If you've ever sent a link or copy and pasted text content in a private email or message – then you have a 'dark social' network. Chances are, this is also your real life "intimate" social network of close friends, family and colleagues and you share content with them that's particularly relevant and interesting to you. It's quite different to the content you might post publically on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn. The content and the people you share it with are selected for a very specific reason.
Yet, when marketers and publishers think about how people share content today, their focus is still on the "in the light" social networks.
We now know that the dark side of social sharing is far, far bigger. Particularly here in Australia.
Dark social in Australia is 3.5 times bigger than Facebook sharing, 75% of all sharing takes place via Dark Social versus 21% on Facebook, and 95% of Australian consumers are sharing via this channel.
Nobody had undertaken an independent, global study to understand and provide a complete picture of online sharing data across all social networks and private messaging platforms.
However, a recent study has done exactly that, with Australia being looked at as a key market alongside; North America, Europe, the U.K. and France. The study by Radium One titled "The light and dark of social sharing," concludes that advertisers and publishers are seriously limiting their social focus and marketing investment by ignoring dark social data.
"Dark Social" is the basic action of a consumer copy and pasting content and links from websites into email or instant message services, and selectively sharing it with friends, family and colleagues.
In the past brands have generally been focused on measuring online traffic patterns and optimising social channels. However, when sharing occurs outside of these channels, they're rarely able to account for these results let alone action the resulting data to drive business outcomes.
Hopefully the industry will now be able to measure dark social activity through providing brands and publishers with intelligent sharing tools and URL shortneners that capture all social sharing. There now exists the ability for that data to be activated programmatically with paid media.
Dark Social is one of the most valuable sources of social insights and intelligence because it represents the genuine interests of sharers and their targeted recipients. Dark social data is very different to the analytics collected from public social networks, where sharing centers around what an individual considers okay for public examination. For both marketers and publishers it represents meaningful insight into real-time consumer interest and intent.
The key findings of the recent study show Australians' Dark Social habits are ahead of the global average in a number of areas. When it comes to consumers clicking on shared links, Australians generate three times more clicks on shared links than any other region in the world. Dark Social in Australia generates the majority (53%) of all clicks on social links, even more than on Facebook (42%) and all other public sharing channels combined.
Dark social is of such interest because of the sheer volume and relevance it has for marketers and publishers who were mostly 'in the dark' previously.
This channel generates high volumes of valuable real-time data – which can then be segmented and activated at the exact time when the consumer is showing genuine interest and intent.
View the full white paper "'The light and dark of social sharing" here.
Adam Furness is Enterprise Director at RadiumOne.
All statisctics from RadiumOne Po.st Data Survey and Tpoll external customer survey, October 2014.