This sounds far, far more sinister than it actually is.

It has nothing to do with the ‘dark web’, or anything close, but has everything to do with brands trying to contact their audience in a more personal and direct way.

The actual meaning of it isn’t directly related to messaging, though. Dark social refers to sharing links and content where the click through rate and success can’t be measured by traditional web analytics tools. In more practical terms, though, this means content which is shared through private messaging apps, texts or email, rather than shared on social media.

reports-and-graphsThe ‘dark’ part of the name means that the referral data can’t be tracked, so the site which you’re linking too can’t track directly where the traffic from dark social originates.

Adidas have already used this as a really effective marketing tactic. They looked at which messaging apps were most popular in which places, and recruited ‘squads’ (brand advocates, basically) around the world with the focus on creating hyper local communities that would consume Adidas content, shared with them by these squads.

In Europe and the US, Adidas primarily used Whatsapp, and in Asia it was Wechat. The theory was that people using these apps already create their own micro-communities, so why not be the brand that creates their own? By using their brand advocates, they can access more data on how content is shared, consumed and discussed on these channels, and form a closer relationship with their audience.

So, moving into 2017, how can other brands take advantage of Dark Social? Well, Facebook has seen the trend that most content is shared and clicked on through their Messenger app, so they’ve updated it to allow brands to contact their followers (or people who have liked their page) directly.

This can be used to send links, discount codes, or interesting content which is more targeted, relevant, and personalized. This also sheds some light on Dark Social, in some respects, as it allows the brands to analyze how successful their messaging campaigns have been.

There’s huge potential in Dark Social, and such a wide range of platforms and messaging apps to try and utilize. The key is to try and create your own communities, as a brand, and engage with them in interesting and meaningful ways. Of course, the analytics may be difficult to get hold of, but using this in conjunction with other ad campaigns can really give your brand and business a boost.

Be careful though. After all, would you really want private messages from your local supermarket about offers on food going out of date soon? Your messaging strategy needs to be carefully considered, and well suited to the format.