Five ways brands can capitalize on dark social

We live in an age where marketers can track and control nearly everything. From the number of impressions a boosted post received to the exact wording of a Tweet, it’s all within your grasp.

Not so with dark social.

Dark social, the rise in popularity of social media sharing tools that are difficult or impossible to track, is more than just a challenge for tracking where your website traffic is coming from.

It also creates an even more significant issue: How do you reach audiences who are carrying on conversations about your brand outside of your reach?

But it’s not all doom and gloom.

Dark social is a significant percentage of all social media sharing activity. That means that any brand that can find a way to tap into the growth of sharing via private channels will gain a significant boost over the competition.

Here are five ways your brand can capitalize on the dark social trend.

Design great content that people want to share

This isn’t revolutionary.

Great content is the foundation of any inbound marketing strategy.

But with dark social it becomes even more important.

If you can create great content that people want to share, you’re going to find your way into your audiences’ emails and private messaging apps.

What does that mean?

Going back to the fundamentals. Good ideas for posts. Great writing. And engaging visuals.

That’s how you find your way into your audiences’ private feeds.

Have a great website

The rise of dark social removes a key step in the customer journey.

No longer are you able to influence behavior with how you frame your social media posts.

Now that is left up to whoever is sharing your content via private channels.

That makes having a great website experience paramount.

Make sure your site has a clear call-to-action. This ensures that anyone who arrives via a dark social channel will know what you want them to do.

A great website experience will also help you further build a relationship with someone who’s interacting with your brand for the first time.

Encourage users to share and recommend your brand

Dark social is very persuasive.

Think about it: Which would you be more likely to listen to – a random ad on Facebook or a recommendation from someone you know and trust?

If you can find a way to get your audiences to share and recommend your brand to their friends and family, that will go a long way to boosting your reach.

Encourage your users to recommend your brand to friends and family via a discount or other means.

Make your brand interactive

Building responsive channels into your digital marketing strategy can go a long way towards bringing “offline” conversations into your orbit.

For many businesses, that means creating a Facebook page where you respond to questions and concerns quickly.

It means interacting with users when they choose to leave a comment on an online review site or your Twitter account.

It means developing a reputation for responsiveness helps to bring discussions out of the dark to where you can see – and deal – with them.

Run ads on dark social channels

Dark social isn’t entirely outside your grasp.

A lot of the tools are developing new avenues for reaching your audience that didn’t previously exist.

Take, for example, Facebook Messenger.

Brands can now run ads directly on a tool usually reserved for one-to-one communication between friends. For companies this opens up a new avenue for building a relationship with your audience.

(Facebook Messenger ads are relatively new, having been added as a feature in 2017. For a list of brands that have been successful using the tool, check out this post.)

AdWords, Google’s advertising interface, also offers ads on another dark social channel – Gmail.

It may not be the same as an “earned” conversation with a potential customer. But if nothing else running ads allows you to take advantage of the rise to prominence of dark social.


As a challenge for digital marketers, dark social doesn’t have too many parallels.

After all, we’re used to finding ways to assert our control over the message – not relinquishing it to channels outside our control.

Meeting the challenge of dark social in many ways will force you to return to the fundamentals of a solid inbound marketing strategy.

Build a good website.

Write exceptional content.

Design posts that people will want to share.

In many ways, it’s that straightforward.

Mark Brownlee is a Digital Marketing Strategist with Banfield.

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