Dark social: Handle with care

Buying decisions are made in dark social, but marketers could kill the trend if they don’t learn from their mistakes


Digital marketing is tough. Social media and search companies have had immense control over how most of the internet has interacted with your brand. That is, we thought they did. With measurability improving, the significance of dark social traffic is impossible for marketers to ignore. In response, numerous techniques have sprung to their aid. But marketers that allow history to repeat itself could find themselves even more isolated from emerging generations.

According to The Drum, 87% of content shares aren’t tracked due to dark social sharing. In spite of multiple buttons and tools such as ShareThis, the most popular form of sharing content is with a simple copy and paste of the URL in the address bar. In the past this was difficult to track and was categorised as ‘direct traffic’ by Google Analytics.

So the problem is no longer with gaining visibility, but what marketers choose to do next. But that’s almost always the problem, as argued by Nicolas de Cordes from Orange at our recent CMO Insight event:

Orange general assembly of shareholders 2017
Orange general assembly of shareholders 2017

‘There is a point where you do too much, then you go from trust to distrust’ – Nicolas de Cordes, VP Marketing Anticipation, Orange

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The most extreme example of this is email marketing. It led to the recent arrival of GDPR in the EU, not least because early attempts at personalization left a creepy impression that’s been difficult for brands to shake. It’s caused a headache for modern CMOs. Know too much and customers will leave, don’t do enough and they won’t believe you care.

What should companies do?

Marketers aren’t about to ignore an opportunity to better personalize their online offering and they shouldn’t. Equally, invasive messages that make users feel uncomfortable aren’t a good way to convert. An alert that tells us an invisible entity knows where they came from is not a great way to build trust.

As Steven Appleyard of Boiler Room explains below, a big part of the trick is managing the nuances with how and when your consumers want to hear from you. If his insight is anything to go by, this won’t be an easy task:

‘I think the opportunity, if brands play it right, is to authentically get involved in [private messaging] away from public environments’ – Steven Appleyard, Chief Business Development Officer, Boiler Room

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The importance of successfully communicating brand authenticity over every channel is increasing. Marketers may already be aware that its important in the creation of content. With everyone looking to maximize the effectiveness of their online efforts, the response to dark social sharing could be critical.

It totally depends on the brands because if they become invasive, the reaction from private messaging channels will be to lock them out completely. After all, who gains anything if users feel forced to find the next dark spot?

How will you combat dark social? If you liked this article you can share it now with the buttons below and check out our upcoming CMO Insight Summit.

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