Saturday, March 12, 2016

Dark Social: The Next Frontier For Brands

What if I told you that over half of the traffic to a brand's website was unable to be tracked to a specific source? This is the essence of Dark Social - social communication that exists on private channels such as email, SMS and messaging apps like WhatsApp, and is virtually invisible to brands. What if I also told you that each of these channels each had over a billion users? Do I have your attention?

Last year, our own Tom Edwards predicted that 2015 would see the rise of Dark Social. And he was correct. Brands like Adidas are waking up the importance of Dark Social as a way to understand and better engage their customers. While some simple things can be done to capitalize on the behavior such as SMS and messaging app share buttons on mobile websites, the opportunity goes deeper than that.

In partnership with WhatsApp (acquired by Facebook in 2014), Adidas has created what they've called squads -- hyperlocal communities around the world in cities like Berlin and Paris where content and brand news will premiere first. It's a brilliant way to learn from the consumer behavior -- providing value as a way to drive users to engage and share the brand news.

So what does this mean for YOUR brand? A couple things:

1) Learn everything you can about the dark social traffic that's leading to your website. What content is being shared by users through these channels? Are you creating content and value that's designed to be shared in this manner? Apply these learnings and evolve your branded content accordingly.
2 ) Consider messaging when creating brand experiences. From customer service to building communities, this kind of 1:1 engagement among consumers and brands is the preferred medium. Embrace the behavior and learn from it as Adidas has.