‘Dark Social’ wins out over public social media platforms as the place to share content

According to research from GlobalWebIndex and We Are Social, private messaging apps – so-called ‘dark social’ apps – are now the most popular way to share content, where three of five users in the US and UK use these apps to share and recommend content to friends, ahead of common social media platforms and standard word-of-mouth.

Dark social, as marketers refer to these private messaging apps, stood out as the primary platform used to share content in research that looked at over 3000 people in the US and the UK. 63% of people make use of private apps, followed by social media platforms with 54%, word of mouth with 51%, and then other dark channels like SMS (48%) and email (37%) for people who utilize these different channels.

The research looked at specific apps like WhatsApp and the direct messaging services of the various social platforms. Interestingly, Facebook’s Messenger ranked first with 82%, then WhatsApp at 56%, Instagram direct messaging 34%, and snapchat 32%.

As to the types of content that are shared, entertainment including music and film led the way with 51%, games was 48%, clothing 47%, electronics 46%, food and drink items 42%, and travel came towards the end with 41% of people who share these types of content through the different dark social channels.

The research by both socially-led and audience-specific agencies showed that consumers are more likely to feel comfortable sharing through private messaging apps, whereas just 13% of people ‘feel comfortable posting’ sharing to a news feed of followers, indicating that even the shares that do take place in public forums aren’t always representative of the true thoughts of the sharer.

Andre Van Loon, Research and Insight Director at We Are Social spoke about how much marketing comes through social media platforms, especially dark channels, and how “increasingly, marketers will need to be sure to target and optimise their content so that heavy-lifting ATL awareness campaigns run at the same time as easy-to-share digital content, which consumers will then be free to use and discuss in their own time.”

Chase Buckle, Trends Manager of GlobalWebIndex added: “What’s clear is that social media engagement is shifting, and this presents as much of an opportunity as a challenge to brands. As public social media platforms increasingly fulfil the role of content consumption sources, private messaging platforms are now where meaningful conversations and recommendations are taking place between peers actively engaging with each other.”

“Brands looking to integrate their services across social media must focus on giving users the opportunity to follow up on recommendations that come through private messages in a streamlined way within the single platform.”

Don’t forget Digital Sport London’s event this Thursday, 28th March, on this very topic: the future of sports marketing! Get your ticket below!

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Darpan Mangwani
Darpan Mangwani 25 posts

Darpan is an avid sports & marketing fan and shares his thoughts on industry-impacting news. Connect with him on LinkedIn!

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