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December 4, 2019

Dark Social and What it Means for the Future of Unfiltered Marketing

By NOW Marketing Group
NOW Marketing Group Ohio marketing agency Dark Social and Private Messaging

Dark social is social sharing that's taking place in private online communities

But, what does dark social mean for you and your marketing team?

There you are … scrolling Facebook and you stumble upon an article on how to boost organic traffic on social media. It’s exactly what you were talking about with your marketing team earlier in the week. So, you copy and paste the link into messenger and share it with the team.

Honestly, we’ve all done it. We’ve chatted before about Dark Social and what exactly that means. Basically, dark social is all the private conversations and social sharing that is happening online without data and analytic attribution. 

One-on-one, direct communication has overtaken social media and now represents 80 percent of traffic to websites! We’re all part of the “dark social” trend. But, what does dark social mean for brands and marketers? For starters, we need to make sure we are becoming a part of those private conversations.

Dark social is only growing—so, what can we do about it?

In the case of dark social, there's a segment of traffic we're not able to recognize. You can see people coming to your website via Facebook, and you can see if email blasts are working. However, in the case of dark social, you only see that there was a direct hit to your web page. You can't break it down if people were sharing your link in a text message or if they sent it through WhatsApp. You can't get any info from these private communities. You have no data on who they are and why they might be interested in the link from that unsourced referral.  

Brands are going to see a considerable shift with online marketing, and it will start with the dramatic rise of these private conversations. More and more, people are using channels that facilitate private discussion. Brands that haven’t prioritized relationship marketing techniques (which builds community and creates brand advocates) need to do one of two things. Either they need to spend more money on a pay-to-play model or start using what works with these private communities. In other words, a relationship marketing approach that focuses on belonging instead of buying. It’s all about organic relationship building versus trying to buy brand loyalty.

These private conversations do not mean all is lost when it comes to building and growing your brand through social media marketing. It just means your audience is in control of your messaging behind the scenes. 

It reminds me of the Jeff Bezos’ quote

Your brand is what other people say about you when you're not in the room” @JeffBezos (click to tweet)

That quote is super relevant today, as traditional word-of-mouth has grown to be world-of-mouth! How can you stay relevant and part of the conversation as people gravitate towards private conversations? 

Here's how to stay part of the conversation:

  • Prioritize your online "home bases" such as your website, and make sure they're set up to be a super easy and convenient experience (try to eliminate friction points). 
  • Shift your attention to focus on your primary audience, their goals and the ideal solutions.
  • Implement SEO best-practices and channels that have better communication with smaller communities.
  • Personalize content and use tools like instant messenger, video emails, personalized ads, content, photos and experiences. 
  • Focus on building collaboration with like-minded communities 
  • Identify a team member, a collaboration partner, or someone who has a great story to share will create an emotional connection to your brand—use them to communicate with people where they are at, e.g. Instagram Stories.

Speaking of stories, start building a brand story with heart and personality! All this means taking online marketing tactics back to the basics of business. We need to show up, be real, build relationships, focus on our communities, and stop playing games. 

Here are a few more strategies to build communities

Live streaming

Being authentic and true to yourself is critical in an online world that values and encourages small communities. When we are true to ourselves, we find people who get us and understand what we're doing; we can build tribes of people who align with us. One of the ways we can do this is through live streams.

Live streams allow you to reach your audience in a way that is real and unfiltered. It gives them insight into who you are and what you believe in. They can see the "real" you. All the little things—your humor, your personality, the characteristics that make you, you. Think of it as a window into your business… a “behind-the-scenes” peek into the brands and people they love.

One of the tools we use to live stream is Stream Yard. With it, we can interview guests easily, share our screen for training, and interact easily with viewer comments. It's especially nice because it allows us to stream directly to Facebook and YouTube, in addition to other platforms.


Embracing small online communities is another way we can build our audience and keep them engaged with us. So many people have flocked to Facebook Groups to join smaller, unique, niche, interest-based communities. YouTube Communities are also a great way to grow your relationships with your ideal audience. 

Relationships will always be more powerful than marketing @jessikaphillips (click to tweet)

The key is to build community by being the host of the party, so to speak. Create the destination people want to hang out and make it fun, helpful and not spammy. 

Using Facebook Groups to build your community is an excellent way to reach people and encourage them to become engaged. Essentially you are facilitating conversations through Facebook groups, allowing members to share resources, ask questions, continue conversations in a space that is designed to serve, not sell.

Facebook Messenger Marketing 

Facebook messenger is drastically changing the way we communicate with our audiences. Automating messages with message bots can help to build one-on-one connections in a private space driving click-through rates while providing a unique interactive experience for your audience. 

Invite your audience to start the conversation using the Messenger Built-In Automation. We get it, the term automation sometimes evokes thoughts of *cold, impersonal and robotic communication*  BUT messenger bots can be tailored to the tone and personality of your brand. If your conversation style is fun and quirky, then let that shine through the tool!

It’s super important to link your bot to you marketing content. How else are they going to know they can start the conversation? Include subscribing options in your presentations, emails, and social content so your audience knows you’re ready to chat.

Messenger allows you to add video, photos, and unique FAQs as ways to personalize your conversation starters. They also allow notes, labels to attach to your conversations so you can easily share messaging that is relevant and purposeful to your audience members and fill your team in on what’s happened in the conversation so everyone is kept in the loop. 

Messenger also allows appointment bookings and send broadcast alerts on shipping information, news and much more soon to come in the future. 

What’s the take-away? Dark social is here to stay, and you can stay relevant to your audience through relationship marketing!

The overarching theme of how to keep your brand top-of-mind with a community that’s “going dark” is to keep relationships at the forefront of your marketing. By building advocates who will carry your voice and your message into private conversations and drive your audience to refer you and your business to their circles of influence, you can use dark social to your advantage.

Not sure where to start? Let us help. We would be happy to offer suggestions or best practices to get keep your name on the mouths of your advocates.


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Tags: relationship marketing, dark social, facebook groups, get ahead in 2020, digital marketing, live streaming


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