What is Dark Social and What You Should be Doing About It


New research undertaken by RadiumOne has revealed that of all online sharing activity in the UK, only 26% is visible and traceable by marketers. A staggering 74% of all online sharing takes place in Dark Social, the term for one line content sharing that denies full web analytics and tracking. Alongside these new figures, mobile has a spot; possessing 36% of Dark Social sharing globally, as mobile’s position in worldwide internet access grows year on year.
Why is this? What is Dark Social? In fact, you’re probably doing it more than you think. Dark Social sharing occurs when online content is sent and activated by copy-pasting URLs into emails, forums, messaging platforms and peer to peer services. Content that is not shared via traceable social networks, falls into the Dark Social category. And, it seems, eerily similar to Dark Matter of quantum physics notoriety, there’s probably more Dark Social content than we will ever be able to measure. For all data-driven marketers, this is something that definitely hurts to hear. Similar to what the physicist Niels Bohr famously said, “Nothing exists until it is measured;” what do digital marketers do when confronted by this dark and immeasurable horizon?

RadiumOne’s study, titled “The Light and Dark of Social Sharing – Harnessing the power of Consumer Connections” is the first study (though we expect and hope to see many more) to piece together the vast and elusive picture of global online content sharing habits. Focusing on social network messaging platforms, RadiumOne covered five key markets across the Europe, Australia, North America and the UK.

For the digital marketer, the lessons becomes clear as the research pieces together how much potential audience is lost when marketers and digital advertisers focus so much of their efforts on promoting through the established social channels. Dark Social presents a vast wealth of valuable data and insights, by unfiltered and from the source data into sharers and recipients habits. For the marketer, this translates as interest and purchase intention, on a real-time spectrum. The problem, again, lies in measurement. Without a method to action this data, its value is lost.
Rupert Staines, MD Europe at RadiumOne said: “Dark Social is simply too big to ignore; sharing in the dark outstrips Facebook and all other social channels combined by three-to-one, yet many brands are currently unable to understand this untapped audience. Acting on Dark Social presents a huge opportunity for brands to improve their ROI from their social media and digital marketing investments.”

It’s done everywhere by all of us, the quick copy-paste into the URL, or the click-through from the link sent by a friend via message. We are sharing information both in the light and the dark, and the full picture is now being made sense of; we don’t actually see the full picture. Consider these stats; 26% of content users dark-share exclusively, rising to a quarter (32%) of the global online population; brands with no strategy to tackle Dark Social effectively are, in the dark, about a huge portion of the populous.

Staines continues: “We are moving rapidly towards an age where Marketers will be the purveyors and arbiters of how businesses can sustain and build profitable future markets…but they have to grasp the whole opportunity and lighting up the opportunity around Dark Social will help brands gain a significant commercial advantage.”

To read the report, go to RadiumOne (sign up needed.)

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