I don’t know about you, but I keep hearing about dark social media.
It’s come up enough times lately for me to do a little research on it; I was thinking I had missed the boat on some important social media trend.
Turns out I’m not so behind!
In fact, in April of 2013, I wrote a post about dark social media (even though I didn’t know that term at the time).
Dark social makes up the majority of social media interactions and needs to be at the forefront of marketer’s minds.
So, What Is Dark Social Media?
I’ll start with a question:
“How many times have you clicked on a post, a tweet, an article, online but never “liked,” commented or shared?”
Probably A LOT. For me, it’s up there with the majority of my social behaviors (“liking” things is probably a close 2nd … I have issues!).
Dark social may show up as a click, or a bookmark, or the oh-so-annoying (and dreaded) “direct” traffic in your reports.
It eludes most analytic platforms and is ignored by many marketers.
Luckily our CRM captures some traffic sources for us, so we’re like all, “HEEEEEY!” when you show up from Facebook or one of my SteamFeed articles.
But again, most of what comes through is considered “dark” because we literally have no idea how you found our website or social platforms.
I think the best analogy here is to think back to each of the posts you’ve seen from friends on Facebook asking for a recommendation.
Susie asks if anyone has a good roofer in the Lebanon, NJ area and gets two or three responses with links on her post, emailed to her, or through messenger.
Susie then shows up on those sites and eventually books a roofer.
Because of the way Susie got the link, the company may or may not know how Susie ended up on their site (and they with her business).
We know the answer is social media … most companies don’t. Including you (and me!).
Your Invisible Audience
Buffer wrote a post about invisible audiences with the most notable part saying:
“Back in 2006, bloggers Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba coined a term to describe the ratio of activity in online forums: The 1% Rule, also known as the 90-9-1 Rule.
– 1 percent of users are creators
– 9 percent of users are commenters
– 90 percent of users are observers”
While this ratio may not specifically describe your audience, the main thing to understand is that around 90% of your audience is made up of lurkers.
There are ways to measure your invisible audiences; read the above-mentioned Buffer post for exactly how to do so.
Jay Baer has also joined in on this “invisible audience” and says social media success is now a volume play.
Jay also drove his point home by saying,
“If I send out a tweet, the 124,000 who have said they want to hear from me won’t see that tweet. A small cross-section (usually about 2,000, according to my Twitter stats) will see it instead. Thus, my theoretical reach is 124,000, but my reliable reach is about 1.6% of that, and the actual people comprising that 1.6% shifts somewhat from tweet to tweet. The same dynamics exist on Linkedin, Pinterest, Instagram, Google +, and especially Facebook.”
If we think about the players in the game, Facebook is by far the most volatile. The EdgeRank algorithm throws a wrench into basic reach numbers by adding different layers to what is seen.
With Jay’s shotgun theory, it’s less about building a BIG audience on one particular platform, and spreading multiple messages on multiple platforms.
It kinda goes against everything you hear, but based on the math it makes the most sense.
The Problem With “Fixing” Dark & Invisible Social
Lurkers Gonna Lurk
If you’re reading this and you’re a lurker (which many of you are based on my analytics!), I highly doubt I can make you “visible” just by saying, “Hey, do me a favor and let me know you’re reading this.”
Maybe, just maybe, it’d work on one or two peeps.
The rest of the lurkers will keep on lurking (more power to ya – I can be Lurky Loo, too!).
Your best bet — if you want to know more about your invisible audiences — is to:
- Do the math (follow the instructions on the Buffer post and see what your ratios are)
- Make sure you’re using social media as a sidekick of your owned media (and focus more time on owned media)
- Continue to ask for participation with clever calls-to-action
- Keep up a consistent schedule on ALL of your social channels
Pray & Spray? Really?
To Jay’s point, if you’re only active on Facebook, it may all be for not.
If you have other channels — but aren’t using them (or are using them infrequently) — I suggest ramping up your efforts or closing them down. You don’t want to send the “keep knocking cause nobody’s home” message.
Additionally, even if you take Jay’s shotgun approach and post more content, you’re likely to lose followers.
While you might see an upswing at first by posting more, eventually if you’re offering nothing new we get fatigued.
Our tight schedules allow for less and less info to be absorbed (content shock), and if you’re pumping out more and more of the same we’re likely to disconnect or go back to being an invisible user.
I know what you’re thinking. I’m contradicting myself.
But these are two schools of thought that are both connected … they just have different approaches.
I’m not sure I can buy into Jay’s, but I do see how based on REAL reach numbers his way makes sense.
What About YOU?
I’ll turn it over to you.
What do YOU think about dark social media, invisible audiences, and how to overcome it/them? Is it even possible? Will your social strategies change due to dark social, or stay the same?
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