How Dark Social Has Transformed The Buyers Journey scaled

Marketers have long used the three stages of the buyer’s journey to make sales. These stages include:

  1. Awareness
  2. Consideration
  3. Decision

The buyer’s journey remains an integral part of marketing, but it’s being interrupted by something called “dark social.” If you don’t know what dark social is, I highly recommend that you read our guide on dark social.

Dark social is, without going into too much detail for all of you that know what it is, a new “word-of-mouth.” 

Example of How Dark Social is Interrupting the Buyer’s Journey

Social media is a marketing behemoth with 4.6 billion users worldwide. There’s a good chance that you’re already funneling money into social media to help attract new clients and expand your reach. However, many of these users are seeing your posts and sharing them through:

  • Private messaging apps
  • Email
  • Text messages
  • Word-of-mouth
  • Other social media channels

When you’re trying to land new clients, it can be very challenging to know the source of a lead when it comes from dark social.

Why? Let me give you an example:

  • You talk about how you help businesses reduce their taxes on Facebook or Instagram.
  • Someone sees the post and thinks that their business owner friend may want to see it. 
  • They share this content on an app that has strict privacy policies or may even send them a text message about it.

While you may make a sale or have a new lead because of this share, there’s little that you can do to identify where the lead came from. It’s a form of dark social because you don’t know where the person is in the buyer’s journey or where the lead came from.

In fact, due to the trust that the person has in the person sharing the content, they may even skip the consideration phase of the buying cycle. Imagine your boss sharing a post from a SaaS company with you that she said everyone loves and you should try. You might take her word for it and go directly to the decision part of the buyer’s journey and buy it.

Additionally, someone may see your brand on social media, engage with it, and then Google your brand to schedule a call. You might see this call as direct traffic from Google, but the true starting point was when the person saw your social media post.

This is how dark social can and does interrupt the buyer’s journey.

And this type of sharing has been happening for a long time. People share content with their friends, colleagues, and others all the time. In fact, the following are a few of the top channels for this type of content sharing.

Top Channels Used in Dark Social

There are many ways people engage in dark social, but the top five methods include:

  1. Private messaging apps
  2. Social media posts
  3. Word-of-mouth 
  4. Text messages
  5. Email

Private messaging apps are by far the most popular way people share content on dark social media, coming in at 63%. We’re always going to find dark social being used as people share information among themselves.

However, there are ways that you can possibly track these shares or learn how to leverage them as part of the “new” buyer’s journey.

What to Do About Dark Social in 2023

Dark social changes the way that the buyer’s journey occurs because it’s far more difficult to track. Many of the tools that marketers use are data-driven to learn what marketing efforts are working and which are not.

Introducing dark social adds a new variable to capturing data because a direct lead may have originated from other marketing channels.

What can marketers do to adapt to these changes?

  • Look beyond conversions. Where is demand coming from? What posts or landing pages are they ending up on? Often, marketers will track conversions and ignore that demand is rising.
  • Survey customers. You should send out surveys or show a pop-up to a certain percentage of website visitors to ask how they found out about your business. Asking “how” customers found you can help determine how often dark social is used to find your company.
  • Segment your analytics. Website analytics can be segmented, using filters to exclude return traffic and other traffic sources to better understand how visitors are ending up on your site.

If you’re already spending money on marketing, you should be targeting the three stages of the buyer’s journey anyway: awareness, consideration and decision. However, you will want to switch your mindset from strictly monitoring conversions to also including demand.

Demand shows that there’s an increase in interest and traffic to your business, even if there hasn’t been a measurable difference in conversions.

For example, let’s assume that you advertise on podcasts, which are difficult to track. The advertising may not increase conversions immediately, but demand may rise and eventually lead to more sales in the future.

Influencer marketing works in the same way. 

When you market with influencers, you’re generating buzz and increasing awareness for your business. Sales may not come immediately due to the wide range of people you’re reaching, but demand may rise and eventually lead to sales in the future, even if you can’t track these leads properly.

The main change your marketing team needs to make is how you collect and analyze data. Just because you received 800 website clicks on a post that had 100,000 views doesn’t mean that people aren’t Googling your site, reaching out to you directly, or sharing your business with others on dark social.

Final Thoughts

Dark social is definitely something to address, especially when dealing with B2B decisions. Decision-makers will continue to use channels such as messaging apps to share information with others.

It’s estimated that 77.5% of shares occur on dark social.

Instead of upending your marketing campaigns and trying to change what you’re doing, you can adapt to include dark social into your processes. For example, you may want to start creating personas to begin targeting messaging, creating new types of content or sending surveys to learn how people are finding your business.

An easy way to start tracking dark social that I recommend everyone implements now is to ask upon intake of a prospect: how do you hear about us?

Curious to learn more?

Click here to schedule a meeting with us to learn more about dark social and the buyer’s journey.

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