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The 5 Most Common Kinds of Dark Social Content

Dark Social refers to the sharing that we do through non-public channels like Facebook Messenger, Twitter DM, Slack, or even text message and email.

You may be ignoring these channels today, but that’s a mistake. This sharing is a crucial indicator of purchase intent and a massive amount of the social activity you’re not getting credit for. Research has found that 70% of all social sharing happens through dark channels.

Owned, Earned, Paid, and Dark Social: Definitions, and Where to Begin

Dark Social is so prominent (in part) because people don’t want to share everything publicly, and instead they are sharing with their closest friends and family via peer-to-peer channels. Here are the five most common ways that people use Dark Social. 

Stuff You Want to Go to

You have definitely sent a text message, email, Facebook Message, or Slack like this before:

Me: Do you want to go to this with me?? They’re having a deal, but it only lasts for the next day or two.

You: OMG. That looks amazing. Booking NOW.

We tend to share links privately when we’re making plans with individual friends or groups of friends, and are exploring our possibilities or floating new ideas for trips, events, and restaurants.

Stuff You’d Be Embarrassed to Share Publicly

Private communications are often private for a reason!

Me: My rosacea is flaring up again. I seriously don’t know what to do about it. I feel like I’ve tried everything. I’m so ugly.

You: I’m sorry, sweetie. I think you’re gorgeous! But have you looked into light therapy? Great post about it here:

Which owned content is your audience sharing behind closed doors? How does that translate into business revenue, and on what timeline? Dark Social data can help you answer these questions.

Stuff You Want an Opinion On

Yes, sometimes we hit social media to ask for an opinion about a purchasing decision, but most of the time, when it comes to the decisions that really matter to us, we privately contact a few close friends, our significant other, or a respected colleague.

Slack Dark Social

By looking at Dark Social data, you’ll be able to optimize your public social marketing strategy to highlight the items or content pieces actually being shared privately.

News Items You Want to Share

We share breaking news that we care about publicly on social, as we follow the presidential debates, exclaim about celeb gossip, or spread the word on the latest tech industry updates:

But we share these pieces of content privately, too. How much of your web traffic originates in Dark Social sources? Does your audience share the same content publicly and privately?

New Ideas for Your Organization

Have you ever had this interaction with a member your work team?

You: Have you seen/read/heard about [insert link to industry-related article or product here]?

Your Team Member: No! That’s really cool, though. We should get a demo. Can you set that up?

Dark Social data can tell you where that influx of demo requests or blog post visits came from, and give you visibility into the other dimension where your content is being shared daily.

What’s the Value to Brands?

While your brand can’t take a direct peek into private messages, you can use a Social Attribution solution like ours to discover which links people are sharing via Dark Social. This, in turn, helps you better understand customer intent and how Dark Social (the most intimate communications between human beings, technologically speaking) affects the success or failure of various campaigns, products, and content packages. Dark Social data, in fact, is a big part of why Social Attribution is a necessary solution for social marketers and content marketers alike. 

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Lucy Hitz

I’m the Head of Marketing Communications here at Simply Measured, where I'm responsible for our content program, social media marketing, PR, and comarketing ventures. I love yoga, The X-Files, peaty scotch, hiking, and poetry. If I were a social media channel, I’d want to be Instagram, but I think I’m Twitter.

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