The PR BlogDigital PRData-Driven PRDark Social: The Online Interaction We Can’t See

Dark Social: The Online Interaction We Can’t See

How can we measure what we can’t see?

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

Dark social is an essen­tial shar­ing factor — but it’s hidden.

Alexis Madrigal, a seni­or edit­or at The Atlantic, coined what might prove to be a very much-dis­cussed term amongst social media nat­ur­als for some time to come:

Behold the dark social of online sharing.

Here we go:

Dark Social: What We Can’t Measure

Dark Social

We’re impressed with the shar­ing num­bers from vari­ous social net­works, includ­ing Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. 

But how much is socially shared bey­ond meas­ure, bey­ond what we can see? How much is shared via email, instant mes­sages and dir­ect mes­sages? How much is shared on darknets, BBS net­works and untrace­able forums? 

According to Alexis Madrigal, seni­or edit­or at The Atlantic, quite a lot.

Dark Social Diagram
Most of the shar­ing takes place on dark social.

Here’s a tl;dr sum­mary of dark social from The Atlantic:

1. The shar­ing you see on sites like Facebook and Twitter is the tip of the ‘social’ ice­berg. We are impressed by its scale because it’s easy to meas­ure.

2. But most shar­ing is done via dark social means like email and IM which are dif­fi­cult to meas­ure.

3. According to new data on many media sites, 69% of social refer­rals came from dark social. 20% came from Facebook.

4. Facebook and Twitter do shift the paradigm from private shar­ing to open pub­lish­ing. They struc­ture, archive, and mon­et­ize your publications.”

When cal­cu­lat­ing reach num­bers for your PR cam­paigns, are you tak­ing dark social into account? 

Read also: Dark Social: The Online Interaction We Can’t See

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Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing it with oth­er PR- and com­mu­nic­a­tion pro­fes­sion­als. For ques­tions or PR sup­port, con­tact me via jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

PR Resource: Types of Social Objects

Types of Social Objects

To map word-of-mouth for dif­fer­ent PR activ­it­ies, I’m pro­pos­ing a spe­cif­ic clas­si­fic­a­tion of social object types. 

Social object = what people talk about with each oth­er. A social object could be a thing, a per­son, an event, a concept, an idea etc.

Since Elon Musk has become such a vir­tu­oso at gen­er­at­ing word-of-mouth, I’m using him and his vari­ous endeav­ours to explain each type of social object.

Elon Musk
Makes people talk.

Types of social objects:

1. Curiosity Objects. Is your PR object a curi­os­ity worthy of get­ting people to talk about it with each other?

Have you heard about Elon Musk send­ing a Tesla Roadster into space?”

2. Fear Objects. Is your PR object reflect­ing a fear or anxi­ety not­able enough to get people talk­ing about it with each other?

Have you heard how Elon Musk isn’t expect­ing every­one on the first Mars exped­i­tion to survive?”

3. Gap Objects. Is your PR object filling some form of a gap that will make it easi­er for people to talk about the object with each other? 

Have you heard about Elon Musk launch­ing Neuralink to con­nect human brains with technology?”

4. Mystery Objects. Is your PR object stim­u­lat­ing con­ver­sa­tion between people due to its intriguing nature?

Have you heard about Elon Musk sleep­ing on the floor in one of his Tesla factories?”

5. Inspirational Objects. Is your PR object enough of a gen­er­al interest mile­stone or inspir­a­tion to get people talk­ing to each oth­er about it? 

Have you heard about Elon Musk build­ing a whole city, Solar City, based on renew­able energy?”

6. Envy Objects. Is your PR object reflect­ing some­thing that will make people talk to each oth­er about ambi­tions and aspirations?

Have you heard about Elon Musk being nearly broke but still man­aging to build incred­ible companies?”

7. Conflict Objects. Is your PR object part of a rel­ev­ant con­flict that engages people enough to dis­cuss it with each other?

Have you heard about Elon Musk tak­ing on the whole car industry with his elec­tric Teslas?”

8. Ego Objects. Is your PR object usable as a token of self-iden­ti­fic­a­tion when talk­ing to others?

Have you heard about Elon Musk prac­tising First Principle thinking?”

