The rise of marketing through private sharing channels

Facebook has become, and is, a channel of mass reach. It has changed over the last number of years as its newsfeed is geared more to Facebook’s commercial revenue streams. It is still, however, a public sharing channel. People don’t necessarily want their social networks to see everything they share. Sharing is private and context driven. Although Facebook allows for this, people have adopted the likes of Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat, SMS and email as the primary channels for their private sharing online.

As a result these social platforms generate huge traffic for websites, but this traffic is difficult to track with traditional web analytics. We, at MediaCom, wanted to find out what is different about peoples’ behaviours in these channels and learn more about the type of content that Irish people shared in private groups online. In partnership with RadiumOne using their Irish data and further analysis from our own primary research we pulled the following key learnings;

  • Private sharing allows for full reach targeting through social media, as it covers more channels than the traditional mix of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
  • 4 out of the top 5 channels for sharing online content are private communication channels (Email, WhatsApp, Text/iMessage, Facebook Messenger)
  • Private sharing has more potential to generate peer-to-peer WOM, both before and after purchases.
  • As Facebook’s younger population declines, private sharing makes it easier to reach unique audiences.
  • Likewise, it facilitates online campaigns targeted to older audiences given their preference of use of email.
  • The type of content being shared greatly influences where people share it. RadiumOne internal data shows that across 16 content sharing categories, 73% is shared via private (dark social) channels. It is highest for Education and Personal Finance, whereas Arts & Entertainment and Home & Garden content is shared via a mix of public and private platforms.

For Irish advertisers tagging and monitoring traffic from these sources is becoming less murky, and we’ve seen many of these channels start to be commercialised. As a result marketing through private sharing channels should be a more regular feature of advertising plans from now and into the future.

Some easy places to start;

  • Test & learn
  • Include referral tags (UTM codes or parameters) in all your own posting when using private sharing channels – typically copied and pasted links do not automatically include tracking tags in these channels (unless the shared link was copied with a tag included).
  • Review the direct traffic to your website for links without UTM parameters
  • Use shortened URLs for outbound links of your content.
  • Prioritise social share buttons on your website.
  • Link blog post titles to external content and webpages.
  • Use ‘dark social’ tools or partners to track traffic origins and their outcomes.

Ian McGrath, Managing Director, MediaCom Ireland:

For Irish advertisers, tagging and monitoring traffic from these dark social sources is becoming less murky, and we’ve seen many of these channels start to be commercialised. As a result, marketing through private sharing channels should be a more regular feature of a brand’s advertising and media strategy.

Vicky Shekleton, Planning and Insights Manager, MediaCom Ireland:

This study highlights that we need to think beyond Facebook when considering what content drives conversation and sharing. We now know that users share and consume different content across different private and public channels and there is an opportunity to differentiate marketing messages for these channels too. Generic AV copy may work on reach social media like Facebook but wouldn’t generate the same impact on dark social channels.

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