Dark Social – We Only See The Tip of The Social Media Iceberg

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A recent report from Radium One shed some light on the concept of “Dark Social”. A dominant but seldom discussed force in online sharing.

Among other things the research showed that 32 % of people who share content online would only share via Dark Social. It represents up to three times the social sharing activity of Facebook alone.

What is Dark Social?

The term Dark Social was first coined back in 2012 by Alexis C. Madrigal, tech editor at Atlantic.com, to refer to web traffic that comes from outside sources that web analytics can’t track.

Dark Social happens when someone shares content or a link by copying and pasting into communications such as emails, instant messages and forum posts.

The infographic below from Forbes shows that Dark Social accounts for an impressive 69 % of global shares, compared to Facebook’s 23 %.

 

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Dark Social takes place in a much more intimate environment, where the sender controls the number of receivers. It is often directed to friends, family and colleagues with the aim to entertain or inspire, help solve a problem or make a decision. The data generated from Dark Social is one of the more valuable sources of social insights because it has not been “filtered” for public reading and approval but is written with a genuine purpose.

 

Challenge

Dark social links do not contain referrer data that is used to identify an address of a webpage. Common examples of Dark Social include links copied and pasted into emails or instant messages or shared via text messages – methods that do not automatically attach any tracking tags.

The challenge with this lack of tags is that most of the “direct” traffic a company or brand generates is not really direct – people do not type specific URLs to land on a subpage or a subsite. When studying a website’s analytics for traffic optimisation, you can’t really use the information about all the “direct” traffic to anything. There are no algorithms to understand Dark Social, and thus brands should aim to eliminate it as much as possible. Of course, you want all your content to be shared as mush as possible but the objective is to keep everything in the light.

 

Short URLs

One way to decrease Dark Social is to use short URL tools to take advantage of the data hidden within. With the right link shortener, advertisers and publishers can turn long links into short and measurable links (or short URLs). Additionally they can use this to ensure that data is generated, and use this data to improve their content activities and ability to generate traffic from different channels.

 

“Share” – Buttons

Another possibility is to make everything on a website as easy to share as possible so visitors don’t choose to copy the link from the browser and thus create even more Dark Social activity. Nowadays, sites still often have no “share” options or tools on their pages or the mentality is “go for the like button”. Little or no attention is paid to how people will share content and this could be a big yet easy step towards eliminating Dark Social.

 

Why Oreo’s ‘Daily Twist’ is one of our all-time favorite social media campaigns

Few cookies have reached the same level of iconicity as Kraft Foods’ Oreo. Its round shape, blackish color and white cream stuffing have undeniably added to its success but as a social media agency we wonder: where would the crowd-pleasing, twistable cookie be today without effective social media marketing?

Let’s zoom in on one of their global digital and social media campaigns that reached millions of hearts (and mouths) and delivered proof that even cookies can provide endless food for thought. We are talking about the wildly successful ‘Daily Twist’ campaign that saw a 110% growth in fan interaction per social-media post only a few months after the campaign was launched. Even though the campaign dates back to 2012, in our view, it earned a spot among the best food branding campaigns on social media ever. Here’s why…

It used milestones and pop culture events to create engagement

2012 was the year that America’s favorite cookie turned 100. Needless to say, it was a cause for celebration.

Every day for 100 days, the Oreo was given a different “twist” – styled to look like Elvis, a panda bear or like the surface of Mars after the Mars Rover had driven over it. On the ‘Daily Twist’ site, users could suggest their “twist”. The campaign was driven on Facebook and also featured on Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest.

The Oreo twists were especially created to spark conversation and sharing, referring to milestones or pop culture events that people could relate to and share their thoughts about.

It had timely and shareable content combined with an element of surprise

While some of the cookie designs were planned ahead like the Olympics or Labor Day, others were more agile, tapping into events like the premiere of ‘Batman: The Dark Knight Rises’, the release of the iPhone5 and the birth of a Chinese panda bear. Monitoring trending topics and utilizing current events ensured the content was always relevant and timely. Couple that with the surprise of what each day would bring, and you’ve got a campaign worth tuning into.

They exercized strong brand values

The campaign kicked-off with the Gay Pride rainbow cookie in recognition of the LGBT community, much to the chagrin of conservative crowds.

The Facebook post set off a heated online debate that even led opponents of gay marriage to call for an Oreo boycott. But while supporters and opponents were fighting their online battle, the rainbow cookie doubled Oreo’s fan growth.

By having a strong stance and sticking to it, Oreo established itself as a courageous brand amongst its more liberal fans.

The campaign had an integrated marketing approach, combining the offline and online worlds

The campaign finale took place at Times Square in New York. They set up a pop up agency there, from which they designed the last ‘Daily Twist’, based on suggestions from fans. Earlier that morning, the brand had asked its Twitter followers and Facebook fans to offer ideas, which were going up live on a billboard. Creatives would select the best ones and three of them were then put to an online vote. The winning cookie, celebrating the anniversary of the first high five, was designed on the spot and was displayed on a big billboard.

A seamless flow between the online and offline worlds, and the mix of social and traditional marketing allowed for a greater experience and showed that Oreo mastered the integrated marketing approach.

It put the product in the center – without being self-centered

Oreo’s ability to put their product at the center of the campaign and still make the content relatable and entertaining for a massive range of users is (in our opinion) the most important factor in the success of the ‘Daily Twist’ campaign. The content was heavily branded, yet still relevant, timely and shareable – without ever begging for likes, comments and shares.

Lessons learned

The ‘Daily Twist’ campaign set an example of how important it is to create content that resonates with your audience. There are many ways to find out what moves your fans. For Lurpak®, we identified what kind of recipes the audience was searching for. As a result, we created content that we already knew people wanted to engage with. Read how we did it here.