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3 Industries Where Dark Social Will Dominate in 2022

By Megan Wells

How many times have you opened Netflix or Amazon Prime Video and cringed at the suggestions in your feed? You’re faced with a stream of content you don’t want to watch, never expressed interest in, and can’t fathom why the app considers it a good fit for you. And when that happens, how often do you text a friend or share it in a chat group, rather than reject the suggestions one by one in the app?


Delivering a personalized customer experience—the right way—is more important than ever. An Accenture survey found that 91% of respondents are more likely to do business with brands that remember, recognize, and provide relevant recommendations. But as in our above scenario, personalization sometimes misses the mark. And much of the feedback on such experiences happen over private channels.


This is the challenge brands face due to the rise of dark social. Key parts of the customer journey take place in email or social messaging apps—where traditional analytics platforms lose coverage—and create holes in your understanding of what your users are doing. While this can affect any business, it has an outsized impact on three particular industries that heavily rely on customer insights and data.


Read on to learn how dark social will dominate telecom, SaaS, and media in 2022, and how your brand can adapt.


  1. 1. Telecom

Gaining a competitive advantage in telecom is incredibly difficult. Core services—like internet, mobile, and cable—are homogeneous across companies, and prices for equivalent plans are often similar. Thus, delivering an above-average customer experience is far and away your best chance to stand out.


However, dark social creates some new unique challenges for telecom brands looking to improve their CX:


  • Accurate and consistent NPS: Improving NPS is already a key challenge for telecom companies, but dark social adds an extra layer of complexity. Users share opinions and recommendations via private channels more than ever. Given the importance people place on word-of-mouth feedback, losing visibility into how your customers describe your brand and services is a glaring blind spot. For example, imagine if a provider like Verizon had a 5G service interruption during the month of June—when many students graduate from high schools and universities. Imagine the number of individuals messaging their loved ones (or attempting to) and complaining about the poor service. This kind of customer feedback gets lost in dark social—making it hard for companies to get a truly accurate NPS.


  • Complaints and resolution: Every one of us has a horror story about dealing with customer support. Whether it’s a technical issue or a billing mistake, it can take multiple calls to get things resolved, not to mention repeating information and getting increasingly frustrated. When it’s hard to fix a problem, customers often turn to private channels to complain. Or even worse, to other providers—Gartner research found that 96% of customers who exerted high effort during customer support reported being disloyal, compared to only 9% when their experience was low-effort and relatively easy to navigate.


  • Customer retention: Customer retention is a big problem for telecom. On average, 20% of your users are looking to leave for a competitor. Dark social exacerbates this, as you may not know a customer is dissatisfied until they’re canceling their service. Competitors could be delivering enticing promos via text, email, or social media, but without the ability to track, you won’t know until it’s too late.


Although dark social presents challenges, improving both data collection and rapid access to reporting is critical to delivering a better CX. By combining powerful real-time analytics and targeted messaging, Comcast was able to still leverage customer insights for better experiences: 


  • Achieve a 97% on-time rate for technician appointments.
  • Receive 11.3 million fewer support calls. 
  • Reach a positive NPS.


  1. 2. SaaS

For SaaS companies, real-time usage feedback is critical to product development, feature releases, and performance. The SaaS market is lucrative, with multi-million-dollar contracts and long-term commitments being the norm. But if your product is inefficient or doesn’t keep pace with competitors, your customers can and will move on.


Tracking user behavior is more challenging as private-messaging platforms become further ingrained in companies’ internal workflows. In fact, 91% of companies use at least two messaging apps, which further complicates tracking customer journeys and sentiments under the guise of social media. This impacts two key areas for SaaS brands:


  • Product adoption: The rate at which users integrate your service into their daily routines is an essential KPI for any SaaS brand. But the rise of apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams obscure a lot of tracking. For example, a user might create a landing page using your product, send it to colleagues for review via Teams, and then pass it on to developers for comment via Slack. Every time the link gets passed through a private chat, your analytics loses coverage, causing a blind spot in the customer journey and can misrepresent overall product usage metrics.


