What is Dark Social Marketing

If you’re a marketer, then you know that social media is a powerful tool. But what if there’s a whole other world of social interaction that’s happening outside of the platforms we’re familiar with? That’s where dark social comes in. 

As covered at the RevTech Summit presented by Signals, dark social is a burgeoning tactic that is becoming increasingly important for marketers to understand. So what exactly is dark social, and how can you leverage it for your business? Read on to find out.

What is Dark Social Marketing?

Dark social refers to the sharing of content through private channels, such as messaging apps, email, and text messages, that cannot be tracked by web analytics tools. This type of sharing is called “dark” because it occurs outside of the visible or “light” social channels like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. The marketing potential of dark social lies in the fact that it represents a significant portion of online content sharing that is not captured by traditional tracking methods. In fact, according to a 2019 study by RadiumOne, dark social accounts for more than 80% of all content shared online. At the RevTech Summit, speaker Mason Cosby  shared “It’s called Dark Social because it’s difficult to track, but we know it works effectively.” This begs the question, what can we implement to better track dark social conversions. 

This presents an opportunity for marketers to tap into the power of dark social by creating content that is easily shareable through private channels. For example, brands can create social media posts, articles, or videos that are designed to be shared via messaging apps or email. They can also use short URLs or trackable links to measure the effectiveness of these efforts. In addition, brands can leverage social listening tools to monitor conversations on private channels and identify opportunities to engage with consumers. By monitoring dark social activity, marketers can gain valuable insights into consumer behavior and preferences that can inform their overall marketing strategies.

Why Dark Social Marketing is Hard to Track

Tracking dark social marketing tactics can be challenging for several reasons:

  1. Lack of visibility: Dark social sharing happens in private channels such as messaging apps, email, or SMS, making it difficult for marketers to track and measure the success of their campaigns.
  2. Limited tracking tools: Traditional web analytics tools such as Google Analytics are not designed to track dark social sharing, as they rely on cookies and tracking pixels that are not present in private channels.
  3. Inability to identify the source: When a user shares a piece of content through dark social, it often results in a direct visit to the website or landing page, making it difficult to determine the original source of the traffic.
  4. Inaccurate attribution: Since dark social shares cannot be accurately attributed to specific campaigns or channels, it can lead to inaccurate attribution models and misguided decisions based on incomplete data.
  5. Privacy concerns: Dark social sharing is often private and personal, which means users may be less willing to share data or allow tracking of their behavior. This makes it harder for marketers to collect data on dark social sharing and use it to inform their marketing strategies.

To overcome these challenges, marketers can leverage techniques such as short URLs, trackable links, or unique referral codes to measure the impact of their dark social campaigns. They can also use social listening tools to monitor conversations on private channels and gather insights into consumer behavior and preferences. Finally, marketers can focus on creating shareable content that is easy to share via private channels, increasing the likelihood that users will share it with their networks.

To take your Dark Funnel tracking to the next level, Mason Cosby shared his insights into open-ended form fills at the RevTech Summit. He shared that open-ended forms (IE “How did you hear about us”) are harder to track quantitatively, however they provide invaluable qualitative data. You will learn if one of your customers is becoming an evangelist, or if your CMO’s guest episode on a popular podcast 6 months ago is creating influence. Additionally, Cosby shared that secondary lead-sources are important tracking tools in a CRM system, and allow for strategic long term tracking of the Dark Funnel. 

Influencing and Engaging with Dark Funnel

Influencing the dark social involves creating content that is highly shareable and easily spread through private channels such as messaging apps, email, and SMS. To do this effectively, marketers must understand the key factors that drive dark social sharing: emotional resonance, relevance, simplicity, and social proof.

David Dulany, CEO and Founder of Tenbound, shared about influencing the Dark Funnel at the RevTech Summit. He remarked that “buyers have all the information now… and they’re going through 80% of the decision making process without even involving a salesperson”. Previously, salespeople shared what a product does and then buyers would decide to buy in or not. Now, buyers have already done research digitally and interpersonally – this is where social proof comes in. 

Dulany shared four tactics to build the social proof of your product to create a positive influence on the Dark Funnel. The tactics employed by Tenbound include events, content marketing, review sites, and targeted niche communities. The overarching goal of these strategies is to create a space that consumers can interact with the brand without the pressure to make a purchase. In B2B SaaS markets, the average sales qualified company has 10-19 unique visitors per company, with each visitor having 11 page views (as shared in a recent TrenDemon Study). There is an increased need for valuable, sharable content that creates exposure for a company. By creating spaces that are relatable for consumers, they increase their likeliness to be shared in dark social circles. 

By understanding these factors, marketers can create content that is highly shareable through dark social channels. They can also leverage tools such as short URLs, trackable links, or unique referral codes to measure the impact of their dark social campaigns and optimize their strategies accordingly. Finally, marketers can use social listening tools to monitor conversations on private channels and identify opportunities to engage with their audience and drive dark social sharing.

Tools for the Dark Funnel

Understanding the buyer journey is imperative for any Dark Funnel tactics. There are many tools available that provide insights into website visitor behaviors and dispositions. At the RevTech Summit, there were use cases provided for Metadata, Wrench.ai , and more. Signals provides a comprehensive suite of tools that help track and uncover the digital demeanor of your website visitors. Learn more about Signals here.

The RevTech Summit featured presentations from 30+ leaders in Marketing, Sales, and Operations. To learn more about Dark Social, Revenue Analytics, Funnel Messaging, and Automation and Personalization with AI, click here to access coverage of all presentations! 



Featured Resource

25 Demand Gen Strategies & Trends To Help You In 2023

We took the top demand gen strategies and trends from marketing and sales leaders and compiled them into this free eBook. Click here to download it now!