01.04.2018 Customer Loyalty

Customer Loyalty in the Dark Social : How-To Tips

Customer Loyalty in the Dark Social : How-To Tips
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We have been writing about Social Media, Inbound Marketing and Customer Loyalty. Let's have a look today specifically on (using) WhatsApp.

Although we use WhatsApp as our Business Case Example since almost everybody is using it, all things mentioned here are applicable for any other Dark Social setup.

But, what is Dark Social?
Have you shared an article/ URL (maybe one of our own?) with WhatsApp? Or with an email?

Then…. Congratulations! You have been an active element in the “Dark Social.”

The term “dark social” was coined in 2012 Alexis Madrigal at the Atlantic Magazine ( ) Madrigal loosely defines Dark Social as all social traffic that is essentially invisible to most analytics programs. Basically Dark Social is when we do share any kind of content through private channels such as any Instant Messaging platforms (Yahoo Messenger for example) or messaging apps (like WhatsApp or Viber) and email.

This kind of genuine private sharing is harder to detect and track than the usual content that is shared on public platforms such as Facebook and Twitter,

According to estimates, Dark Social is accountable for about 84% of all outbound sharing (source this 2016 report

Strangely enough, so many Social Media Marketers, do not realize how big of a slice the Dark Social has (of the whole Social Media sharing pie).

So, the obvious question is: can you harness it for your business? Here’s everything you need to know.

Dark Social Traffic Channels
We have all shared and are sharing articles / photos/ videos/ songs one-on-one through a means other than the classic Social Media.

The most common dark social traffic channels are:

  • Email of course — to protect users’ privacy, referrers aren’t shared
  • Messaging Apps & Platforms — such as Facebook Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, WhatsApp, etc… (too many to mention them all)
  • Native Mobile Apps — Facebook, Instagram,and some dating Apps
  • Secure Browsing—If you click/move from secure https browsing -> to http or if you are using Tor, the referrer won’t be passed on

Basically, Dark Social describes any web traffic cannot be attributed to a known source, such as a social network or a Google search. Referral traffic is usually identified by certain “ids/ -tags” attached to the link whenever a URL is shared. The mechanics of this are beyond the scope of this article.

Dark Social links, do not contain referrer data. Whenever you copy and paste a URL into an email or instant message, or even share via classic SMS no tag is automatically attach to your sharing (ok… to be honest, if you were to copy the URL of an article that you originally found on Twitter, including the UTM parameters attached to it, you will have ‘included’ tagging).

Is the Dark Social measurable?
Hmmmm… Yes and No. There are tools that you can buy, but none of them is 100% accurate at present. The simplest thing/ trick you can do at the moment is to use abbreviated URLs (like for example) and get some analytics is that option is offered to you (usually at a fee).

Why WhatsApp as a case for Dark Social Marketing.

WhatsApp has been growing in leaps and bounds:

  • In 2015, WhatsApp had 1 billion monthly users who...
  • ...Who (the users) exchanged 42 billion messages
  • ....and 1.6 billion photos a day.
  • The WhatsApp platform supports 53 languages, which makes it a powerful marketing tool.

If as a business- owner or entrepreneur, you haven’t considered WhatsApp Marketing its time to start reviewing your marketing plan. Constant communication with your clients is the key to brand awareness and delight. Now, before you run off to create a WhatsApp platform for your business, there are certain key- things which you must consider. Most business- owners and entrepreneurs usually hit these pitfall therefore they get to clear these thorny issues out of the way, before instituting a WhatsApp marketing platform/campaign.

Successful WhatsApp Marketing Campaigns

  • The limited edition Absolut Unique (Vodka) Campaign in Argentina - In order to attend Absolut’s party, people had to try to convince Steve (a character created by the brand) to include them on the guest list. They had to send photos, text messages, audios and all kinds of content as creative as possible, via WhatsApp chat. The result was a total success - please watch this:
  • The Toyota Company in 2012 had the brilliant idea to take advantage of one of the functions of Whatsapp to promote their proposal through a contest. To participate, people should have put the word “Hybridized” in their Whatsapp Status. So, every week from October 25 until November 28 of that year, an iPhone 5 was raffled among users who registered on the website of the company and met the slogan. As a result, Toyota was in the mouth of thousands of users and managed to interest entire segments of its audience for weeks.

