Why Universal Says Dark Social Is The Future

Article tiré de adnews.com.au.

Dark social and the massive volume of sharing about brands and of content under the radar

 

Universal Music’s marketing director Nathan Thompson thinks the long flirt brands have had with social networks like Facebook and Twitter for building communities will last but a few years.

Already Universal in the UK has turned much of its attention to dark social and the massive volume of sharing about brands and of content that is happening under the radar via email, text and instant messaging. Universal’s Australian arm is following suit.

The latest study from RadiumOne of 900 million globally connected devices shows dark social dwarfs the volume of sharing on social media platforms by 3 to 1. But the hype around social platforms has been massive because they are so visible and make it far easier to measure and monitor sharing activity than what people do away from the public spotlight.

Like Universal, many brands are now realising the utopian notion evangalised by social media pundits that building communities outside of paid advertising via social media platforms will perhaps not be the holy grail many predicted.

Facebook, particularly, is changing its algorithms to significantly dial down organic social reach for brands to Facebook’s userbase. And that means brands have to rethink the engagement game with fans, customers and prospects. Facebook will remain a powerful, segmented audience and customer reach channel. But increasingly it looks like it will be another paid advertising medium.

“The days are over in terms of Facebook being a great place to speak to people without having to spend too much,” says Thompson. “It’s almost going back to the days before Facebook. When Facebook launched it pretty much made brand websites redundant. Why would you need a website when you could do it all on Facebook? But it’s pretty much becoming too difficult to do that so it puts the onus on having your own properties, your own websites. The fans you have, the conversations you make – Facebook doesn’t own the data and you can have an earnest one-on-one conversation with your friends and no-one can control that or own that data except you. It’s really come back around to having your own entities.”
One of the concerns Thompson has about Facebook now is an artist can no longer add a direct link in a post to iTunes or other online music stores to buy a track.

Thompson is convinced, for now, that using dark social strategies is a better alternative and the results so far are strong.
To capture what people are sharing off the public social networks, Universal wraps its content from music artists in a shortened “po.st” URL from RadiumOne which allows the music label to follow how users are sharing and to whom.

The company then serves online display and pre-roll video ads to those users across a network of online publishers with specific ad messages for an artist Universal knows those individuals are interested in from their dark social sharing activities.

“Dark social is incredibly powerful and it’s called dark for a reason because it is going on outside your mainstream social sharing platforms,” Thompson says.

“You need to be in that space really because Facebook is getting harder and harder. They are transitioning to a fully paid channel so you are paying for every engagement on that network. Dark social is still a big opportunity. It hasn’t been fully commercialised like Facebook. When you share something with 20 of your friends off the social platforms it’s incredibly powerful. It’s just that nobody sees it.”

Thompson acknowledges most of the industry debate and fervour for five years has been around social media platforms but sentiment is shifting.

“It’s been all the talk because it’s relatively new and much easier to measure,” he says. “I think you’ll find in five years time it will be old news and everyone will be concentrating on dark social. Record labels have traditionally never been very good at talking to music lovers and consumers of music. In the past we really relied on the retailers to do that job for us.”

Not any more. But Thompson admits being a marketer in the music industry is easier than other sectors.

“I am extremely lucky to work in music because people are interested in what we do and fans are willing to share and talk about an artist they believe in,” he says. “We are probably a bit lazy compared to other brands because we don’t have to pay people to talk about our product. They will do it themselves if they believe in it.”

 

Paul McIntyre