“According to new data on many media sites, 69% of social referrals came from dark social. 20% came from Facebook.” Alexis C. Madrigal theatlantic.com
The dark social! It could not sound any more dramatic than this. When I first heard about it I thought it was something like the dark web. Something grotesque like Facebook for organised crime. Thankfully I was wrong and it has nothing to do with the grey economy. The dark social is a place where the marketers will try to get in and communicate privately with their target audiences, rather than using the mainstream of open social networks.
Part of the dark social are places like private messaging apps (WhatsApp, Facebook messenger, etc.) and emails.
More and more marketers are talking about it and how important it is. We hear from everywhere that email marketing is the most effective digital marketing strategy. Building an email list from your website is like a gold mine (speaking of which, please subscribe to this blog).
A huge chunk of the dark social is also messaging apps and chat groups. I, for example, have a lot of different chat groups on different platforms. We create groups to segment the different people in our lives. Some examples could be:
- Family group
- Sunday football lads
- College etc.
These are segmented groups already created by the users themselves and I believe sometime soon the marketers will find a way to promote their products in these private chat groups. We will be seeing ads for holidays in our family group or ads of bars in our friends’ groups and so on.
This is still not happening due to privacy issues, but what will you do if one day, for example, WhatsApp say:
“If you wish to continue to use the group chat option you will need to subscribe for the amount of €10 a month or let our advertisers show you ads in the group chats.”
Most of us I’m sure will choose the latter.
There are some huge risks with this scenario though. The risk is for both the advertisers and the hosting platforms. Such an approach will feel like an intrusion in our personal hang out places. Almost like someone coming uninvited at your family dinner with the help of your landlord and start talking about how good of a deal they have for the whole family for a five-star hotel in Lanzarote. This person will probably get a punch in the throat and rightly so.
The same thing could happen in the digital world. The advertiser will be seen as the intruder and the platform as the asshole landlord letting him in. This could result in a negative marketing communication message from the advertiser and even change of location – using a different app to communicate with.
It is a difficult thing to battle and maybe that is why we do not see it yet and even may not see it happening at all. Something in my gut though, tells me that it will happen at some point.
That is how I see the near future. What about today? How marketers can take advantage of this huge area of communication platforms today? Well, I have seen how, thanks to my other life – working in a pub.
We got invited by Bulmers (a.k.a. Magners) to a promotion of a new product they were releasing. Huge event with a lot of local businesses present. Owners, managers, barkeepers and floor staff all invited. A great night out for everyone. Thank you, Bulmers and C&C Group for the invite!
For their digital marketing strategy, the usual suspects were promoted. A twitter hashtag, Instagram, find us here, follow us there and so on. Nothing out of the ordinary really. Where things got interesting for me came from a little leaflet we all got handed to at the entrance.
That leaflet had a phone number on it asking us to add it to our contacts. The name of the contact was Outcider (the name of the new cider). Then we were asked to send a message to this number with your full name and date of birth, for a chance to win a holiday.
To make sure as much of us as possible do this, half-naked, beautiful girls and boys were going from table to table asking us if we added the contact to our phones and send the information they needed. It simply showed how important that campaign was for them.
Now C&C Group (the owners of Bulmers and Outcider) had our details, one of which is very hard to get. We easily give our emails, names and date of birth (fake or real), but we rarely give out our phone number. We see it as something really private and yet Bulmers found a way to take it from us. They have probably collected hundreds of phone numbers and are now targeting audiences directly via WhatsApp. Even though I did not participate in this, I still think it was a genius way of collecting valuable data. More importantly, they found a way into the dark social. I now call them Sith lords (not in a bad way).
They have earned that title and I am looking forward to seeing more Sith lords mastering the dark social.
I will be interested to hear if you had experienced a successful marketing strategy using the dark social.