IAA | Dark Social Media
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Ioana Petre, IAA Young Professionals Romania

Dark Social Media

The dark social term was invented in 2012 by Alexis Madrigal, the ex deputy director of the American magazine The Atlantic. Shortly, dark social may be described as all the content shared through some private communication channels as WhatsApp, E-mail or Facebook Messenger. Towards the content that can be accessed by the general public, this is much more difficult to follow and to be monitored. 

Dark social occupies an imposing position in the social media area for not giving it the right importance. Thus, we have 5 main reasons why companies can’t ignore dark social:

  • Dark social has a huge impact on traffic – according to the marketing agency RadiumOne, the dark social actions went up from 69% to 84%, at the global level, between the half of 2015 and the beginning of 2017;

  • Dark social is a unique opportunity for marketers – data from dark social offers a full picture of the real interests of the consumers;

  • Dark social has the power to reach a certain category of public, less reachable – over 46% from the consumers of goods and services, with ages over 55 years, share content only through this channel of communication. On the opposite side are the young ones, with ages between 16 and 34 years, that have a percentage of 19%;

  • Dark social is predominant in the majority of industries – from the financial industry to the foods and the tourism one, over 70% of the target audience is to be found in dark social.

  • Dark social is anywhere – the biggest part of the accesses of the contents belonging to dark social come from mobile devices; on the second place are the actions made on the computer. In August 2014, the accesses from mobile devices had a percentage of 53% and in February 2016 went up on 62%;

In a recent research, conducted among 3.139 respondents, Internet users, with ages between 16 and 64, from United Kingdom and U.S.A., answered a couple of questions, like: “What is the probability to share information or content (e.g. articles, pictures, videos, recommendations) with friends and family?”. After analyzing all the answers, the conclusion was: 63% of the respondents tend to use private messaging applications and almost 20% from them use only these networks and 54% tend to use the social media networks well known by anyone (Facebook, Twitter...).


The content shared through dark social media has many types, the personal photos are in the first place (72%), being followed by funny pictures and videos (70%). At the end of the ranking are the links to blog posts (34%) and locations (32%).


Dark social plays an important role also in the tourism industry, 1 from 5 Internet users have made a reservation for a trip or for spending their free time, after they read some recommendations or after they accessed a link; both of them were transmitted with the help of private networks. In the same research, realized by We Are Social and GlobalWebIndex, it was discovered that the reservations and the acquisitions were made after the recommendations received through dark social and the vacation activities were the most popular (74%). With a minor difference (only 1%) are the recommendations for the places where you can eat and drink. These were followed by the transportation ways (71%) and the places where you can sleep, such as hotels and motels (68%).


The article was written by Ioana Petre, member of IAA Young Professionals Romania.


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