Saturday, March 4, 2017

Dark Social, It's Far More Important for Success than Bright Social.

Bright social, where you can see your handiwork, and revel in the brilliance of your content driving the unsuspecting company or individual to your site,  where you immediately being to inundate them with AdRoll programs, emails and other forms of intrusive marketing, may be on the way to the trash bin.

Oh, I bet that got your attention!

Not entirely mind you, but with the changes in Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr and other social media platforms becoming content publishing houses without the links, and they don’t want your links. The social platforms crave and are demanding inspiring, relevant, game-changing content for their members. But you know, that is only 25 percent of your audience reach.

Where in the world is this going?

Two-thirds of internet social media activity occur in what has been termed dark social. I am not speaking of the nefarious activities of drug dealers, gun runner’s, blackmailers, etc. using TOR or another program that allows one to search the web anonymously. I am referring to all the social media activity that can’t be traced such as email link sharing, some applications and one-on-one messaging.

Don’t believe me? Then I suggest you read this article, “ The best free privacy software in 2017,”  on

Now what?

For example, a healthcare provider is looking for a solution to a problem.  They do the research on the IoT, speak with colleagues and others, possibly read some thought leadership and examine social media.  But in this process, friends and others may send an email or direct message with a link to a source of information or solution that would be of interest. It is the method of sharing information that makes it dark and at this time untraceable.

And what is of interest to me at least, is not the quantity of dark social traffic, but the quality of that sharing traffic that goes on unseen.

Think about this for a moment. How important is the recommendation from someone you know about a service or solution when you receive a link to a website or shares some meaningful information? It’s one-on-one messaging as compared to the mass messaging which has some traits of personalization, but still a mass market message.

That’s what I thought too.

Therein lays the opportunity. Remember all the talk and activity about word-of-mouth marketing that was always the perceived key to success over the years? Well, word-of-mouth marketing hasn’t gone away, it’s just gone dark. 

Pun intended.

So how do you reach the two-thirds of the internet that are currently not visible to you? Most marketers use some form of marketing automation providing us at least the very basic information of  “shared.” Seeing the word “SHARED” can be the equivalent of shouting the word  “squirrel” and having the dog reaction of quickly turning around as in the Disney movie Up.  Does your neck hurt yet?

But by whom and where was it shared?

Was it shared externally or internally in the recipient’s organization?  Was it shared with a  supportive recommendation message,  or, reaching high in the chuckle factor? Important to know as dark sharing impacts and influences the buyer’s journey and sales process.

Changing how we track what’s going on.

We are early in the process of discovering the hidden treasure trove of data in dark social, but there are ways to begin to understand how your information is being shared and used.

One way is to add trackable code to URLs someone may copy and paste in messages. Another way is to add trackable code to your website content for when it is copied and pasted.  When publishers participate with you, a short trackable code added to any text for when it is copied and pasted into a message.

It’s early, and more ways are being developed to track the activity on dark social. But all marketers need to begin to understand and respond to the influence of dark social on their marketing and find ways to leverage what is unseen.

Michael is a healthcare marketing business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare marketing strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters receives over 20,000 page views a month and read in 52 countries.  He is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association and HubSpot Academy- Email Marketing, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified. Post opinions are my own.

For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join his group, Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group.

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