Though Facebook is seen as the king of all networking sites and an extremely popular platform for sharing content, a recent survey conducted by RadiumOne suggests that 69% of all online sharing takes place via over the dark social and not on Facebook or any other networking site.
The term ‘Dark Social’ was coined by Alexis C. Madrigal in 2012 to describe the web traffic which comes from sources which cannot be traced through web analytics. Emails, texts, messages and forum posts for instance. When someone copies and pastes a link from a website into communication channels like the ones mentioned above, it is called sharing via the dark social.
The link thus pasted gets viewed by many friends, family, and colleagues and is said to carry much more ‘weight’ than a Facebook post or a tweet.
More than 9,000 people were surveyed and it was found that only 23% of the social sharing takes place across Facebook while 32% of the people share online only via the dark social.
Key Findings of the Survey
- 84% of the people across the globe share content online.
- 32% of those who do so share it only via the dark social.
- Sharing activity through dark social is three times in volume than that over the most popular networking site, Facebook. While 23% people over the world share content on Facebook, 69% of the sharing activity takes place through the dark social.
- Most of the content in at least 19 categories of content is shared predominantly using the dark social. Those categories include travel, automobile, technology and personal finance.
- Topics which are shared most via dark channels are the ones which are typically one-to-one in nature and include arts and entertainment (80 percent), careers (78 percent) and travel (78 percent). This is the content of a sensitive nature- content which people would not like to ‘broadcast’ to everyone on their lists across social channels. Actively divulging any such information on social sites could cost someone his job or reputation or affect his chances of getting a job in the future. Which explains why they choose not to come out in the open with such content.
- On the contrary, topics most discussed over social channels like networking sites are one-to-many in nature and include pets (84 percent), family and parenting (63 percent) and real estate (55 percent).
- 36% of the sharing across dark social takes place through mobile devices.
- 91% of all Americans regularly share information using the dark social channels.
- As people get older, they share over the dark social more actively. 92% of the respondents in the 16-34 age group were seen to share via the dark social and 19% of them were seen to share ONLY via them. But 46% of the older audiences (aged 55 and above) said that they shared only via the dark social.
- If harnessed properly, advertisers, publishers, business owners and marketers can use dark social to engage with audiences outside their owned media properties.
So What Does That Mean?
It is only logical to assume that most people do not want to share too much over the social channels. An overwhelmingly large percentage of web users shy away from revealing too much about themselves, their tastes or choices.
The huge contrast between the dark social and the conventional channels of sharing information lies basically about what and how much you want to tell about your personality to different people.
While we might not be too keen to share some facets of our personality and shout about it from the rooftops, we might be comfortable to do so with a select audience.
“If you’re sharing with a specific individual or small group, you are using that content to tailor your image in the eyes of just those people. It’s the difference between what you’ll tell your best friend and what you’ll say loudly at a party.” says RadiumOne CEO Bill Lonergan.
Bill mentions that Dark social is one of the most valuable sources of data insights and has the potential to give brands a huge competitive edge.
The dark social presents an exciting opportunity to advertisers and publishers. “They must harness dark social and short url sharing to understand consumer interests and intent and act on the insights in real time. The result is a significant improvement in ROI of social media and digital marketing investments,” he added.
The dark social has now come to be recognized as an effective manner in which the content can be narrowed out and sent across to a select audience. The study goes on to mention how San Francisco based chocolate vendor Ghirardelli found out that 84% of their social sharing was via the dark social. Based on these findings, the company was able to understand its customers better following which they were able to target them in a more cost-effective manner.
That translates into saying that online publishers will be able to reach out to as many people as they wish to and thus drive traffic to their websites or apps and thus make some cool advertising revenue. Unlike networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, sharing via the dark social will be more targeted and more personal in nature and, therefore, more relevant, trusted and effective.