Explore dark social & how to get involved

By Tom Ferris | 21 December 2017 | Blog, Business, Expert Advice, Feature

Tom Ferris, owner of Blackwell Ferris Marketing, reveals what ‘dark social’ is – and why you need to know about it…

“It was so funny I just HAD to share it with you guys”.

“Yeah but Marc never replies in the WhatsApp group, he always lurks in the background just watching”.

This conversation really had me thinking about the new generation of teens and phone surfers that are bucking all the trends. We love to create a solid website, some shareable images and some videos, then we push it out through Instagram and our Facebook business pages; but this isn’t how the next generation of customers are doing things anymore.

I’ve been harping on a lot about how Generation Y and beyond are sharing their content off Facebook and we’ve seen the rise of Snapchat and ‘temporary’ content through Instagram Stories. This is just the more mainstream way that the ‘youth’ is sharing what they like with their friends. We forget that now – suddenly – we are the parents and we’re quickly making way for new trends that are vastly different to what we know.

I remember wanting to do things because they were ‘cool’ when I was 18/19, but what made it cool? Basically, because it was the opposite of what our parents did (or so we thought). We liked ‘new music’ and heavier or racier artists, and we boasted our favourites on hoodies, or wore tight fitting sports brands, because our parents wore baggy tops and bootleg jeans. Well. now the digital youth are bucking our trends and actually we are the ‘uncool’ parents who share our lives on Facebook.

So – now the new generation wants to share its experiences with a select group in what is being referred to as ‘Dark Social’. It sounds more sinister than it actually is. It’s merely kids taking back control on their own privacy; the privacy that we stopped caring about when ‘sharing stopped being caring’.

They’ve grown up with the internet in the palm of their hands whereas we grew up with dial up. They are so savvy that they realise immediately that when they share, they leave a footprint to be judged, punished and what could lead to future backlash. They’re protecting their own coolness and credibility with levels of privacy.

The downside to all this is while they get savvy, we as business people will have to rethink how we do digital and how we measure our successes. It’s time to turn to the dark side.

Dark social revolves around Snapchat, Instagram Stories and most importantly; email, WhatsApp and SMS, which are all avenues that are accessible for businesses like us, but we have to be very careful how we use it. So how do we get on board and make the most of Dark Social?

Make sure your content is still the same. Make it full of your personality. Make it so that it still says the same things about your business. Make it clear why they should come and see you for their nail service. All these things remain the same. The difference is that we need to be sharing in a different way and making sure everything is trackable.

“Dark social is even more important across this broader set of sites. Almost 69% of social referrals were dark! Facebook came in second at 20%. Twitter was down at 6%” 


Your first step is to get signed up to BITLY. This is a simple and (mostly) free service that allows you to take a simple web link, that you’d usually share on Facebook (for example) and allows you to a) shorten it, and b) track exactly what’s being clicked and where the traffic is coming from. This means that not only are we stepping into the realms of Dark Social but we potentially are tracking more than ever. So EVERY link you share now needs to be a bitly (or similar) link. Here’s a great example – this is bitly via my own bitly link. Confused? Just click and register! https://bitly.is/2jwYd5Y ß- CLICK!

So now you can share this and if a sneaky ‘youth’ comes along and wants to share it in their whatsapp group then you can still track it. Winning!


I bang on about this in all my marketing editorial – just keep getting to know your clients and always remember why they came to you and not another tech. I can bet you that it isn’t based on PRICE either: will be how you make them feel, plus the quality of your work. So keep building on your brand personality (aka sharing communication that sounds like YOU – its ‘real’ talk and they’ll love that) and make sure that you are sharing and communicating in the places they like to listen.

So in digital that will be simple – keep sharing amazing photographs on Instagram and Facebook. Then don’t forget the simple sharable avenues such as TEXT/SMS: Phorest and Ovatu are fantastic at SMS campaigns, and many of you will already be running those softwares to manage your booking – it really is great value for money (along with email database campaigns). Send out short and punchy messages, keep it visual and throughout all of this remember the key part:


Make the content sharable. Not just with bitly links but also make sure that it’s engaging and pushing the right products at the right time. Social, and Dark Social alike, don’t like to be SOLD TO but they do like some subtle product placement and easy going opportunities to buy.

So next time you share some really, really good examples of your VERY BEST WORK –why not bitly a link to your booking page on your website and mention they can click the link and book in for treatment ‘X’ online or ‘see our next appointment availability here’. It’s the digital equivalent of closing a sale because we have to remember that we don’t share for our egos – we share to drive more business! So linky, linky!

Once you master these short and easy tips, then you can really start to master Dark Social by pushing some of these techniques through Instagram and Facebook ad campaigns – pay to get in front of those following nail art pages in your local area, and give them a reason to click that link and consider booking with you.

Finally, go back to bitly and your sales records for the month. Have a look to see how many times someone clicked the link, and how many extra sales did you make over last year, last month, etc. Next, do some comparisons and see where the link worked well and where the sale was broken. For example: if you find that you had 100 link clicks on an ad that 1000 people saw and you make no sales on your website, then there is a blocker on your website. So perhaps its too complicated to buy? Or you’ve no appointments? But if you see an ad has 2000 views but no one clicked, then the ad wasn’t giving the best message it could, so maybe tweak that.

If you liked reading this then don’t forget to like our Facebook page for more: http://bit.ly/2y8G8Qf

Further reading on dark social: http://bit.ly/2kFpDds