Almost Timely News, 14 August 2022: Velvet Rope Communities and Dark Social

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Almost Timely News, 14 August 2022: Velvet Rope Communities and Dark Social (8/14) :: View in Browser

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Almost Timely News, 14 August 2022: Velvet Rope Communities and Dark Social

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What’s On My Mind: Where’s the Conversation?

Two things came together in my head this week. The first was a friend on Facebook lamenting that the good old days – when people had real conversations and communities on public social media – seemed to be a thing of the past. They were hearkening back to the early days of Twitter when it was more like a large bar, and you could just strike up or join conversations with anyone.

The second thing was looking at the data around all things pumpkin spice for a Trust Insights blog post I’m working on. One of the things that came up was a pumpkin spice squishmallow, and the category of squishmallows in general. I dug around to find what this thing was – a stuffed animal made with a specific type of memory foam – and where you could get one. The primary vendor, Target, has been sold out of them since their announcement. Yet when I searched public social media using Talkwalker, I found only a few thousand conversations over the last 13 months.

As a benchmark, generally speaking a few thousand conversations is not nearly enough volume to cause a retail store to be sold out of the item. So I jumped into a few Discord communities I’m a member of and started looking around and asking around. Yes, they’re a thing. One conversation thread said they’re basically the new Beanie Babies. Another thread talked about how they’re good for folks with anxiety. A third thread was a long, long listing of what people had, wanted, and were willing to trade.

The trend is happening on social media. It’s just on social media we can’t see.

We’ve talked for a while – probably close to a decade now – about dark social media. This is social media that occurs in private conversations. In the early days of dark social, these were group chats in Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, etc. – conversations that were happening behind closed doors. But now, with the rise of insanely popular services like Slack and Discord, millions of conversations are occurring out of the public eye among thousands, even hundreds of thousands of people.

What’s more, because of the way Slack and Discord earn revenue – per user fees and/or server fees – there’s no advertising, no adtech, no way for marketers to even know what’s going on inside these communities except to join them and have a look for themselves.

This is the new dark social – rich, vibrant conversations that are out of the public eye, out of reach to marketers at scale, out of the ability for us to monetize them and for anyone to effectively monitor them without expending massive resources to do so. Whether it’s a group chat on Snapchat, a Telegram channel, an OnlyFans community… the reality is that our audiences (and us, if we’re honest) are tired of every conversational space being invaded by marketing. On every Discord community I’m a member of, there’s almost always a rule against spamming – which Discord folks interpret as ANY FORM OF MARKETING – that can result in your account being kicked and banned on the first offense. I help moderate one community, and that exact definition – any marketing at all – is the precondition for giving someone the boot.

Even in our Slack community, Analytics for Marketers, we prohibit self promotion except in the designated self promotion channel (hey, we know we’re all marketers). Think about that for a second. Even the marketers don’t want marketing invading their community without constraints.

Step back and look at the big picture. Governments around the world are enforcing stronger and stronger privacy initiatives. Public social media has become all about performance, not conversation – it’s no surprise that channels like TikTok have taken off. We love the performances, the entertainment, etc. but we don’t have conversations there. In fact, we – as people, not marketers – generally go out of our way to NOT read the comments in public forums. And private social media is where the conversations are, where marketers aren’t allowed to be marketers except under limited circumstances.

Communities behind closed doors – I call them velvet rope communities – are where influence happens now, because it’s where conversation and persuasion happens now. So what should you do as a marketer if you want to keep generating results? Two things. First, join relevant communities for your own personal interests – NOT WORK RELATED – and lurk. Watch, observe, study, and learn how velvet rope communities work. Then, once you’ve got the hang of it, start to participate as a person, not a marketer. After you’ve spent a few months learning how to be a valued member of a community, you’re ready to start your own.

It has become cliche in marketing to talk about “being more human”, but the reality is that very few marketers do so. Take these steps to join private social media communities, velvet rope communities, around the interests you have as a person, as a human, and you may well unlock the secrets you need to know to make your marketing actually more human.

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ICYMI: In Case You Missed it

Besides the new Google Analytics 4 course I’m relentlessly promoting (sorry not sorry), I would recommend the episode of So What? we did this week on how to launch a book.

Skill Up With Classes

These are just a few of the classes I have available over at the Trust Insights website that you can take.



Get Back to Work!

Folks who post jobs in the free Analytics for Marketers Slack community may have those jobs shared here, too. If you’re looking for work, check out these five most recent open positions, and check out the Slack group for the comprehensive list.

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What I’m Reading: Your Stuff

Let’s look at the most interesting content from around the web on topics you care about, some of which you might have even written.

Social Media Marketing

Media and Content

SEO, Google, and Paid Media

Advertisement: Catch My Upcoming Free Webinar!

Marketing performance and data analysis are attached at the hip. Collecting and analyzing that data correctly empowers you to take action, produce tangible results, and drive revenue across your entire organization.

In our upcoming webinar, Bringing out the humanity in your marketing data, I’ll walk you through the process of data analysis, and how to use that data to deliver on the promise of amazing content experiences for everyone.

Join Siteimprove CMO Kevin Bobowski and me for more on:

  • The data analysis process as a marketer (including the tech, people, and other elements involved)
  • Whether your current analytics tool is cutting it – or even giving you the right information
  • Ways to get more out of the data you collect

Click/tap here to register »

Tools, Machine Learning, and AI

Analytics, Stats, and Data Science

All Things IBM

Advertisement: Ukraine Humanitarian Fund

If you’d like to support humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, the Ukrainian government has set up a special portal, United24, to help make contributing easy. The effort to free Ukraine from Russia’s illegal invasion needs our ongoing support.

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Events I’ll Be At

Here’s where I’m speaking and attending. Say hi if you’re at an event also:

Events marked with a physical location may become virtual if conditions and safety warrant it.

If you’re an event organizer, let me help your event shine. Visit my speaking page for more details.

Can’t be at an event? Stop by my private Slack group instead, Analytics for Marketers.

How to Stay in Touch

Let’s make sure we’re connected in the places it suits you best. Here’s where you can find different content:

Required Disclosures

Events with links have purchased sponsorships in this newsletter and as a result, I receive direct financial compensation for promoting them.

Advertisements in this newsletter have paid to be promoted, and as a result, I receive direct financial compensation for promoting them.

My company, Trust Insights, maintains business partnerships with companies including, but not limited to, IBM, Cisco Systems, Amazon, Talkwalker, MarketingProfs, MarketMuse, Agorapulse, Hubspot, Informa, Demandbase, The Marketing AI Institute, and others. While links shared from partners are not explicit endorsements, nor do they directly financially benefit Trust Insights, a commercial relationship exists for which Trust Insights may receive indirect financial benefit, and thus I may receive indirect financial benefit from them as well.

Thank You!

Thanks for subscribing and reading this far. I appreciate it. As always, thank you for your support, your attention, and your kindness.

See you next week,

Christopher S. Penn

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