Social Media: The Dark Side

Jan 11, 2016 4:50:48 PM

For the last few years, dark social has been a source of frustration for many marketing superheroes. How can referrals from difficult to track sources - such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger - be monitored and reported on? Are people really choosing to share via personal social rather than on more 'traditional' networks like Facebook and Twitter? After hearing about Danny Denhard's experience with the dark side of social media (!), and learning more about his predictions for personal social in 2016, we couldn't help but ask more questions ...

Marketing Pandas (MP): During the last #EcomChat of 2015, you were tweeting about the impact of dark social on a few of your clients.

Can you elaborate a little more on your comments -

“I also have seen Whatsapp beating most of social in the data with my two clients … Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp have the best clicks to action”?

Danny Denhard (DD): Throughout my client’s social data it's clear that there is a divide happening with sharing and social sharing: Sharing to many (blast sharing) is continuing to happen but sharing one to one or one to a few is increasing and many are moving towards instant messengers.

Digging into this in more detail: I personally believe that this is down to how social networks are becoming more personal again and less people want to share their lives with closer tribes again; we can see this on less permanent social networks such as Snapchat. The one to one sharing relationship is where people are sharing their ideas, wants and purchases through messengers. From the data I have, this is typically through Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

This is down to messenger platforms becoming default communication channels and being more personal than one to many social networks. We might have hundreds of contacts but we only really message those closest, especially around purchases and ecommerce.

Wechat is a great example of what can happen if you build in commerce alongside chat and community. With this said, some of us - myself included - share to many constantly. We like to become personal newsrooms and shout 'I love this product', but without the context and relationship many will ignore these blasts. WhatsApp is increasing month on month in number of clicks on links; conversions are increasing alongside this.

WhatsApp will continue to grow as will shares across other messenger platforms - Skype, Viber, Kik etc will all see increases and will be tracked too. You could also argue that brands are somewhat responsible for this change. Brands (aside from a select few) just do not engage on broadcast networks like Twitter and this has encouraged the public to share to more personal tribes or circles.

MP: In your experience, which industries seem to be most affected by dark social? And is referral etc via dark social more common amongst a specific demographic?

DD: Dark social impacts most verticals; ecommerce and publication industries are seeing a lot of sharing happen on instant messengers and apps. Typically, the younger demographics are sharing first via instant messengers, but sharing across these channels is now becoming more common in older demographics too. For one of my larger clients WhatsApp is actually the fourth largest referrer of traffic to the site. This is a clear indication that if the site is personal or has personal objectives people will share to their closest contacts - the intent is to make a personal purchase. Brands should think of a push notification from a friend as more powerful than a mention or an email. WhatsApp shares tend to be most popular between the 15 and 35-year-old demos, whereas Facebook has a slightly older demographic. I expect this to continue as Facebook messenger is replacing other forms of communication.

MP: You mentioned that there’s a lot of opportunity for brands in IM / dark social. How can brands capitalise on this opportunity in 2016?

DD: The opportunity is to create trackable links and encourage shares to specific groups of people, or to specific people who would like to know about a product, service or, for instance, a holiday. Brands should start by introducing the right sharing buttons and testing which channels work for them. Adding WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger buttons to sites is a start and we have seen this happen across large publications. Many companies are using custom, or custom URL shorteners to track interactions worth exploring.

If you use the Google URL builder, that can be an easy way to track. Adding trackable links via these social buttons is equally important, UTM tracking through Google Analytics or creating custom URLs for instant messengers allows you to track these properly. You can also use deep linking on mobile. With a deep linking solution you can track clicks, downloads etc. Encouraging personal sharing - telling fans to share with their friends or groups within Messenger or WhatsApp - will help you position yourself with mobile users and help users remove the question of who to share the item with.

About Danny Denhard Danny Denhard is a consultant, trainer and advisor from his consultancy Denhard Media. He has worked in online marketing for 13 years, working agency side, in-house and as a consultant. Danny helps brands across multiple verticals develop their strategy and online brand to increase their visibility across SEO, social media and content marketing. Over the past year he has worked with a number of successful start ups and challenger brands.

Hear more from Danny; follow him on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn and take a look at the Denhard Media website.

What do you think?

Share your thoughts on this post - whether you agree, disagree or have your own insight to share, we want to hear from you!


Subscribe to the cranberry panda blog

Don’t want to miss out on ecommerce news, insights and recruitment gossip? Subscribe to ‘The Panda Express’ updates!