You might not have noticed, but the lights just went out.
Not at the flick of the switch, more like the gradual dimming over a period of a couple years.
Where social media used to shine a bright light on brands and consumers’ conversations about them, there is now just a dim flicker of illumination.
Because over the last few years, with the rise of Whatsapp, Snapchat and other 1-to-1 or small group messaging services (not to mention the resurgence of email), ‘dark social’ has stolen the limelight from social.
So much so, that the majority of conversations now take place away from the original ‘Big 3’ social networks of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and consumer behaviour has changed too.
“84% of all sharing is now on dark social” - RadiumOne
For example, TechCrunch reports that “WhatsApp has 1 billion total daily users, 1.3 billion monthly users, sending 55 billion messages per day, including 4.5 billion photos and 1 billion videos.”
Yet you can’t track any of those conversations with traditional social media listening tools.
The reality is that dark social, email and offline is where the majority of consumer discussions about your brand actually happen. If you’re focusing only on the traditional ‘Big 3’ social networks, you are literally in the dark.
Social media listening tools - and the brands that have depended upon them - can only listen in on a small sliver of what people are really talking about.
“Brandwatch doesn’t track dark social traffic” - Brandwatch
And generally when consumers are on social media, announcing things to the world, they’re only putting out a highly curated (read: not accurate) picture of themselves.
Just think about the behaviour you observe amongst your own friends and colleagues, and you’ll know this to be true.
Studies back it up too. For example a survey of 5000 students conducted by Digital Awareness UK found that “60% believed friends show a “fake version” of themselves on social media.”
Gen Z and Millennials, in particular, have wised up to the deal they make with social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
They know their data is sold and mined by brands, and that it’s publicly available to view. Therefore they ensure it’s the highly curated, acceptable persona they want to project to the outside world.
They save their real views and conversations for more personal 1:1 messaging apps, email and offline.
How are brands and social media listening tools responding? Well they’re not.
“Nobody really knows what the hell to do about it [dark social]” - eConsultancy
This is because consumers are increasingly savvy enough to block what they don’t want brands (or governments) to see and monitor.
Just look at the exploding growth of Tor, the ‘free software for enabling anonymous communication’ which hosts an entirely separate ‘dark web’ of activity.
Where your brand is mentioned on the major social networks that can still be monitored, it will be motivated either by consumers wishing to praise or disparage it.
These are highly motivated individuals with a strong point of view - not the silent majority that makes up the bulk of your revenue - and therefore not the signals you want to base big decisions on.
This is why social media monitoring is now a terrible way to measure brand.
It provides you with only a tiny fraction of the conversations taking place about your brand, from a very small, biased sample of consumers.
It cannot provide a true, accurate picture of your brand’s strengths or weaknesses, general awareness, consumer sentiment or how it is trending. And for all the same reasons, it won’t provide you with accurate competitor intelligence.
But there is a solution, and in our new report ‘Brand Intelligence in the Age of Dark Social and Bad Data’ we show you how to turn the lights back on.
We’ll show you what leading brands do to remain relevant and win market share year in, year out.
We’ll show you how you too can access the intelligence needed to measure and improve your brand relevance, learn your competitor’s strengths and weakness, see trends in customer experience, and understand shifting market dynamics.