Could Dark Social Be The Lynchpin For Making Digital Display Actually Work?

It's exciting times as The 6 Nations rugby tournament kicks off this weekend. It's particularly interesting, new research suggests, for those who are adept at tracking their content being shared across so-called "dark social." That's private messaging, member forums and emails and pretty much any type of sharing other than the tip of the iceberg carried out in public on a Facebook wall or Twitter feed.

Radiumone research suggests roughly four fifths of content is shared on "dark" channels, compared to a fifth in plain view on public sites. That means during The 6 Nations rugby content will be engaged with 2.1m times on public social media and 7.7m times in "dark" social. The idea is that if a brand can leave a cookie on a desktop or store a device ID for a mobile browser, they can target digital display far more effectively. The company uses the example of The Jockey Club, which ran a display campaign among people who had interacted with its horse racing content several times in the 90 days running up to The Cheltenham Festival. It claims to have achieved a ROI of 12:1 on ticket sales through targeting the 3.5m most engaged "dark" sharers.

For those not in the know, by the way, The 6 Nations is the annual tournament between the three mainland "home" nations, Ireland, France and Italy. It's an attractive audience to tap into for the very obvious reason all us Brits already accept. Rugby is the game for the better off -- certainly among spectators, anyway. That means that they, on average, earn 20% more, and nearly three in four will be from the AB demographic. 

What Radiumone are now finding is that clued-up brands are using tech to note when their content is shared and then compiling a list of those sharing it. Just to be clear, these are not personal IDs -- these are cookies or device IDs that recognise the piece of machinery, not the owner's identity. With that list compiled, programmatic display can be given a huge boost by offering brands the opportunity to bid on media that will appear in front of someone they already know is interested in their content. Again, they don't know who the person is, so they can't be emailed or messaged directly, but if you were organising a digital display campaign, don't you think it would make a lot of sense to prioritise those people you don't know anything about, other than they are already interested in your content?

What is also really interesting about this is that publishers, such as Time, are using the technology to sell advertising packages around a bunch of new categories that would have been missed if only public sharing were considered. And just as interesting, people seeking sponsorship, such as cycling's Team Sky, are using the technology to prove their worth to potential suitors. Not only do you get your name "here," but you get far better-informed display campaigns, thanks to data on who has been sharing the team's content in dark social.

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