You might not know this, but you're already using Dark Social.

What you might not be doing is tracking, monitoring, and analyzing your success, but that's becoming more of a possibility, according to one expert.

Dark Social is anything that is not on the major social platforms, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. This includes using messaging apps like Kik or Snapchat that still allow social interaction and, in fact, may be more valuable as a way to connect with potential customers or handle support issues.

Many apps like SocialFlow already let you track your followers or how many 'likes' you receive on a new product announcement. They can provide a rich data set, providing insight about the clicks and retweets that drive social media, but they are not as helpful in tracking the 'dark' underpinnings on social that drive a business.

Paul Hurley, who runs Frictionless Social and is the author of a book on social media, told me that many small businesses have a hard time using Dark Social. It's one of those side activities, something you do in your spare time and when you are not on Facebook. Yet, that could be a mistake, especially since Millennials in particular are more likely to prefer messaging with your business than sending a tweet. He says there are ways to make the most of Dark Social, however.

One tip has to do with how you interact. Messaging apps like Snapchat are "permission based" in the sense that you have to engage and not post constantly. Hurley calls this "involving" rather than "broadcasting" and there's a critical difference. You can't fire off a series of Snapchats and expect any potential customer to suddenly engage with your brand. Instead, it changes your marketing approach entirely. It becomes a discussion and a dialog. It's a two-way chat.

In most cases, once the dialog starts, you then have to provide a benefit to the user.

"You have to offer people incredible experiences at the right time," says Hurley. "So it could be a game. Or a closed interview with a celebrity or thought leader. Or some preview information. Or being able to solve a problem there and then."

Hurley says a good example of how social media works today and how Dark Social works is when a company wants to offer a deal, such as a pizza coupon. On Facebook, you post what is essentially an online brochure. On Dark Social, it might be a discussion about a secret recipe that eventually leads to a coupon link, but is more about the discussion about the recipe. There has to be an interaction that's genuine and real, which is what users are now demanding. It cuts through the digital noise.

What should be a major motivator with Dark Social is that this is where Millennials and many other age groups are moving--messaging is the way we interact. He says this activity is not as trackable today, but that will change as more and more messaging apps like Kik, Snapchat, and Telegram offer chatbots, the AI-powered agents that are becoming more and more popular. Eventually, a chatbot can track every interaction with customers and help you measure success.

Staying in the dark about Dark Social won't work over the next few years. It should become more of an emphasis, he says, and eventually even a primary focus.

Published on: Oct 31, 2016
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