Youngest consumers twice as active on 'dark' social.

01 December 2017 / Brían Taylor

Gen Z post twice as often on dark social in comparison to traditional social feeds such as Facebook, Jaywing have found in their most recent report. Jaywing commissioned research into 1,000 individuals in the UK aged between 16-21 in collaboration with YouGov. The main findings are available to download free in report ‘Nine Questions Brands Want to Ask about Gen Z – Answered’.


‘Dark’ social is a term that encompasses all social activity that can’t be accurately tracked (Econsultancy). It poses a significant challenge to modern marketers aiming to analyse the ROI of their marketing activities, as it leaves a big question mark over just what’s happening with the content after it disappears into the shadows. The Drum estimate that up to 87% of shared traffic is now done via dark social channels; once the content link is copied and pasted into a messaging app, the referral tags are lost, and the information regarding traffic source is lost (The Drum).


It follows that ‘light’ social consists of those channels we can accurately measure behaviour, traffic flow and ROI from. Examples include display adverts, general website traffic, Facebook adverts, internal link clicks and twitter traffic posts.


Generation Z* have contributed to the growth in popularity of dark social channels. Encrypted messaging applications and image sharing channels allow users to directly relay valuable content to friends and contacts without broadcasting to an audience. Generation Z are typified by their usage of these direct messaging applications, with the most popular being Snapchat - accounting for 14% of total daily app time - and Messaging apps, accounting for 19% of total daily time (below).



There are an array of studies estimating the quantity of time Gen Z spend daily on mobile social. GlobalWebIndex found a conservative average of 4h10 for 16-20 year olds in 2017, whereas Jaywing data was more indicative of approximately 6 hours a day. Regardless, Gen Z are the first generation to spend more time on their mobile than any other online device (GlobalWebIndex).


Jaywing’s research uncovered that Gen Z generally divided their time equally between dark and light channels in their daily mobile use. The interesting point is that whilst the time divided between using light and dark apps was more or less equal, Z claimed to post twice as frequently on their dark channels as on light (below). 


This indicates that Z are consciously selective about what they post on social and where. 43% update their private channels at least once a day, whereas only 21% update their 'light' channels daily. Z are creating more content on dark social, and consuming more content through more conventional social channels like Facebook and YouTube. 


How can brands overcome the dark social problem? Whilst there are currently no totally failsafe ways to detect content performance through dark social, what brands CAN do is focus on improving measures that we can see, as they’re likely to be echoed on dark social. For example, negative sentiment being played out over twitter is more than likely being mirrored privately in direct messages between peers.


Secondly, you can utilise your known metrics for share and brand noise to gain insight into the probability of ‘immeasurable’ noise. Dark social should be a part of your earned reach ROI and inform decisions on how much organic content is worthy of investment. 

To read more about Jaywing’s Generation Z findings, download the full report here.


*‘Gen Z’ in this article refers to the 16-21 population surveyed by Jaywing and YouGov in July 2017 and reported on in Nine Questions Brand Marketers want to ask Gen Z: Answered.