Btw, this is what their campaign looked like:

  • Whatsapp has a 70% opening rate, which means you are almost guaranteed exposure of your message if your customer is on whatsapp with you. Leveraging this, Banco Santander Bank has created Open Bank, a whatsapp customer service number where you can chat with the bank, post queries, solve issues. In a test pilot done with 17000 customers, 99% of consumers found the service very useful and 98% said they would continue to use it

6 Tips for Dark Social Marketing
Again, please have WhatsApp in mind, but these apply to any Dark Social area.

#1 Have a Unified Brand Message

It is imperative that your display photo has a clean and clear picture of something that represents your brand. Therefore ideally, your WhatsApp image must have a photo of the business- logo. If as a small business you don’t have a logo yet, images of what you do should be used as the display picture so that when a conversation is initiated or a message is sent, it could help a potential or existing customer to easily identify your business.

For example, a 2nd-hand car- dealer whose business does not have a logo, can use an image or a collage of the dominant car brands for which his core customers know him for. Likewise, a hairdresser can have images of neatly coiffured hair. The ‘Status’ portion of WhatsApp also gives you the opportunity to introduce your business. ‘Use that space effectively’.

#2 Content
Your WhatsApp marketing content must not only consistently talk about your brand promise and how it solves problems. If that is what the customer constantly receives, they might get bored easily and not bother looking at messages when you send them. Therefore your content must be a mix of new product offerings, special offers and discounts, insights into your business and experiences of other customers etc.

Basically, do please research further into the term ‘Branded Contentand find ingenious ways you and your team can create branded content which does not get stale easily. Research by social media analytics firm Social Bakers shows that people interact better with images and videos therefore you can find images that better communicate your brands promise and integrate it to the marketing effort but all things in moderation. Sending a pointless 60mb video which is poorly edited does not help anyone.

#3 Sign your Messages
Your content has to be signed in order for clients to know where the message is coming from. Especially when your brand is not easily recognizable for your display photos. Details of the signature can include your name, the full name of the business, what you do and where it is located. This feeds into the first point of having a unified brand.

#4 Have a Dedicated Phone for WhatsApp Marketing Purposes

To eliminate the chances of sending unintended private messages to your clients, it is important to have a dedicated phone for your WhatsApp marketing purposes.

#5 Ask for permission before adding a client to a group

This point cannot be overemphasized, there will be 'die hard' customers of your product who might request you to form a group for them to share their experiences and joys of using your product. When that happens, please celebrate because it one of biggest opportunities your clients have given you. But in your excitement, be mindful!

Add only customers who explicitly requested to be part of the group. There have been cases where business owners have created large WhatsApp groups of their customers only to see them leave the group one person after the other in just a day.

Do not let this happen to you; be mindful of adding people to the group. Having 10 people who are your number 1 fans is better than adding 50 people out of which 25 leave and the remaining 25 do not leave out of respect for your business and they do not interact nor contribute to the group.

#6 Schedule your messages

There must be strict time- limits to the content/ messages you share with your clients.

For example: sending branded content to a customer at 11 pm is rather inappropriate, regardless of the business you are into. When you are not sure about the time to send messages, stick to the normal time- frame, when most businesses are supposed to be open (which is usually between 9am to 5pm) unless your customer specifically tell you to contact them at any time.

WhatsApp Marketing Limitations?

  1. If you create a Broadcast List, you can only include 255 contacts.
  2. If you create a Group, you can not be ‘missing’ when users ask you questions.
  3. You should pick-up your calls. And that can be overwhelming.
  4. You need to constantly provide high quality content.
  5. Although Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014, there is no way yet, you could create marketing campaigns or any kind of advertising actions, like it is possible on Facebook.

In Conclusion
As Madrigal pointed out, “There’s no way to game email or people’s instant messages. There’s no power users you can contact. There’s no algorithms to understand.”

And of course, the best way to ensure your content gets shared is to create interesting, informative, original material. Content is the King.

Thank you and Good Luck .
Kwaku and Spiros
About the authors:
Kwaku Abedi and Spiros Tsaltas are both PRincipals at HireLoyalty ( - based in Accra, the only Loyalty PR company in West Africa that Consults (How-To), Measures (Test-To) and Trains (Learn-To) in anything relating to Customer Loyalty and Loyalty PR.

As a NED (Non-Executive Director), Spiros is also associated with HIREghana ( ) and he can be hired via them (+233 50 228 5155).

They welcome all your comments/ remarks/ feedback /suggestions at PRess [at] HireLoyalty can be reached at +233 20 741 3060 or +233 26 835 2026

© 2018 Kweku Abedi & Spiros Tsaltas and © 2018 HireLoyalty

Kwaku  Abedi & Spiros Tsaltas
Kwaku Abedi & Spiros Tsaltas

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