THE dark social is the term that describes content sharing on the Internet that is difficult to track and measure. More concretely, these are conversations that take place in the private circle through messaging, emails or even SMS.
Users increasingly share information with each other in private channels rather than in public spaces. Result ? These interactions are difficult, if not impossible, to trace, hence the term dark (or dark, in French) to define this new mode of communication. The formula was introduced for the first time by Alexis Madrigal, editor-in-chief of The Atlantic magazine, who discovered that some of his traffic came from private sources.
Although the phrase may seem negative, it does not necessarily refer to illegal or malicious activities, unlike the dark web with which these terms are often associated. Instead, it simply describes a part of online activity that cannot be quantified and analyzed. This poses a problem for brands, who cannot measure their performance exhaustively.
Dark social is becoming a trend for multiple reasons.
First reason: the search for authentic conversations. If a few years ago, it was customary to share content on Facebook walls to hundreds of followers, Internet users now seem to prefer to send each other publications via DM or messaging in more intimate channels. We went from conversations “one-to-many” to conversations “one-to-one” (individual discussions) and “one-to-few” (group discussions).
More and more Internet users are also concerned about protecting their privacy, and feel more secure on intimate channels, far from the marketing content that is broadcast on the web and which can sometimes seem intrusive. It is true that with the strengthening of advertising networks and remarketing techniques, users sometimes feel monitored over their online activities by large platforms such as Meta or Google, and look for loopholes.
We could also cite the rise in cyberharassment, which pushes Internet users to find private spaces to exchange in a more secure environment. They therefore prefer to share content on messaging services like WhatsApp, Messenger, Telegram or Discord, rather than sharing it on social networks for everyone to see.
And the brands in all this? How can they shine a light in this dark social world? Be present where the conversations are happening? It may be relevant to invest in certain private channels and create groups to develop your community. On this subject, it is interesting to observe that the Meta platform has started to focus on messaging whereas it previously focused all its efforts on its news feed and its algorithm. Since this year, Meta has allowed brands and creators to create broadcast channels on WhatsApp but also broadcast channels on Instagram and Facebook and Messenger. Brands also have the possibility of creating channels on Telegram. Therefore, companies have every interest in looking into this phenomenon of dark social which could well grow in the years to come, as Internet users are always looking for more authenticity!