What in the name of sweet jargon is ‘dark social’? And, more saliently, why should you care?
To put it at its most simple: dark social is when someone shares content in an enclosed network, such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or another non-public platform.
Un-analysed, immeasurable and the ‘thing’ that’s keeping the big data monster awake at night. Introducing: dark social.
Why should I care?
You, me, and all the other fine folk out there in agency-land need to care, because dark social is swiftly becoming the primary content sharing habit.
If we’re to be as trendy as our beards and conversely tell the world we are – we need to own the dark social trend. Even if it makes our lives more complicated than they were during the golden days of mass-sharing social.
No more can a company dollop their logo as the endnote to a ‘lol cats’ vid and hope the social hordes will share it with their valuable peers.
The soapbox days of mega social are well and truly finished. The glory days are over. Pack away your meme-generator.
In essence, dark social is just that – dark. You can’t really track it, analyse it or predict it. It’s personal to the user and their chosen peer circle. For the user it’s great. For the marketer, not so much.
And, for marketers who ply their trade herding social tribes, this means trouble.
Why should your clients care?
For many content marketers, the data really does back up the fear-inducing dark prefix.
For instance, up to 84% of all sharing is happening outside of public social networks.
That means that despite your hipster viral videographer, award-winning scriptwriter and top notch media planner – you, and therefore your client, will struggle to know what they are getting for their cold hard money.
If you can only track 16% of your social content – how do you establish value?
So what are we going to do about it?
When it comes to dark social our philosophy at drp is simple, but effective. It can be broken down into two simple steps:
Step 1: Quality, quality, quality
When a user does a traditional ‘mass share’ they do not require the value of the content to be exceedingly high. This is because, as a user, I am not saying:
“Dave, I think this is ace! You’re gonna love it! You have to take a look!”
What I am, in effect, saying is:
“Look everybody, this is pretty cool, give it a go if you fancy it. No worries if not.”
Sharing en masse, publically, still feels quite anonymous. My social reputation is not on the line, because I haven’t directed it at anyone.
Whereas my message to Dave necessitates a response – and ‘Dave’ will judge me, and my content’s worth/validity, because I have personally flagged it to him.
With social reputations on the line, quality needs to be very high to be worth the risk to the sharer. My friends and peers will look at this, because I have personally shared on a closed network.
This is the social media risk / reward paradigm.
In short, for content to thrive on dark social, it needs to be that much more valuable to the user. Better than what you have historically done to notch up all those semi-anonymised shares.
That means your stuff needs to be funnier, smarter and more compelling than ever before to compete.
"In essence, dark social is just that – dark. You can’t really track it, analyse it or predict it. It’s personal to the user and their chosen peer circle. For the user it’s great. For the marketer, not so much."
Step 2: Know the game
We know people are more and more disinclined to share en masse.
And if they are going to be increasingly selective in what they share, the tools we use to prompt those ‘personal’ ‘Dark Social’ shares have to change too.
We need to take a serious look at the variety of CTAs we use, where we use them, and how we craft ‘share prompts’ in such a way that triggers a user to personally share content to their WhatsApp group or Facebook chat.
This requires forethought, strategy, UX and insights. All of the stuff that you should pay me for instead of nicking it from a blog.
But suffice to say – if you’re using the same old sharing dashboard, designed for the same old sharing, your chances of success are slimmer than those of the polar ice caps since the Trump administration took charge.
Dark social isn’t a grass roots trend anymore. It’s not on a ‘10 Trends for 2017’ list. It’s now. It’s today. It’s in your smartphone. And by nelly it’ll be there for some time to come.
So it’s about time we all started taking it seriously – as agencies, as brands and as professional producers of quality content.
Diversify or die, can you dig it?
Welcome to the Dark Side
The equation is simple:
- Increase the quality of content to make individuals look good to peer groups
- Provide them with technological know-how that matches this dawning new era of dark social sharing
But like many questions of the digital age – the answer is trial and error.
The next time you plan a socially-powered content campaign – don’t forget the Dark Side.
By Tommy Moore - Creative Director