The ramifications of ‘dark social’ for marketers

Digital marketing budgets have become too skewed towards social media platforms to the point that brands are missing out on creating more “intimate connections” with consumers, the South East Asia director of digital marketing agency RadiumOne has claimed.

Speaking at MediaCom’s Blink conference in Singapore today, Charlie Baillie said that marketers needed to capitalise on the content sharing seen on apps like Whats App and WeChat as a way of tapping into “word-of-mouth” potential.

Describing messenger apps as “dark content”, Baillie said: “What we’re also seeing is a huge disconnect between the amount of sharing taking place on instant messenger and digital media spend. We’re seeing 84 per cent of sharing taking place on apps like WhatsApp and WeChat, while 90 per cent of spend is going on social channels like Facebook.

“There needs to be a rebalancing act of how marketers go about reaching their audience in the most efficient way.

“We all know that word-of-mouth is much more powerful than any marketing, and in a digital sense instant messaging apps are the most pronounced word-of-mouth out there because of how it’s sharing content in a one-to-one basis.”

Charlie Ballie

One way of leveraging that connection is to include a coded hashtag in a web URL that allows brands and publishers to track when a link has been shared between two people, and therefore target them more effectively, Baillie said. Brands such as Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore were among those using it in South East Asia, he added.

“Dark social has a higher penetration in South East Asia than in any other region because instant messengers are very much part of the fabric of our society,” he added. “In Singapore, apps like WhatsApp are as much used for business as well as personal.

“Brands like Marina Bay Sands do see a significant uplift [of traffic] with dark social, because there is a stronger intent in the act of sharing. You share things you know that particular person has a genuine interest in so [the brand] can continue to engage them.”

He added: “The broadcast nature of social media and the lack of intimacy it has created has led to a disconnect between people. And that’s why we are seeing the growth of these instant messenger platforms like WhatsApp and WeChat – people wanting a more intimate connection.”


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