In the last year, a lot has been written about “dark social media” — the vast majority of content sharing you’ll never see because it’s occurring through email, direct messages, texting, and other private communication channels.
In a recent post, I pointed to research that shows that as much as 70 percent of social sharing is unknown to us. And perhaps we only know 2 percent of our non-lurking audience!
This presents a real problem for marketers. Getting content to move through a loyal audience is critical to business success. A study commissioned by Google shows that your most-loyal audience is more than 250 percent more likely to transmit your content and 200 percent more likely to make purchases from your company. These engaged customers don’t just buy your products again and again, but encourage others to do it, too.
In my book, The Content Code, I describe this elite group as the Alpha Audience – fervent supporters, and a rare breed we can rely on for loyalty, ignition, and most important, action. We urgently need to find more of those people for our businesses, but if most of this powerful audience lurks in the shadows, how do we know they’re there?
Gray social media
I would like to propose today that between dark social media and light social media, there is a third category that is rich in undiscovered marketing opportunity — Gray Social Media. These are the small, still voices who are clearly telling us they’re there, but we can’t detect their quiet signals and capture the data.
This idea was prompted through a conversation I had with Avtar Ram Singh, a digital marketing manager based in Singapore and one of the keenest minds I have come across in this space. He told this story:
After working on our company blog for a while, I found great value in diving into Google Analytics to see where the traffic was coming from.
I found a little app link in there that I hadn’t seen before and noticed that every week, this place would send us between 20-50 visits. Not a lot, but they were consistently coming from this source.
I found out that this app was an internal team communication tool. So I knew there was some group out there sharing links to my blog in an environment behind a firewall. This is “dark social media” … but there was also a clue for me to know they were out there.
I did some sleuthing to check if any agencies I knew in the city used this tool. I came up empty until after several weeks, one of them said through a LinkedIn message that they used it.
It turned out this was a group of marketers who are my exact target audience — loving my content! I would have never known unless I had seen this small signal and dug in to investigate. Now that I knew who they were, I was able to form a business relationship with them.