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The Dark Social: The Future of Social Media (Nikolas Badminton, Futurist)


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Dark social is a term coined by Alexis C. Madrigal, a senior editor at The Atlantic, to refer to the social sharing of content that occurs outside of what can be measured by Web analytics programs. This mostly occurs when a link is sent via online chat or email, rather than shared over a social media platform, from which referrals can be measured.

A recent study has found that 59% of all content sharing activity occurs via ‘Dark Social’, a place with no formal social network beyond true word-of-mouth, IM, SMS and email. This is the way that social will go in the next 3 to 5 years: underground.

This presentation will help you understand this phenomenon, get an idea of where it is going and give you practical advice on how to identify it and integrate measurement into your social media measurement frameworks. It also outlines how freelancers can help you address this.

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Published in: Social Media

The Dark Social: The Future of Social Media (Nikolas Badminton, Futurist)

  2. 2. What is going on?
  3. 3. Dark Social The social sharing of content that occurs outside of what can be measured by Web analytics programs.
  4. 4. Most web and brand analytics staffers don’t have a clue how to track this except by saying that it’s from ‘Unknown’.
  5. 5. The ROI of our social is…ummm…ahhhh…
  6. 6. “Dark Social is nearly 70% of sharing activity” RadiumOne Source:
  7. 7. “36% of dark social sharing happens on mobile devices.” RadiumOne Source:
  8. 8. “Entertainment, careers, travel, science and education all topping the 80% dark social mark.” RadiumOne Source:
  9. 9. “The parties are too pre-occupied with Facebook and Twitter, which are relatively ineffective.” Marketing Magazine (on the UK General Election) Source:
  10. 10. But I thought you all loved being social?
  11. 11. “One half is stupid, and the other half is stupid. I can confirm that. We put more online, and on Facebook, than any other country.” John Adams Former Chief of CSIS
  12. 12. I want to share in private and I don’t want people to know what I am doing online.
  13. 13. "DuckDuckGo has had a big surge in popularity post the Snowden and NSA scandal as people are interested in searching online without being tracked. Publishers that get featured in that search engine still show up as direct traffic and it is not social." Andrew Montalenti, CTO at Source:
  14. 14. But, we’re OK. Right?
  15. 15. …and brands are being hijacked Source: "We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we've sucked at it for years.” Dick Costolo, CEO @Twitter Source:
  16. 16. “Researchers estimate that the market for fake Twitter followers was worth between $40 million and $360 million in 2013, and that the market for Facebook spam was worth $87 million to $390 million.”
  17. 17. Today, social is a place where we can’t trust that anyone is being truly authentic.
  18. 18. “On social, some brand conversations are entirely driven by spam.” Networked Insights Source:
  19. 19. “Super spammy brands include Visa (81%), MasterCard (76%), and American Eagle Outfitters (73%).” Networked Insights Source:
  20. 20. Fewer businesses are wanting to play the big social networks’ games to speak with the communities they have built.
  21. 21. The Hijack of Paid, Owned and Earned Media.
  22. 22. Paid, owned, earned media was ‘convergent media’ Paid Media Earned Media Owned Media
  23. 23. Now. it’s panicked… Paid Media Earned Media Owned Media
  24. 24. Now. it’s panicked… Paid Media Earned Media Owned Media “S#$t, we are not getting the reach we projected. Pile some more dollars into promoting our social efforts.”
  25. 25. I predict that social is going to get darker, and that is a HUGE opportunity for brands.
  26. 26. There will be a bias towards content, cultivation and tracking Paid Media Earned MediaOwned Media This fundamentally affects your marketing team and you need content creators, social cultivators and growth hackers to help boost your brand
  27. 27. …and experts back up this thinking.
  28. 28. “Stop making Facebook the centre of your relationship marketing efforts…If you have to choose between adding a subscriber to you email list or gaining a new Facebook fan, go for email every time.” Forrester, 2015
  29. 29. “Your emails get delivered more than 90% of the time, while your Facebook posts get delivered 2% of the time — and no one’s looking over your should telling you what you can and can’t say in your emails.” Forrester, 2015
  30. 30. Take Control.
  31. 31. Email Messaging apps SMS
  32. 32. It’s a step back towards great content marketing and owning your relationships.
  33. 33. But, how can I track all the dark things?
  34. 34. Hook, bait, and listen.
  35. 35. Source: HOOK: Communicate Build a contact database and respectfully communicate with them often. Include them in the story of your brand and ask the to participate. BAIT: Content You need to build a content production and syndication factory in your marketing function. LISTEN: Syndication The more places your content is, the more people will see it and visit your site.
  36. 36. Source: Short URLs Use a link-shortening tool to track all branded content you share publicly. Each time someone copies the shortened URL and shares it privately, you can accurately measure its reach. is particularly good at this kind of tracking.
  37. 37. Source: Auto-adding URLs to content being shared Use a plugin that automatically adds your URL to the copied content a visitor copies (into documents, social, posts, blogs etc.) Tynt Copy&Paste is a great little tool for this:
  38. 38. Address Bar Tracking - Source: 1. Paste a snippet of code into your HTML <head> section: 2. Install the ‘Address bar Tracking’ app to your site:
  39. 39. Google Analytics - Dark Social Segment Source: Google analytics allows its users to create advanced segments. This feature enables specific filtering of your traffic according to a defined criteria. Identify and track all visitors who (1) came to your website through direct traffic and (2) didn’t go through the homepage.
  40. 40. Listening & ‘Narrative Insight’ Not all dark social activity can be identified. You still need to go out and see what people are saying about your brand. In analytics I call this ‘narrative insight’. Google search, Google Alerts, DuckDuckGo, Bing, Hootsuite, Mention, radian6, Sysomos, Trackur, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr etc.
  41. 41. Dark Social is not just about campaigns, it’s about your social operations.
  42. 42. Not getting a grip on Dark Social will lead to eroded social budgets.
  43. 43. Take action today.
  44. 44. Nikolas Badminton, Futurist