What’s Dark Social and What it Means for SMBs

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Various symbols and tablet devices

You may be surprised to learn that the majority of social sharing these days happens outside the big social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Follow this three-step guide to put the power of dark social to work for your small and medium-sized business (SMB).

According to a RadiumOne report, dark social sharing accounts for more than 75 per cent of all sharing activity, and users who actively share content have a conversion rate nine times higher than non-sharers.

Dark social sharing refers to digital sharing activities that happen through non-social network platforms – via chat or messenger apps, email and SMS – and is not tracked by traditional web analytics software.

That means the vast majority of digital content that consumers are sharing with their personal networks is not being accurately tracked and analysed by brands. As a result, some SMBs may be investing too heavily in social media campaigns while neglecting the potential of dark social.

Here are three steps you can follow to put the power of dark social to work for your SMB.

Step 1: Track dark social shares

Most web analytics tools currently log dark social-driven visits to your website as direct traffic.

To separate dark social traffic from direct traffic and gather accurate dark social data, you need to integrate sharing analytics tools across all your marketing channels.

Next-gen social media analytics tools such as GetSocial, ShareThis and Po.st all track dark social shares to give you more accurate insights into the sharing behaviour of your customers and reveal how much of your website traffic is being driven by dark social sharing.

Step 2: Analyse dark social traffic

With more accurate analytics data to work with, you can now get busy analysing the impact of dark social on your web traffic.

For example, do visitors spend more time on your website if they come from dark social sources? Do they favour certain products, services or content types? Are their conversion rates higher than those of users delivered via paid search or social media campaigns?

If so, you may need to reassess where you’re spending your marketing dollars. Scaling back your investment in paid social media advertising and diverting funds into incentivising dark social sharing, for example, could be a more effective strategy for your SMB.

Step 3: Incentivise dark social sharing

Rather than simply remarketing to your most active dark social sharers, consider offering incentives that encourage them to share your content more widely and more frequently.

Retail fashion brand Adidas is pioneering this type of influencer marketing. The brand has built communities of its top sharers in 15 key cities worldwide. Known as Tango Squads, each community of up to 500 members receives exclusive content and new products from the in-house Adidas marketing team before the details are posted on the company’s official Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Members of Tango Squads are also presented with other money-can’t-buy experiences, such as player meetings, which they can use to create additional content to share with their personal networks via apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Line.

According to Adidas, 70 per cent of their global brand referrals now occur via dark social sharing.

To understand and maximise the impact dark social is having on your business, you need to accurately track, analyse and incentivise dark social sharing. This will open new doors for your business in ways that traditional marketing channels have been unable to.