  • Ongoing performance: Whatever market your product serves, you rely on user activity data to guide product development. Real-time analytics can help spot pain points, but when the traffic comes from dark social, you lose context and skew metrics. If you notice users falling out of the usual journey at a given point but can’t determine why, you’ll have to resort to trial and error to address it. For example, a Canva user might be having trouble with a certain design feature when attempting to create an ad design. Whether it’s an internal glitch or lack of product knowledge, that user may resort to asking a colleague on Slack for help. That feedback—user difficulty and/or a product glitch—is critical information to improve product performance, but such an insight gets lost in dark social.


Understanding exactly how customers use a SaaS platform is critical to guiding both short-term and long-term decisions. With the help of real-time and comprehensive analytics, Asana:


  • Runs over 8,000 queries per week on their behavioral data.
  • Quickly discovers actionable insights that guide both product development and organizational planning.
  • Leverages event-driven analytics to monitor and improve security and system reliability.


  1. 3. Media

Media companies rely heavily on social media metrics to guide their strategy. Reach, user engagement, sharing, and page views are all key indicators that your content is—whether it’s a video, article, or interactive gallery—hitting the mark. But what happens when users share and discuss your content via private channels?


Dark social is affecting media companies in two critical ways:


  • Shared content: Understanding how content gets shared is a vital component of measuring its success. When users hit ‘Share’ on Facebook or use your website’s social sharing plugin, it’s easy to track. But when they copy and paste a URL to post in a private chat, you lose visibility into the origin of the traffic. GlobalWebIndex estimates that 63% of consumers share content via private messaging apps—more than any other channel—that’s a big chunk of your traffic. If you can’t properly track what content is resonating with your audience, it can be a challenge to optimize the right content.


  • Personalization: As we noted, personalized content is key in today’s digital marketing landscape. Going back to our earlier example of media recommendations, the average Netflix user will lose interest after 60 to 90 seconds of browsing and abandon the platform. While Netflix can track the event of browsing unsuccessfully and leaving the app, they lose coverage of what the user does next, whether it’s complaining to their friends or launching Hulu. Capturing those complaints and feedback is of high value for a company like Netflix, since they could leverage those insights to improve their recommendation algorithm.


Having blindspots to your customers’ preferences and desires is a surefire way to lose users. For this reason, media companies need to know what content users are consuming and sharing, and they can’t wait weeks to find out. And while there’s no magic fix to tracking dark social (yet), brands can leverage real-time analytics tools to bridge the gap. With real-time analytics, Bleacher Report


  • Reduced their time-to-insights by 95%. 
  • Gained rapid access and granular visibility into what content users consumed on their app and website. 
  • Increased conversion rates by identifying pain points in the customer onboarding process.

Solving for dark social with Scuba

How can these industries overcome the challenges of dark social and capture the data and metrics they’ve been missing?


Tools like link shorteners and UTM codes can add traceability. Dark social segments in analytics provide more insight into traffic sources. And social sharing tools give your users a trackable way of sharing content. Even so, you need a way to put all the pieces together. 


That’s where Scuba can help—and has helped brands like Comcast, Asana, and Bleacher Report


Scuba’s customer intelligence platform helps brands shine a light on the nooks and crannies of dark social:


  • Easily and quickly ingest all of your company’s disparate data streams into a single location.
  • Delve into every touchpoint of the customer journey, no matter where it happens. 
  • Seamlessly move between high-level summaries and granular analysis.
  • Quickly run complex no-code queries without the help of tech teams.
  • Get up-to-the-moment insights with real-time analytics dashboards.
  • Configure alerts and integration capabilities to bring friction points to your attention and rapidly optimize your brand's marketing.
  • Keep your brand's customer data safe with industry-leading security and privacy certifications.

Learn more about how Scuba can help illuminate your customers’ dark social usage—request a demo today or talk to a Scuba expert.

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