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Dark social's popularity reflects interest in real-time sharing: report

United States consumers share twice as often on so-called dark social channels as they do on Facebook, Twitter or other well-tracked mobile sources, according to a study released by RadiumOne.

The study, co-conducted with Tpoll, found that 59 percent of content-sharing activity occurs via sources that Web analytics are unable to track, with mobile devices accounting for 36 percent of the sources. The finding suggests that marketers who fail to focus on dark social channels are overlooking a huge potential opportunity to engage millions of consumers with their pitch.

?The mobile aspect of dark social sharing reflects the ways people are shopping and sharing product information via devices,? said Eric Bader, chief marketing officer of RadiumOne, a San Francisco based advertising platform that uses data from social interactions. ?People are interacting with and sharing things that are in real-time ? revealing genuine interest and intent ? and acting when they?re close to a retail location.?

?Mobile marketers can take advantage of all this dark social sharing that?s happening in email, text messaging and IM by focusing on distributing offers, promotions and coupons and providing customer service that might make the difference in capturing a sale,? he said. ?The sharing also builds the brand because it dignifies the brands by creating an implied endorsement from the sender to their network of friends.?

Surveying users
The study, ?The Light and Dark of Social Sharing ? Harnessing the Power of Consumer Connections,? investigated the behavior of 900 million monthly online unique users of its sharing widgets and short URL software. Incorporated in the study were findings from an online social sharing survey of 9,027 consumers in North America, Britain, Europe, Australia and France, conducted by Tpoll for RadiumOne in October.

The study is the first to provide a comprehensive picture of online data sharing habits across all social networks and other messaging platforms, according to RadiumOne. 

Venturing into untracked cyberspace on mobile.

The abundance of dark social sharing contrasted with just 31 percent via Facebook and 10 percent on all other social channels combined. 

That more than a third of dark social sharing globally occurs through mobile devices illustrates mobile?s increasingly pivotal role in consumers? daily shopping and sharing habits. 
The study found that 91 percent of U.S. consumers regularly use dark social channels alongside social channels when sharing information online. Globally the figure was even higher ? 93 percent.
Twenty-seven percent of U.S. consumers only share in the dark, meaning brands with no dark social strategy in place know nothing about a more than a quarter of U.S. consumers online. The figure rises to almost a third globally (32 percent).

The topics discussed most often via dark social channels were typically more one-to-one in nature such as arts and entertainment (80 percent), careers (78 percent) and travel (78 percent).

Conversely, the topics most discussed via social channels were more one-to-many such as pets (84 percent), family and parenting (63 percent) and real estate (55 percent).

Adjusting priorities
Given the more one-to-one nature of these heavily discussed topics, marketers would be well advised to adjust their mobile advertising priorities accordingly.

Looking differently at mobile sharing.

?I think marketers should recognize the endorsement aspect of mobile sharing, which means that by nature of sharing brand information, a mobile consumer is giving a type of approval to a brand that they deem important enough to share,? Mr. Bader said. ?Marketers can create content that helps or rewards mobile consumers for sharing via mobile devices.

?One last bit of advice I would offer to mobile marketers is to provide content, offers and promotions in formats that are as shareable as possible,? he said. ?For example, promotions that are expressed in text and with as few characters as possible will be more likely to be shared via a mobile device than ones with long copy or embedded in graphic formats such as JPEGs and GIFs.?

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York.