Illuminating the Dark Social Trend

What Is Dark Social?

Dark social is a term adopted by marketing professionals, specifically data analysts, to describe social interactions and referrals that are difficult to track with traditional analytics. Alexis C. Madrigal, a senior editor at The Atlantic, coined the term in 2012. The source of dark social interactions is fairly vague but is commonly practiced on lean media outlets with very few communicative cues.


Why Is Dark Social Difficult to Track

Tracking and converting information into useful knowledge is quite simple on apps such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for marketing analysts. Why? Social data. Social media users publicly share their attitudes and beliefs about a product or service on their respective pages whether its from a post of their own or a repost. However, when user interactions and information sharing begin to shift towards the more private channels of social media, tracking that once public data becomes challenging.


Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp as Sources for Dark Social

Instant messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp serve as venues of such for dark social interactions to occur. The element of privacy comprising these apps allow for users to share their thoughts and opinions amongst themselves completely under the radar of both social media and data analysts. According to TechCrunch, there are an estimated 1.5 billion users on WhatsApp and 1.3 billion users on FB Messenger. This combined substantial user count positively correlates with a high number of attitudes and beliefs being shared on these private messaging apps, so it comes to no surprise that marketing specialists would like to place effort into infiltrating the aforementioned apps.


Brands Taking Action

Dark social strategies are concerned with securing influencers and reference groups to promote brands to untapped, private communities. Most notably is the ‘Tango Squad’ campaign launched by Adidas in 2017. The campaign called onto young footballers to promote the brand’s product assortment to their respective social networks that the brand did not have access to. Additionally, to increase consumer reach, Adidas worked with influential footballers from multiple populous cities. Adidas strategically created personalized, mobile-optimized content for the footballers to share thus effectively transforming the role of the influencers into a mainstream marketing channel. More brands have followed suit to capitalize on the rising dark social trend such as GAP with their ‘’ campaign and Loeffler Randall’s ‘LR Ambassadors.’


Advice to Future Brands

It is not necessarily imperative for brands to take a proactive approach to infiltrate dark social channels. Taking a passive role by enlisting the help of influencers seems to be the go-to strategy. Advertising to private, dark social communities is not recommended. This practice should be left for publishing apps to retrieve social data afterwards. Instead, it is suggested that brands spark conversation about their offerings through interactive content.


By: Dezmond Nation


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