Dark social is everywhere you turn in the tech world. Before you get worried that dark social is associated with the dark web, fear not. Even with its ominous name, dark social isn't scary at all. According to Vogue Business, "Dark social is when users share content via private messaging apps or encrypted channels ... It is difficult for brands to trace traffic that comes from such social networks." So anytime you've sent a link to a funny meme or video via a text message, you've been actively participating in dark social.
Who Uses Dark Social?
As we said earlier, anyone who has sent a link via text message has used dark social. The Global Web Index has found that social users are more likely to head to dark social to share something they've seen online (63%) rather than open social media platforms (54%). What’s even more revealing is that around 20% share only via these channels, with WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger the go - to services.
Interestingly, there isn't one specific demographic that uses dark social more than the other. Gen Z wants to protect their privacy, so they're more likely to share via an encrypted platform like Messenger or What's App. Users 55+ do most of their sharing via email and text messages. Use of dark social is so prevalent that 80% of all shares are happening via dark social.
How to Make Dark Social Work for Your Brand
Okay - so essentially when someone shares your content on dark social, you immediately lose all traditional forms of social media data tracking or typical ways to guide the consumer closer to your brand. What can you do to claim space on dark social? We have three strategies.
Created Branded GIFs
Go on Giphy and create a brand channel. Then start uploading GIFs specific to your brand that users can share on Messenger, What's App, and via text. Giphy will track how often someone uses your GIF, so you'll be able to see how much traction you're gaining and what kinds of GIFs are working.
Brand Your Memes
Create memes on your social platforms that your ideal audiences is likely to share with a friend, either by copying and sending the link or screenshotting and texting. Make sure the memes are specific to your brand and that your brand name lives somewhere on the meme or at the very least your social media handle. This way users won't be able to avoid seeing your name, even if they didn't receive your content on a social media platform. Check out this example from Media A La Carte.
Use a Click Tracker
Shorten links using a service like Bitly, which will let you track how many times they've been clicked, even if the clicking is happening on dark social. Or use a tool like sharethis, which will help you track if people share your content via email, messenger or text. If you're really worried about your dark social stats, there are pricier tracking options like GetSocial (we love that name, btw) or Po.st. In our opinion, smaller brand should focus first on creating branded GIFs and making sure their social content has their branding on it before they step into the world of click tracking. Wait until you've grown big enough to justify the expense of these tracking services.
All in all, dark social isn't something to be scared of, but as your brand grows, it's definitely something you should start considering.