We’ve been hearing about this whole “dark social” trend for quite a while now.
After all, the concept of texting and private messaging isn’t exactly new.
But, recent statistics and trend lines have me thinking 2019 may be the year we start to see “dark social” truly start to impact social media marketing plans.
For starters, there’s this trend line:
Then, you look at the huge growth in Facebook Messenger over the last few years:
And then you see this insane growth curve for WhatsApp:
Clearly, private messaging is taking off as a primary way for people to communicate on their phones (and, to an extent, online in general).
At the same time, engagement levels are plummeting on Facebook, down by 50% since 2017, according to some reports:
We know engagement levels are down (for brands) on Twitter, too (and have been for years).
What about Instagram, you say? Yes, let’s look at Instagram. Let’s look at the direction they’re going: Investing heavily in Stories and direct messaging (both “private” for the most part, when it comes to engagement). Many of the new features added recently revolve around these two areas–poll sticker, slider stickers, polling via DM. These are the areas Instagram is focused on–not the public-facing feed as much.
Really, it boils down to this:
- Public engagement levels are leveling off or decreasing on major social networks (with the notable exception of Instagram)
- Social media marketing, in general, is shifting heavily towards advertising–this is where most brands are investing and seeing results.
- Meanwhile, most people are spending much more time communicating with friends and family via private messages across social platforms.
That’s a much different picture from where we were just a few years ago. And, I think it’s about to impact brand social media marketing in the year ahead.
If I were leading social for a mid-sized to large company, here’s what I’d be asking myself heading into 2019:
What does this shift mean for my social media advertising plans in 2019? Should I boost my budget and take advantage of the ever-increasing targeting capabilities of Facebook and Insta? Or, ratchet back and use that budget to better figure out what to do with “dark social?”
Do I start to adjust expectations with internal stakeholders re: engagements? Should engagements even be a key metric anymore?
Should I explore the possibility of using more automation to respond to more inbound private messages? Should I look at chatbots more closely? How to I better automate customer service via social media?
What do I do about organic social media? Do I care? Does this impact my content strategy and generation? In other words, should I invest in less content instead of attempting to produce more? With public engagement numbers sliding, this bears serious consideration.
Is now the time to double-down on an employee social advocacy program? With brand feeds generating less engagement, and personal accounts generating more, it seems like the time.