How to Implement Dark Social in Your Influencer Marketing Efforts



Brands have not yet come to realize the massive potential of dark social in marketing.


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You have heard about influencer marketing, and how it’s quickly gaining popularity. But did you know that you can maximize the results of your influencer marketing campaign by leveraging dark social?

The term “dark social” is being tossed around by marketers more often these days. In spite of this, dark social as a marketing technique still remains vastly unexplored and underutilized.

Brands have not yet come to realize the massive potential of dark social in marketing. It accounts for 84% of the total outbound sharing, according to RadiumOne.

What is Dark Social?

So, what exactly is dark social? In simplest terms, dark social is the act of sharing content over private channels like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and email.

Links and content shared through these channels cannot be traced by any web analytics tool. On the other hand, the links shared over public channels such as Facebook or Twitter are trackable. Therefore, the amount of traffic generated through dark social goes unmeasured.

Florian Alt, global brand communications senior director for Adidas, says that dark social carries 70% of global brand referrals. This suggests that brands can easily gain plenty of traction when people mention them in private messages with their friends.

A lot of people use instant messaging platforms and email for communication. A massive amount of content is also shared through them. We have all shared some kind of content through these mediums, whether it’s an article, a video, or a website link.

Now that you know what dark social is, we can now discuss how it can be used in influencer marketing. In this post, you’ll learn three of the best ways to boost your influencer marketing campaigns using dark social.

Influencer marketing has reached new heights, and there is a lot of data to prove this. For instance, there’s an increase of more than 325% in search queries about influencer marketing on Google.

The previously-cited RadiumOne study also found that dark social accounts for 84% of consumers’ sharing activity.

These two stats show that both influencer marketing and dark social are on the rise. It would indeed be a winning combination for a brand that’s trying to create awareness and increase sales. Here are some tips and ideas to help you combine your influencer marketing campaigns with dark social:

Connect Over WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or Line

So who do you generally talk to over a private messaging platform? People, you trust, right? It can be someone in your family, a friend, or someone you know or feel safe with.

Since you trust these people, you will hardly hesitate when they send you a link and ask you to check it out. For example, if they send you a link to a YouTube video like in the following screenshot, you are highly likely to check it out. If the link had come from a random person whom you never talk with or who seems suspiciously like a scammer or a bot, you will have a completely opposite reaction.

Influencer Marketing

This is where influencers can leverage dark social to spread awareness amongst their followers. Influencers are highly trusted individuals. And their opinions on things in their respective niches can influence the buying decisions of their followers. So when an influencer sends a link to your articles or product pages to their followers through a messaging service, there’s a good chance that link is going to get a lot of opens.

As you already know, there are both big influencers and smaller ones. Most micro-influencers have a higher engagement rate because they engage with their followers on a more personal level. So anyone can be an influencer; all they need is passion in a particular subject so they can establish an expertise in said subject. For example, there may be a person who qualifies as a micro-influencer among a friend group or a group of colleagues mainly because of their interest and knowledge in a certain subject.

It would be a good idea for brands to activate groups of micro-influencers such as these, which are relevant to their industry for their influencer marketing campaign. Use tools like Grin to discover relevant and highly engaged micro-influencers to partner with. You can have the influencers spread the word for your brand through dark social apps like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.

There is more potential for a private conversation because it involves people who share a connection. or who at least engage on a personal level. So what the micro-influencers share with the group can become a topic of conversation. You could also try working with Socialpeeks to organize a micro-influencer marketing campaign using dark social.

The micro-influencers can try to start a conversation around the topic and talk about how your product or service has impacted them. They can ask their friends or colleagues to share their thoughts about the product or service, and maybe even answer their questions in a conversational manner. This type of conversation may even compel many people in the group to take the desired action – whether it’s to visit your site, subscribe to your newsletter, or buy your product.

Adidas launched Tango Squad in 2016 to add a new dimension to their influencer marketing strategy. It involved communities of highly connected football fans and content creators within the age group 16 – 19 years old. The members of the groups are super active on platforms like Facebook Messenger, Line, and WhatsApp.

The following screenshot was taken from a tweet by Mischief PR, a public relations and social agency.

Influencer Marketing

You can follow this same tactic and create a Whatsapp, Line, or Facebook Messenger group in which micro-influencers and their followers can connect with each other. Promote the existence of the group with your followers so they too can join and talk to micro-influencers whom they look up to.

Sending Emails

Emails are still very much part of the communication mix, even in this era of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. A major chunk of the communication today continues to be carried out through email. While businesses can track the traffic coming from the emails they send out, they have no way to track the traffic coming from emails sent out by other people.

