Social media, a potent tool for marketers, is only part of the digital landscape. Dark social, the often hidden realm of private sharing and communication, is now gaining prominence in marketing strategies. Explored at the RevTech Summit by Signals, dark social represents the covert practice of sharing content through private channels, such as messaging apps and direct links, evading typical tracking methods. As users increasingly value personal connections and privacy, understanding and harnessing dark social have become essential for modern marketers. This evolving landscape challenges marketers to bridge the gap between public and private interactions, ensuring their strategies connect with audiences across all digital channels.
As covered at the RevTech Summit presented by Signals, dark social is a burgeoning tactic that is becoming increasingly important for marketers to understand.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 landscape requires not only creating highly shareable content but also ensuring it can be effortlessly propagated through private channels like messaging apps, email, and SMS. To achieve this, marketers must delve into the core factors that drive dark social sharing, which include crafting content that resonates emotionally, remains highly relevant to the audience, maintains simplicity, and leverages social proof to establish trust and encourage sharing within personal networks. By mastering these elements, marketers can tap into the elusive realm of dark social, unlocking its potential for amplified engagement and reach.
David Dulany, CEO, and Founder of Tenbound, offered insightful perspectives on influencing the Dark Funnel during his presentation at the RevTech Summit. He highlighted the contemporary landscape where buyers possess an abundance of information and often progress through 80% of the decision-making process independently, with minimal salesperson involvement. In this transformed scenario, the traditional model of salespeople presenting product information has evolved into a new paradigm where buyers conduct extensive digital and interpersonal research, emphasizing the crucial role of social proof in the decision-making process. Understanding and harnessing these dynamics are essential for modern marketing and sales strategies to thrive in a buyer-centric environment.
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, and this knowledge is enriched through the insights provided by tools that illuminate website visitor behaviors and dispositions. At the RevTech Summit, valuable use cases were shared, featuring tools like Metadata, Wrench.ai, and many others, highlighting the practical applications of these technologies in the realm of Dark Funnel strategies. Signals, in particular, stands out as a comprehensive suite of tools that empowers marketers to meticulously track and uncover the digital demeanor of their website visitors, offering a multifaceted approach to navigate the intricacies of the modern buyer’s journey.