A staggering 84% of all content sharing in the UK takes place across ‘dark social’ channels, such as email, IM and text, where web analytics programmes aren’t able to provide measurement.

RadiumOne researched the behaviours of 940 million users for the study, finding over three quarters (77%) of content shared via smartphones taking place via private dark social channels.

Additionally, when it comes to engaging with shared content, some 80% of mobile clickbacks happen via these channels, with a huge impact on mobile publishers coming as a potential result.

Too big to ignore

According to RadiumOne, the past year and a half has seen the rate of shares on dark social channels rise from 69% to 84% globally, far outpacing those on public social, such as Tweets and Facebook posts.

The group’s European managing director, Rupert Staines, called dark social a “big piece of the sharing universe”, which holds potentially powerful data on consumer interest and intent for those that are able to tap into it.

Mobile is dominating this trend; 82% of sharing on smartphones happens outside of public social networks. In a world where mobile traffic is inches away from desktop traffic, this could be a crucial piece of information for marketers’ strategies.

“The opportunity for brands is to track, gather and activate these valuable signals to connect their owned and earned media investments with paid media effectiveness,” commented Staines.

Lacking knowledge

Currently, however, this is not reflected in marketing strategies. According to the ‘2016 CMO Survey’, marketers invest just 10% of their budgets on social media and plan to double the spend over the next five years.

Staines believes such investment ‘disconnect’ occurs as a result of lacking knowledge around how to make best use of dark social channels, while brands are struggling to keep up with the “fast pace” of consumers.

“However, brands can harness sharing technology to allow them to take a channel and platform agnostic approach to keeping up with consumers,” he said.

Staines adds that this can be partly achieved via sharing widgets around articles. These could be URL link shorteners, buttons linking to a social media page or any tool enabling site visitors to comment, tweet, likes etc. across platforms. 

“What most marketers miss is that these ‘buttons’ capture online behaviour that generates hugely valuable audience insight about what people share and engage with, who with, on what devices, and how often.

“What’s particularly valuable here is the ‘hand raisers’ who share content which leads to a valuable additional layer of audience,” he explained.

“People who share and receive content via these means can, subsequently, be targeted with relevant messages across the web – whatever sites they may be visiting.”