Dark Social remains the dominant force in online sharing. According to RadiumOne’s ’Light and Dark of Social Sharing – harnessing the power of consumer connections study’, activity conducted using Dark Social - which includes any inbound web traffic from private sources that are not measurable by web analytics, for example WhatsApp - accounted for 69% of all online sharing activity. This is more than twice the amount shared on Facebook and all other social channels combined, which accounted for 31% of activity.
For digital marketers, establishing how people are interacting with their campaign is vital to understanding its success, and Dark Social is only going to continue to grow as people’s desire for online privacy increases and more tools are created to serve this want.
The importance of Dark Social does not stem simply from the quantity being shared, but also the quality. While a link shared on social media may reach more people, one shared privately is far more likely to be trusted and will therefore better translate into purchases. People on social media sites want to portray an image of themselves to a select group of people, and anything shared is more likely to be seen as an attempt to fit into this narrative. The RadiumOne study found that the most discussed topics on Dark Social channels were typically more one-to-one in nature, such as Property (89%), Careers (87%) and Personal Finance (83%).
Firms are, however, slowly getting to grips with Dark Social, employing a number of tactics to gain access to this untapped resource. Influencing a private conversation conducted through Dark Social is difficult, but firms can still create and maintain an email list in an effort to infiltrate peoples' private web activity. Companies are finding new ways to measure and analyze how their links are being shared via Dark Social. A number of firms are adding a short, trackable URL to any text that’s copied and pasted into a message. Bit.ly is one of the more popular tools being used to do this. These have the added advantage of being extremely Twitter friendly, where characters are at a premium. Companies are also examining whether a spike in dark social traffic correlates with a simultaneous spike in link traffic coming from Facebook or reddit to gauge how their campaigns are having an impact.
Instant messaging tools themselves are also helping. Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp is indicative of the response from firms as they recognize the importance of Dark Social. The introduction of the WhatsApp share button has been particularly successful, and now generates more traffic referrals than Twitter.
There are also a number of other tools that companies can utilise. Tynt, for example, allows you to see the words that users copy and paste from your site. They also provide backlinks, which work well for SEO.
With options for influencing peoples' private conversations limited, it is vital to create good quality content that people want to share, as a matter of course. However, knowing what kind of content is being shared, and how it is being shared, is key to learning what type of content this is.