) site.

This is an ever-increasing issue for brands, RadiumOne recently published that "84% of consumers' outbound sharing from publishers' and marketers' websites now takes place via private, Dark Social channels such as email and instant messaging".

I know, but “that's just all the teenagers”, it won't affect brands, right?

Well wrong, RadiumOne also noted that 46% of consumers who only share via dark social are aged 55 or older!


Dark social is being used by everyone to share content but why do brands need to pay attention?

Dark social recommendations are incredibly powerful it's essentially peer-to-peer recommendation, therefore, the conversion rates and trust scores are much higher than traditional social.

GlobalWebIndex found that within the travel industry 74% said they had booked a holiday activity after a dark social recommendation, 73% places to eat and drink, 71% transport, including flights and trains and 68% accommodation.

And, it's not just travel and leisure, groups are formed every second to tackle specific issues, organise events and provide a platform for people to communicate with friends and family.

So how do brands tap into dark social?

It's important to first consider who is sharing and what they are sharing:

72% - Personal Photo's (make of that what you will)
70% - Entertaining videos and photo's
50% - links to websites
49% - good deals and websites
48% - Links to social media posts
45% - Links to/pictures of a product
44% - Links to news articles
34% - Linked to blogs
32% - Location

Most shared content categories = Entertainment, gaming, and clothing.

(SOURCE - Global web index Jan 2019 - Base 2,155 aged 16-64 UK/USA % who are most likely to share the above via private messaging apps. )

Brands can tap into practically all of the most popular dark social content.

From creating branded personal photos using filters (FaceApp being a great example of this) through to creating content that subtly encourages users to share links to websites in dark social.

However, brands NEED to plan and strategise specifically for dark social. To gain a deeper understanding of group dynamics, audience psychographics, and behavioural data before they start to try and infiltrate what many people see as advert-free safe spaces (dark social).

People share on dark social for a variety of different reasons and group dynamics can be used to understand the complexities of the different groups on the platforms.

From ‘Task groups’ set up to accomplish specific goals like booking a trip (more likely to share links and articles) to ‘friendship’ groups who share photos, entertainment, and articles.

It’s essential brands have a deep understanding of users behaviour on these platforms and how to influence them, It takes a lot for someone to share something in dark social, they are opening themselves to the critique of their friends and family just as they would on any other social channel.

One way to assure success is by utilising behavioural science during insight and content production phase’s to ensure that your campaign drives the desired behaviour within the target groups on platforms.

Wait, but how do you know it will be successful, you won't be able to measure it...?

Well, yes and no...

In reality, there is no 100% accurate method of tracking dark social, however, with some educated analysis and data tracking tactics we can get a fairly good idea of its effectiveness.

When we look at Google Analytics (GA), traffic from WhatsApp will be labeled as 'Direct traffic', however, the likelihood of someone typing a full link into their browser is unlikely.

E.g. - https://www.asos.com/asos-design/asos-design-boat-shoes-in-navy-mesh/prd/11085219?clr=navy&colourWayId=16327672&SearchQuery=&cid=1935

We can, therefore, make educated guesses as to how much traffic is being driven from dark social channels after making special conditions in GA such as removing repeat visitors.

Furthermore for brands who produce content with the intention of it being shared in dark social, the use of sharing buttons can create custom links which can then be later tracked in GA and attributed to specific ads.

In summary…

Dark social is here and it's here to stay, I would even argue that for brands who get it right it will be the most powerful way to connect to customers and drive acquisition.

And, there are several ways you can utilise these platforms from influencer activations through to content marketing.

However, it NEEDS to be done properly and with data and behavioural science at its core. Audiences cannot feel that brands are encroaching on their safe spaces.

Get in touch with tom@cubaka.com if you’d like to find out more!

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