What is ‘Dark Social’ and how does it affect your brand?

Have you ever seen an interesting article or post online, thought of someone else who’d like it, then pasted the link into a message and sent to friend? If yes, you have entered the realms of ‘Dark Social’.

Given its name you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s something sinister about it, but the reality is that it’s more a case of visibility than morality.

The amount of social activity now classified as ‘dark’ is reported to be a huge 80%.

‘Dark Social’ refers to private sharing of content via messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Snapchat or SMS, rather than on public social platforms such as Twitter or Facebook.

While millions of people do this every day, and even prefer private sharing to sharing content on public social platforms, this ‘dark’ social activity is causing social marketers a serious challenge in measuring ROI as legitimate content sharing becomes increasingly untraceable and therefore immeasurable.

That means that when measuring the success of digital content, we only know about 20% of the sharing and audience reach that its achieving, which in turn means our measured results are not only inaccurate but marketers can’t evaluate what content works and what doesn’t.


So how do we tackle the dark unknown?

While dark social-specific measuring tactics and tools are starting to emerge, they are still in their infancy and reported by reviewers as unconvincing or inconclusive.
However, in a move to ‘listen in’ on the dark socialising and avoid being left out of the conversation all together, some brands are already finding their own ways to repossess ownership of the social sharing scene.

Adidas WhatsApp ‘squads’

Adidas have begun setting up dedicated WhatsApp ‘squads’ in some of the Europe’s biggest cities with the aim of creating the kind of WhatsApp groups that the younger generation will actually want to be a part of.

That way, not only are they a fly on the wall in the ‘dark’ social setting, but the relationship with their customers is also evolving and moving with the times, and even redefining influencer marketing.

Burger King chicken fries emoji

Another interesting case to look at is Burger King. Always looking to deepen its knowledge on what clients are commenting about on their products, when they discovered there were a lot of messages about their chicken fries, they created an application so that users could share emojis related to this product and show their interest.

The emojis functioned as conversation starters, encouraging engagement and enabling the brand to better measure their comments, as well as offer something a bit different and innovative.

Digital media is a living thing, one that grows and it changes depending on how people receive it and social behaviours evolve.

To find out how you can move with the times and overcome the challenges of digital marketing, speak to a member of our team on 01926 832395 or email

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