Suppose you come across a nice article while randomly browsing the web. And you want to share it with a select group of people personally. At the same time, you do not want it to get lost in a long trail of messages on a messenger. So you email the link to them. Congratulations, you’ve just participated in a dark social sharing.

The same procedure can be used in influencer marketing. Influencers might be using emails to share links to their latest blog posts and YouTube tutorials with their subscribers. To help you promote your content or your products and service, they can help share your link via email.

A lot of their audience members may not be active on social media frequently. But those people are likely to follow links sent to them via email if they came from someone they trust. And if they find the information valuable, they too will likely forward that link to others on their email lists.

Like Facebook, Twitter, and any other social networking channel, accessing email on mobile phones has also become easier. So an email from a known contact, particularly an influencer whom they admire, will not go unnoticed.

Email shares have become so common that you can find email share buttons on many websites. These share buttons are as prominent on the websites as the social share buttons and can help you track the share activity on your content. You should consider including an email share button along with your social share buttons so you can better keep track of how people are sharing your blog posts.

The screenshot below shows a blog post on Right below the headline, there are three small share buttons — the last of which is an email share button.

Influencer Marketing

Time, Inc. discovered an interesting fact about how the content on the Marie Claire website is being shared. It got nearly 19,000 shares as users chose to copy paste text from the website and email it to friends.

It was a whopping figure against the meager 5,000 shares on Facebook and Twitter, another RadiumOne report stated. Since then they’ve added an email share button to make it easier to share through email.

Connect Using Snapchat

Snapchat is one of the most popular personal messaging platforms. 45% of Snapchat users in the US are between 18 to 24 years old. And Snapchat videos get more than 10 billion views per day.

So this messaging app can become the next big platform for influencer marketing if used properly.

Some marketers have not yet realized its full potential, and Snapchat remains an unexplored territory to them. You can gain leverage over them by using the platform to launch your influencer marketing campaign. Influencers can engage with their audiences through Snapchat in several ways.

Use Geofilters

Geofilters are an innovative way to let people know where you are in your snaps. These creative overlays can be used by influencers for building brand awareness.

For example, you can ask your influencer to attend an event organized by your company. They can use Snapchat geofilters on the snaps they take at the event. This will let their followers know that they have attended your event.

So your brand will get more exposure as more people learn about it through Snapchat. The event can be anything from a meet-your-favorite-influencer to a Q/A event. It could even be a product launch event or a luncheon organized just for influencers.

Likewise, if you own a restaurant, you can invite your influencers to share snaps of their experience at your establishment. The geofilters on them will let their audience know where the snap was taken and what they were up to.

Influencer Marketing

Launch an Influencer Takeover

An influencer takeover of a brand’s Snapchat account is also a very effective way to engage with their audience.

A takeover means allowing an influencer to use your Snapchat account for a given time period. But make sure the takeover has a definite purpose such as a product launch or a company announcement. I’ve discussed this topic more thoroughly in my post about increasing social media engagement.

You could also use the takeover to raise awareness about an event or provide followers with valuable information. For example, PopSugar, a lifestyle website, has influencer Hannah Bronfman host a weekly takeover. She tries out new exercise regimens and beauty products during these takeovers. The following screenshot shows a tweet by the influencer announcing the Snapchat takeover to her Twitter followers.

Influencer Marketing

Unboxing Campaign

Unboxing campaigns are also becoming popular on Snapchat. Influencers can use unboxing videos to reveal something that they recently purchased or a gift that has been sent to them by brands.

It is a very popular way to offer something exciting to their followers and share the experience with them.

Influencers can introduce your new range of products to their followers through unboxing snap videos. They can also reveal the products that they purchased recently from a brand following the same method.

The following screenshot shows Rebecca Kelsey Sampson, unboxing two boxes from Owlcrate and LEAF Urban.

Influencer Marketing

Influencer Marketing

She has also shared her Snap code below to enable users to find her on Snapchat. Rebecca has a follower base of 12,000 on YouTube.


Although dark social is untraceable, there are still a few tools which can shed some light on its performance. Bitly and Owly are link shorteners that can help you better understand how many clicks your link is receiving. But this works only if you are using a tracking URL.

You can also track your dark social shares through GetSocial. The tool helps to measure the shares that take place over tablet, mobile devices, and desktop.

If you really want to reach out to an untapped audience who prefer to communicate over private messengers, leveraging influencers using dark social is the perfect solution.

If you have any questions, or killer dark social tips for influencer marketing, please share them in the comments below.

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