We’ve Been Talking About Dark Social for Six Years. Here’s Why It’s More Relevant Than Ever.

everything you need to know about share of voice and how it affects dark social

As we’ve developed more and more tools to track customers’ preferences, those customers have likewise found more and more ways to evade that tracking. 

It’s no surprise, of course, that this has happened, and it should give marketers pause who’ve relied on these tools more than on creating high-value content to bring in new prospects. 

But regardless of the degree to which marketers have been relying on tracking methods, the rise in customers who are “going dark” will always present a challenge. 

That’s true now more than ever. 

Our founder, Shama Hyder, started talking about dark social back in 2016, before the rest of the marketing world acknowledged it. Over the past six years, the concept has become much more widely accepted—and for good reason. 

Just as Zen predicted, the growth in dark social sharing has been exponential. 

Many analysts estimate that about 80% of social shares are now happening via dark social—in other words, on private channels like messaging apps, email, and text. In fact, the four most popular messaging apps now have more total monthly users than the four most popular social networks.

Given this reality, how do you ensure that you’re giving people the content they want and need? How do you determine whether the shares you’re seeing accurately reflect what’s really happening? And if dark social is now so prevalent—and therefore, messing with your metrics—then what KPIs should you be focusing on to grow your brand? 

First, push content to your audience.

A whopping 98% of visitors to your website are anonymous when they arrive. 

That means there’s a strong possibility that a lot of the buyer journeys you’d like to know about are actually happening right under your nose. The hard thing to know is what brought them there in the first place. 

But it’s okay to let go of this need to know precisely where your traffic is coming from—as long as you focus on generating content (owned, earned media, and shared) and increasing your share of voice.

Why does share of voice matter? 

Share of voice is the percentage of conversation your brand owns in the market. It can also refer to the amount of advertising your brand has compared to your industry’s total amount of advertising, rendered as a percentage.

Think of this in terms of a major brand, like Kleenex. If you were a B2B buyer in charge of purchasing paper products for all your brand’s offices, Kleenex is probably the first brand that would come to mind. That’s because their advertising is everywhere, so their share of voice dwarfs that of their competitors. 

That doesn’t mean you would absolutely make your purchase with Kleenex—it would be dependent on other things like pricing, timeline, etc.—but Kleenex would certainly be present in your mind throughout your decision process and likely for any and all future paper product purchasing decisions you had to make for your brand. 

Brands that have a huge share of voice also have an ongoing presence in buyers’ minds. Think of your brain like a phone: The brands with a huge share of voice are like those apps running in the background, always on, and always easy to access. 

Increasing your share of voice requires regularly putting out great content, implementing PR campaigns to boost your reputation and backlinks, creating paid ads to bring people to your best content, and participating in thought leadership opportunities as much as possible. 

As your share of voice goes up, you’ll reap a number of benefits, including: 

  • A boost in reputation and brand trust
  • B2B SEO improvements, including an increase in the number of backlinks your brand has
  • A larger share of your market

How does share of voice affect dark social?

You may not be able to accurately determine how many people are talking about your brand on a given day—but you can determine how much space you take up in your market. The more space you take up, the more likely it is that customers will be talking about you, whether you’re aware of those conversations or not. 

If you think about it, what’s happening now isn’t much different from marketing and advertising in the pre-internet days. 

When brands made a TV commercial or bought a print ad in a publication, there was no way to tell if potential customers were talking about the ad at work or with their friends or colleagues. Today, we have more information at our fingertips, which is partly why not knowing feels so difficult for marketers. We’ve gotten used to being able to track every interaction, mention, and engagement. 

But while much of dark social will always remain in the dark, there are certain tools you can use to glean some information: 

  • Use link shorteners, like bit.ly, because these allow you to track those links across the internet.
  • Emphasize your social sharing buttons by making them easy to find on your website and each piece of owned content (blog posts, articles, etc.). Sharing via these buttons is trackable, so you want to make it as easy as possible to do so. 
  • Add UTM codes to specific links you want to track. These codes make it easier for Google to track those links. 
  • Use dark social tracking tools, like GetSocial, Po.St, and AddThis. 

The answer to dark social? PR.

When so many shares, conversations, and interactions about your brand are happening in a place where you can’t see them, you can’t rely on the same tools and metrics. 

Instead of focusing on click-through rates and social engagement, shift some of those resources toward increasing your share of voice. The best way to do this is through a comprehensive PR campaign—one that invests in not just traditional opportunities, like features and mentions, but also podcasts, LinkedIn fireside chats, live streams, and more. 

Ready to get started? Get in touch! 


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