One of the biggest differences between traditional marketing and dark social marketing is your audience. Dark social isn’t a discovery channel like the public social media channels tend to be. It’s a platform for building unbreakable bonds with an interested and receptive audience.

With dark social, your audience knows (and likes) you. They wouldn’t be part of your community and they wouldn’t interact with your direct messages if they didn’t. So, you can get into the details and talk to them on a deeper and more intimate level. Like you know them, and they know you.

With traditional marketing, a broader, blanket approach works better because you don’t know if the people you’re targeting know who you are or what you do.

General marketing works best for building brand awareness. And dark social works best for strengthening relationships.

There’s no doubt that dark social is a powerful platform.

But how do you harness its power, when dark social media is a no-marketing zone?

Dark Social Media Tip #1: Turn Up and Show Up

“We may not be invited to the party when they’re first going into Discord or other dark social channels. But hopefully, if we’re able to focus on building relationships and having those one-to-one connections, we will eventually get invited to those conversations.” (Jessika Phillips)

The only way to secure an invite to a dark social party is to accept that dark social is a slow burner. We have to focus on the long term and do whatever we can to build trust and rapport over time.

We must prove that we’re one of the good guys.

We need to offer exceptional customer service. We need to produce valuable content. We need to contribute to, and be seen on, other public channels. We need to provide customers with amazing new experiences.

We need to show up. Every. Time.

“The content that we put out, the value that we bring, the way we handle our customer service, and how we handle conversations in the social space are all elements that are going to help us in the dark social of the world.” (Jessika Phillips)

Dark Social Media Tip #2: Build a Solid Community

“Building a community where your fans and customers can go to converse and ask questions is where you get all the insights and your information.” (Azad Yakatally)

Building a community where your audience can talk freely, share experiences, discuss issues, and help and support each other is like winning the marketing jackpot. This tight-knit group of people will give you access to the deepest insights into customer behavior, likes, dislikes, and industry trends. (You can sign up for a free trial of Agorapulse and dig into said insights right now.)

All this juicy intel can inform future marketing decisions and strategies.

Not only does a close community give you the chance to gather important information about your customers, but it also gives you the opportunity to build rapport and strengthen relationships with your target audience:

  • Jump into chats.
  • Participate in discussions.
  • Ask questions, and take conversations offline, or onto other channels.

Warning: Do not show up in the community as Martin the marketer. (More on this later.)

A community-building case study

Christopher Penn started a Slack community in 2018. It now has over 3,000 members. How did he grow it, and how is he benefiting from this community?

“Anyone is welcome to join our Slack community. There’s a public invite link, but we make it clear that Google, Facebook, and all the other ad tech companies can’t join or see in here. It’s a safe space for our members.

“This community allows us to stay in touch with prospective customers, actual customers, people who might become customers, and people who are just fans. And it is so impactful for our business.

“A lot of prospective customers are in this community, and it’s super-easy to just DM them on Slack and say, ‘Hey, did you look at that proposal we sent over last week?’

“Also, because we’re the community administrators, we can extract the raw data and run our own analytics on it and establish what topics people are talking about.

“We also use it as a focus group. We often run polls and quizzes and ask people what they think, and whether they’re using this, that, or the other thing.

“Our community allows us to figure out our customers in ways that public social media just won’t let us do, because there’s too much noise.

“You don’t know what people care about unless you can see what they’re talking about.”

Dark Social Media Tip #3: Act like a Human, Not a Marketer

“You cannot behave like a marketer if you want any of your work in dark social to be successful.” (Christopher Penn)

Do you plan and execute a new campaign every time you want to hang out with your friends or family?

No. (That would be weird … )

It would also be weird if you planned and executed a marketing campaign for dark social, especially within a community.

Dark social is a space that people escape to that gets them away from the barrage of ads, sales pitches, slogans, offers, promises, emails, and general marketing noise.


Whether you’re conversing within a community or sending messages to your audience via private messaging apps, you need to be relatable, authentic, and truthful to your audience.

If they even get the faintest sniff that you’re trying to sell them something, you will lose your audience. They’ll see straight through it and switch straight off.

“You’re not a brand. You are a human being. You are an individual person, and you have to interact with the rest of the community as an individual.” (Christopher Penn)

You have to talk in your own voice, not in your brand’s voice. People resonate with people, not corporations.

Want to see how Agorapulse can help you with your dark social strategy? Sign up now for a free trial.

Three Ways to Harness the Power of Dark Social Media