Dark Social: Emperor's New Clothes Or Huge Olympic Opportunity?

Is it just me or is anyone else wondering why brands should get excited by sharing on dark social? After all, it's sharing where people aren't telling brands they're being shared and probably only want their friends to have access to the message. So it's beyond me why this presents a big opportunity for brands. Or am i missing something?

A case in point is new research from RadiumOne that talks up the power of sharing for both Olympic sponsors and other brands with an association to sport. With just two weeks to go until Rio, the researchers claim that six in ten Brits will be sharing Olympic content, primarily over mobile and usually around the sports a person likes, new records and major news of medal victories. No surprises there, but here comes the rub -- three-quarters of this sharing activity is in dark social. It's happening between friends on messaging systems or forums that are not open to the wider public. 

So for a sponsor that has the ability to be in the frame of a picture, such as Adidas's logo on kits, or to be generating content that might later be shared in open and dark social scenarios, you can see there is potentially an opportunity. Of course, the sponsor will be unlikely to find out how well its content has been shared if it swaps hands through dark social, but it can at least presume the picture congratulating a Team GB medal win, for example, has been well distributed. Still guesswork, though, right?

For non sponsors, however, I really don't get it. The researchers behind this latest study claim that brands could be missing out. Evans Cycles, for example, could be a part of what will hopefully be good news for Team GB coming out of the velodrome. But how, exactly? Sure it can congratulate and share official news stories about great performances, i get that. But it can't associate itself directly with the games in the way Adidas and Muller can, as official sponsors. 

It could just be me, but I just see a little bit of the Emperor's Clothes whenever people talk up dark social because ultimately if someone has shared a piece of content with their WhatsApp buddies, isn't that the way it should stay, between them? Quite how brands expect to muscle in on this unless they can originate the content in the first place is beyond me -- and even then, how would they be able to prove the content was a hit and their social strategy paid off?

Social has been plagued by flimsy metrics for too long. Does it really need another bit of guesswork that doesn't even mention likes and emojis but speculates content had twice the reach that was measured because it was probably widely enjoyed where it can't be tracked?

Sorry guys, it might just be me, but I'm not convinced. You?

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