EDMAs 2021

'Dark social' apps are where people share the most content

Tyrone Stewart

People mobile smartphone laptop tabletThe majority of content sharing happens on private messaging apps with over 60 per cent of internet users in the UK and US now sharing content and recommendations via the apps ahead of open social media platforms and word of mouth.

According to a survey of 3,000 UK and US internet users aged 16 to 64, conducted by GlobalWebIndex and We Are Social, ‘dark social’ apps are used by 63 per cent of people to share content. This was followed social media platforms are used by 54 per cent of people and word of mouth at 51 per cent. Meanwhile, other ‘dark’ channels are used by 48 per cent and SMS and email by 37 per cent.

 “This shift in consumer behaviour underlines how much marketing now comes through social media, and specifically dark social,” said André van Loon, research and insight director at We Are Social. “Brands can have a big above the line push, but when it comes to consumers actually talking about the brands they like, the things they want to do or buy, and following others’ recommendations, more and more of that now happens in private apps and by sharing links. Increasingly, marketers will need to be sure to target and optimise their content so that heavy-lifting ATL awareness campaigns run at the same time as easy-to-share digital content, which consumers will then be free to use and discuss in their own time.”

When looking at specific private messaging platforms, it was found that 82 per cent of people use Facebook Messenger – making it the most popular dark social app. WhatsApp is used by 56 per cent, Instagram Direct 34 per cent, and Snapchat 32 per cent.

Entertainment, including music and film, was found to be the most popular type of content shared over dark social (51 per cent). Games (48 per cent), clothing (47 per cent), electronics (46 per cent), food and drink items (42 per cent), and travel (41 per cent) followed.

“What’s clear is that social media engagement is shifting, and this presents as much of an opportunity as a challenge to brands,” said Chase Buckle, trends manage at GlobalWebIndex. “As public social media platforms increasingly fulfil the role of content consumption sources, private messaging platforms are now where meaningful conversations and recommendations are taking place between peers actively engaging with each other. Sharing content with a large friend network accrued over many years may have impressive reach, but it doesn’t compare to the private messaging environment which is a lot more conducive of trust in recommendations.”