Brands Miss Opportunities To Connect With Consumers Via ‘Dark Social’

Brands can tap into an oppor­tu­ni­ty to engage more close­ly with con­sumers by imple­ment­ing strate­gies that cap­i­tal­ize on “dark social” shar­ing.

Lisa Lacy By Lisa Lacy. Join the discussion » 1 comment

New research, which says it sought to pro­vide a com­pre­hen­sive pic­ture of online data shar­ing habits across all social net­works and mes­sag­ing plat­forms, finds an untapped oppor­tu­ni­ty for brands to engage more close­ly with con­sumers by imple­ment­ing strate­gies that cap­i­tal­ize upon “dark social” shar­ing.

Adver­tis­ing soft­ware com­pa­ny Radi­u­mOne has released new research on “dark social” shar­ing, or what it describes as “any inbound web traf­fic com­ing from sources that web ana­lyt­ics are unable to track.”

Accord­ing to Radi­u­mOne, so-called dark social activ­i­ty typ­i­cal­ly occurs when online con­tent is shared by copy­ing a URL and past­ing it into mes­sag­ing plat­forms like email, forums, or instant mes­sages rather than shar­ing via estab­lished social net­works.

The study, “The Light and Dark of Social Shar­ing – Har­ness­ing the Pow­er of Con­sumer Con­nec­tions,” found that 59 per­cent of all online shar­ing in the U.S. takes place via dark social chan­nels, com­pared to 31 per­cent on Face­book and 10 per­cent on all oth­er social chan­nels com­bined.

Radi­u­mOne says the sur­vey “reveals an untapped mar­ket­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty for brands to engage more close­ly with con­sumers.”

Addi­tion­al find­ings include: 91 per­cent of U.S. con­sumers – and 93 per­cent of glob­al con­sumers – use dark social chan­nels along­side social chan­nels when shar­ing infor­ma­tion online. Fur­ther, 27 per­cent of U.S. con­sumers exclu­sive­ly share “in the dark,” which Radi­u­mOne says means brands with no dark social strat­e­gy in place know noth­ing about more than a quar­ter of U.S. con­sumers online. And this fig­ure grows to near­ly one-third world­wide, or 32 per­cent.

When con­sumers share via dark social, the top­ics they dis­cuss most fre­quent­ly are “typ­i­cal­ly more one-to-one in nature,” like arts and enter­tain­ment, careers, and trav­el, accord­ing to Radi­u­mOne. The find­ings illus­trate how brands and pub­lish­ers are over­look­ing their audi­ences by lim­it­ing social and mar­ket­ing invest­ment to activ­i­ties that take place on social net­works like Face­book, Twit­ter, and Pin­ter­est, accord­ing to Radi­u­mOne.

CMO Eric Bad­er says con­sumers reveal dif­fer­ent aspects of their intent via pub­lic posts on social net­works, ver­sus pri­vate­ly shared mes­sages in texts, IMs and emails, which can be of val­ue to brands and mar­keters.

The prod­uct and cat­e­go­ry being shared often changes depend­ing on how it is being shared,” he says. “ ‘Dark social’ shar­ing and pub­lic shar­ing are both valu­able to a brand or mar­keter but ‘dark social’ shar­ing pro­vides a huge amount of data about pref­er­ences, inter­est and inten­tions that mar­keters don’t nor­mal­ly see or get to con­sid­er sim­ply because they don’t have the right mech­a­nisms in place to track and ana­lyze.”

In a state­ment, Radi­u­mOne CEO Bill Lon­er­gan adds, “Web ana­lyt­ics pro­grams miss much of the social shar­ing out­side of the major net­works, but we are able to track this ‘dark social’ activ­i­ty and it’s one of the most valu­able sources of data insights with the poten­tial to give brands a huge com­pet­i­tive edge.”

In addi­tion, Radi­u­mOne found 36 per­cent of dark social shar­ing world­wide occurs via mobile devices, which, per Radi­u­mOne, fur­ther illus­trates “their increas­ing­ly piv­otal role in con­sumers’ dai­ly shop­ping and shar­ing habits.”

The research includ­ed 9,027 con­sumers in North Amer­i­ca, the UK, Europe, Aus­tralia and France. It was con­duct­ed by intel­li­gence mar­ket researcher Tpoll.

Lisa Lacy

Written by Lisa Lacy

Lisa is a senior features writer for Inked. She also previously covered digital marketing for Incisive Media. Her background includes editorial positions at Dow Jones, the Financial Times, the Huffington Post, AOL, Amazon, Hearst, Martha Stewart Living and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

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