9. Anger Objects. Is your PR object pro­voc­at­ive enough to evoke an emo­tion­al response worthy of dis­cuss­ing with oth­er people?

Have you heard about Elon Musk smoking weed on the Joe Rogan podcast?”

Learn more: 9 Types of Social Objects and How To Use Them for PR

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PR Resource: Social Media PR Issues

List of Social Media Issues

Examples of Social Media PR Issues

Social media isn’t all sun­shine and rain­bows. With massive change come new types of issues we must deal with.

Here are a few examples of social media issues:

  • Bot accounts
  • Filter bubbles (social media algorithms)
  • The silent switch
  • Echo cham­bers
  • Ghost fol­low­ers
  • Dark social
  • Cyberbullying
  • Online trolls
  • Online hate
  • Polarisation
  • Electoral tam­per­ing
  • Fake news and altern­at­ive facts
  • Conspiracy the­or­ies
  • National pro­pa­ganda and disinformation
  • Government sur­veil­lance
  • Cyber ter­ror­ism
  • Facebook zero
  • Spam
  • The cul­ture war
  • The use­ful idi­ot syndrome
  • Online fraud
  • Online wan­nabeism
  • The copy­right mafia
  • De-plat­form­ing
  • Cancel cul­ture
  • Techlash
  • The splin­ter­net
  • Paywalls (journ­al­ism)
  • Clickbait journ­al­ism
  • Social media fakers
  • Fear of screen time
  • Mental health issues
  • Programmatic brain­wash­ing
  • Information over­load
  • Filter fail­ure
  • Deepfakes

Read also: Social Media: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

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PR Resource: How To Measure Attitudes

How to Measure Public Relations - Doctor Spin
How to meas­ure pub­lic relations.

How To Measure Attitudes in PR

How do you meas­ure atti­tudes? There are a few things to think about to get your meas­ure­ment right. 1Educational Communications and Technology. (2001, August 3). 34.5 Measuring Attitudes. The Handbook of Research for Educational Communications and Technology. … Continue read­ing

An atti­tude meas­ure­ment should meet the fol­low­ing criteria:

  • Valid
  • Reliable
  • Simple to Administer, Explain, and Understand
  • Replicable

There are four main types of atti­tude meas­ure­ment approaches:

  • Self-Reporting
  • Reports of Others
  • Internal Reporting (Sociometric Reporting)
  • Records

There are four main types of atti­tude meas­ure­ment methods:

  • Questionnaires and Rating Scales
  • Interviews
  • Reports (Logs, Journals, Diaries etc.)
  • Observations

I’m a big fan of using ques­tion­naires and stand­ard­ised inter­views for PR measurements:

Validity. Attitudes are psy­cho­lo­gic­al, so I strive to cla­ri­fy what I want to meas­ure, noth­ing more, noth­ing less. And I nev­er add any unne­ces­sary complexity.

Reliability. People exper­i­ence the world dif­fer­ently. But even if atti­tude meas­ure­ments aren’t exact, their use­ful­ness for PR more than makes up for it.

Learn more: How To Measure Public Relations

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PR Resource: The Golden Rule of Measuring PR

The Golden Rule of Measuring PR

Your choice of KPIs (key per­form­ance indic­at­ors) for PR will impact your organ­isa­tion more than the actu­al meas­ure­ment res­ults ever will.

If an organ­isa­tion focuses on the wrong met­rics, it might estab­lish, main­tain, or devel­op the wrong long-term rela­tion­ships. 2The insight is based on 18+ years of prac­tic­al con­sult­ing exper­i­ence.

What gets meas­ured, gets done.”
— Peter Drucker

Learn more: The Golden Rule of Measuring PR

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ANNOTATIONS
ANNOTATIONS
1 Educational Communications and Technology. (2001, August 3). 34.5 Measuring Attitudes. The Handbook of Research for Educational Communications and Technology. https://​mem​bers​.aect​.org/​e​d​t​e​c​h​/​e​d​1​/​3​4​/34 – 05.html
2 The insight is based on 18+ years of prac­tic­al con­sult­ing experience.
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Cover Photo

The cover photo has nothing to do with public relations, of course. I share for no other reason that I happen to enjoy photography. Call it an “ornamental distraction”—and a subtle reminder to appreciate nature.

The cover photo has

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