I don't have a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out), but
when one of my Instagram friends posted a screenshot from Drake's
new video last October, I needed to see it. Right away. That's when
the hunt began.
First, I went to Vevo's channel on YouTube. No dice. Where was
it? I went back to where I started, and Drake's Instagram indicated
that the video was available on Apple Music. Instinctively, I
shared the link with my WhatsApp group.
The next day, "Hotline Bling" memes exploded online, and the
video was all over my Facebook newsfeed. Everyone knew about it by
This example illustrates the difference between dark social
(harder-to-find content) and light social (more popular channels
like Facebook), and how brands can use dark social to reach
Everybody's got a dark
side There's a difference between content shared on
dark social vs. light social. This was poignantly displayed in a
project by Belgian artist Dries Depoorter. In an exhibit he named
"Tinder In," Depoorter juxtaposed LinkedIn and Tinder profile
pictures to show how people choose to represent themselves on each
platform. As you would expect, there was often a big difference
between the two. Facebook Jane may be very different than Tinder
This is because online social media spheres tend to mimic
offline friendship/audience groups. The smaller the circle gets,
the more people reveal. According to the Total Youth Mobile Report,
92% of millennials will only share information on Snapchat with
close friends. Facebook and Twitter are for public curation, while
Snapchat is a narrower sharing medium intended for semi-private
communication. Why only semi-private? Because once a snap is posted
for anyone to see, it becomes light. The most private sharing
channels are WhatsApp, Tinder or the messaging functions of
Facebook (Messenger) and Instagram.
Differentiating dark and light
content Some brands may want to create content for
both light and dark channels. While generic messages for an energy
drink can run on light broadcast social, for example, imagine how
the product might be positioned on a dating app.
Fully integrating dark social messaging with a light approach is
always a good strategy. While Coca-Cola ran its "Naughty or Nice"
campaign on Tinder last Christmas, it cast a wider net by
highlighting select swiping activity on broader channels.Dark
social also provides an opportunity to create some exclusivity
among dedicated followers. Content should match the channel (and
its users) to create stronger connections. For dark media to be
fully effective, we need to match it to the right content, rather
than copying the same asset across channels.
Content as currency:
Tribecasting "Tribecasting" is the art of stoking
interest among a core group of fans early in the process. It
involves giving followers bespoke content that is often raunchier
or more honest than what eventually appears on Facebook.
By playing on people's desire to be the first to know and share
information -- thereby using exclusive access to validate their
informal ranking as the best-connected person in their networks --
they're driven to find out more.
In the olden days (about five years ago), discovering a new song
was easy and convenient, because it was everywhere. Music releases
were meant to build huge awareness. As a result, some believe the
business made it too easy to take the actual product -- the video
-- for granted.
That was not the case with Drake's video. There was nothing to
be found, which made it obvious that I had to find it. But I didn't
want to just broadcast it on Facebook; I needed to be the one to
share it among WhatsApp friends who are genuinely into Drake and
Rihanna's Samsung-sponsored launch of her new album and "Anti"
world tour also triggered a social hunt. Both the artist and
company dropped crumbs of clues before publishing the actual link
that led fans to everything "Anti."
Drake's and Rihanna's campaigns both drove content discovery and
advocacy, rather than massive awareness. Their fans carried the
music to the mainstream, where -- rather than going from 0 to 60 --
consumers had already had their curiosity tweaked just a bit.
What else can be done in the
dark? When marketers and their agencies come up
with a "big idea," perhaps we should regard the idea as the plot of
a story that the media and consumers ultimately write. This means
that as media agencies, we should include both the content asset as
well as new forms of dark social distribution, including:
-Exclusive content experiences
-First release channels
-Content differentiation (light vs. dark)
-Not everything stays in the dark
What was verboten yesterday could become acceptable tomorrow.
Consequently, not all dark social topics stay that way. As some
sensitive topics approach critical mass, more and more related
content gets published. Conversations about new topics then take
place in the dark, and the process begins again.
The truth is that people have an appetite for the taboo, and a
lot of brands can use it to bolster their own fortunes.
Article originally published in Advertising Age "Digital Next" on
June 9, 2016.
Jox Petizais a Content Strategist and Storyteller hailing
from the Philippines, she previously worked at MediaCom Malaysia.
Jox is one of the first graduates of the Cannes Young Lions Media
Academy 2013 and was a country representative at the Cannes Lions
Young Media Competition 2014 where her Real #FOMO (Fear of Missing
Out) proposal pitched to Sense International, a global charity for
the deafblind, was implemented worldwide. She has been recognized
with awards including the Cereal Partners Worldwide- Asia: Regional
Excellence Awards and WPP Team P&G 2014 Rising Star Award.