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The Impact of Dark Social on Influencer Marketing

The landscape of social media has undergone a massive transformation since my initiation with Facebook back in 2005 with under 6 million users on the platform.

Back then, “social” and “media” were somewhat intertwined. Nowadays, things operate a bit differently.

Publicly, we consume “media,” but our social interactions occur in the private sphere. This divergence holds significant implications for influencer marketing and customer engagement strategies.

Public engagement with your content is no longer a deeply dependable metric for effectiveness.

Welcome to the era of “dark social”, where traditional markers of success in social media marketing, such as likes and comments, no longer provide a comprehensive understanding of what resonates with and influence your audience.

Understanding Dark Social

Think about your own consumption of “social” and “media”.

Do you comment on posts you consume?

Do you always engage/like?

Are you more likely to send an article to a coworker on Slack?

Maybe a meme to a friend on Instagram via DM?

Or a Reel to your sister on WhatsApp or iMessage?

The answers to these questions should bring a bit of an “a-ha” moment.

The predominant app on virtually every person’s phone today is a messenger app, whether it be WhatsApp, iMessage, Slack, or IG DMs.

We still do engage publicly, but not nearly to the same degree as we used to. These changes in behavior on social media also mean a change in how we measure influencer marketing success across the board.

So now what?

The focus should shift towards a few things:

  1. Consumption: more consumption drives more conversions. Remember, consumption is a form of engagement, just in private.
  2. UTM Tags: If your influencer ‘refuses’ to use them, I’d take a second to think about the influencer I’m partnered with. UTM tags bring transparency to both parties and allow the brand to view consumer behavior, indication of interest through page visits, and so on. It also allows the influencer to understand what drives buying decisions for their audience so they can adjust creative for conversions over time.

It’s incredibly important to understand how to navigate and respond to the shift in how consumers use social.

This knowledge will be the key differentiator between brands that remain relevant and those that risk becoming obsolete.

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