For our latest Talking Human video, Hook Research sat down with Jonathan Sebire from Signify to better understand Dark Social – what it is, how it impacts the news cycle, and why brands should care about shedding light on this space.
What is dark social?
“Dark Social is essentially anything, any content, that you can’t see in a traditional search.
For example, posts that are obscure because of privacy settings or ads who are targeted to specific geographic regions or specific demographics, anything that’s not going to come up when you do a basic platform search or when you do a search using a traditional social listening tool.
Dark social is really important because it’s where the influence happens.”
The current social media landscape
“Social media at the moment breaks down into two spheres: public and private.
On public platforms like Twitter, if an idea gets put forward then it’s very easy for people to see and often you have debate, or an argument, backwards and forwards. On private platforms you remove that. And it’s much easier for ideas that are not necessarily based on fact to pass unchecked. That’s why it’s such an influential space because it completely removes the checks and balances that you have in public debate.”
Dark social in the news cycle
“One of the most interesting and perhaps misunderstood aspects of dark social is the influence that it actually has beyond social media, beyond digital conversation.
If you look at where the news cycle is getting its stories from, a lot of those stories originate on social media. Usually their origins can be traced back to growing networks and growing conversations that are happening in the dark social space. So when a person on the street says I’m not influenced by social media and I don’t get my news from social media, actually they are. Because that network is putting stories in front of them and it’s changing the way they think and they way they act – and that’s part of the real power of what dark social has and why it’s so important to understand the conversations that are happening in that space.”
How do you identify dark social?
“The way to illuminate dark social is essentially to first of all identify discrepancies.
You want to be looking for spaces where you know conversations have happened and you know that people are sharing content, but you’re not able to immediately see it. And Signify have worked really hard to come up with a methodology that is able to illuminate that space, to feed it into the analysis and the conversations that we’re looking at.
Given the importance and influence of those conversations if you’re not able to see the whole picture, you’re going to make the wrong decisions for yourself and the wrong decisions for the people you represent. So it’s really important to have a handle on both public light spaces and also dark spaces that you can’t see.”
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