Dark Employer Branding Is More Powerful Than You Could Ever Imagine

Dark employer branding sounds sinister, doesn’t it?

If you’re an SF fan, you might think of the dark side; Darth Vader and the ‘evil’ side of the Force.

It’s not that sinister, actually.

If you’ve been in digital marketing, you might think of blackhat SEO and the often unethical ways of gaming search engines in order to promote websites.

Noup, I’m not talking about anything unethical.

If you’ve worked in social media marketing, you might be the closes.

Yes, I’m talking about dark social.

Dark social is a term used by marketers to describe digital platforms whose referrals are difficult to track, but is mostly used in social media marketing to describe the social media communication taking place inside messenger applications such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat and others that isn’t as visible or trackable as posts on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

The term was first coined by American journalist Alexis Madrigal in the article ‘Dark Social: We have the whole of the web wrong‘ in the Atlantic.

Of course you can make posts on these social networks private, but most people don’t.

Instead, they communicate one on one or in smaller groups through messenger apps.

A study on social sharing in 2019 found out that 63% of people prefer to share content and recommendations through ‘dark’ private messaging apps.

This has been an important trend in social media marketing for brands for a couple of years, but it’s even more important for employer branding.

While we are outspoken about product experiences and brands on social media, we tend to be far more private in terms of work experiences.

When we talk about dark social in the context of employer branding, let’s call it dark employer branding:

Social shares that do not contain any digital referral information about the source, that directly impact the perception of an employer brand.

In our context, dark employer branding might be a perspective employee discussing how your job advert isn’t sincere with your ex-employee, an exchange you’ll never be aware of because it happened on WhatsApp.

Dark employer branding, like dark social, doesn’t mean it’s inherently bad. It just can’t be tracked.

Proactive Uses of Dark Social

However, great employer branding professionals know how to use dark social to their advantage, by encouraging team members to share content with their networks on a peer-to-peer level.

Instead of sharing a post on how your company is using new technologies to a industry Facebook group, a team member shares it to a smaller, more focused and more valuable group of their peers that might – in the future – considering applying for a job.

Back in the day, I would send relevant articles from Netokracija to colleagues in the industry who might find them valuable. They felt flattered because I sent them the links directly and felt obligated to read if not share them.

It’s the same reason why sharing to a focused Facebook group works better than sharing from most company Facebook pages – there’s more trust.

How to Encourage Your Team to Share Through Dark Social

Explain to your team leaders as well as team members that by sharing to just a few folks, they could create awareness of the great things your company is doing and boost your employer brand in a few Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or LinkedIn messages. Remember:

  • Suggest the platforms they are most comfortable sharing directly to peers: It can be LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, email or SMS. It really doesn’t matter as long as the platform is something they usually use;
  • Keep the point of sharing to get the word out to the industry and community about the great things you are doing in your company. It’s not about pitching peers to apply for a job, it’s about getting feedback and sharing insights;
  • If your team members are still hesistant, it might not be them, but the quality of the employer branding content. Try to get feedback on why they aren’t sure about sharing.

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About IBB

Ivan Brezak Brkan (IBB) is an employer branding consultant, writer, and speaker. He's also the founder of the largest technology-business media brand in Southeastern Europe who has consulted and trained brands like T-Mobile, A1 , Raiffeisen bank, Sberbank and HBO on how to communicate with digital natives. Forbes has called him "The aristocrat of the Internet"