A peek into the world of "dark social"

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Social, Media, Web, Business, Marketing, Tech, Strategy, Growth

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The future of business is social.

Dark social. Sounds sinister, no? It's not, says Lucy Merigold, head of digital at Grayling Middle East. In fact, it actually has a lot of relevance to telecoms - and any business with an online presence.

Quite simply, dark social is content sharing that takes place on private platforms such as email and instant messenger apps like Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat etc. – private platforms that cannot accurately be tracked.  According to research from RadiumOne, this source of referrals is dominating how people share and interact with content online, and accounts for over 84 percent of all content shared.  This makes it a very powerful source, where the vast majority of interaction with shared content is taking place. However, the challenge for brands is that this large amount of referral traffic is difficult to measure as web analytics platforms simply label this traffic as ‘direct’ when in reality it has come from a referral from a dark social platform.  Because of this, brands are typically steering away from this channel as they cannot measure its effectiveness in the same way they can measure trackable public channels such as Facebook and Twitter. But this traffic is extremely valuable as it is effectively word-of-mouth between people who share a connection, typically know each other well, and therefore trust one another, so it carries more emotional weight. Think about it, if your friend or family sends you a link for a product they know you are looking for, it’s fair to say that you will click on the link to check it out and there is a very high probability that you will convert.

So how can brands tap into this rich potential audience? As we know, the use of micro-influencers by brands is on the rise largely due to the higher levels of engagement they tend to generate as they interact on a more personal level with their followers. If these influencers share a link to your article, product or service via an instant messenger app, then the likelihood is that the link will get a very high number of clicks and can become a topic of conversation amongst the private group. It would therefore be beneficial for brands to mobilise groups of relevant micro-influencers to spread their brand message across dark social platforms and drive more authentic longer-term brand connections.

Adidas are doing just this with their ‘Tango squad’ – a community of 1,400 highly connected, passionate, young content creators who are thriving football fans and super active on platforms such as messenger and whatsapp.  The brand gives them exclusive access to content and events, such as letting them break news, giving them exclusive merchandise, having them star in the brand’s content and facilitating meet ups with their football idols. It is a win-win for both parties as they become strong brand advocates who successfully spread the brand message amongst their trusted personal communities, and at the same time they become stars in their own right amongst these communities.

Simply put, brands that chose to ignore this untapped audience of people who prefer to communicate over private messengers are missing a big opportunity. But for those that are looking to reach wider audiences with their brand message, adopting an influencer marketing strategy over dark social platforms is the perfect solution.

Lucy Merigold is head of digital at Grayling Middle East.

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