LONDON: Online content typically comes with a variety of social sharing options, but the great majority of mobile users prefer to share via email, text and instant messaging, new research has shown.

Despite publishers making it easy to share content via a range of social media platforms, more than three quarters (77%) of publishers' and marketers' content shared via mobiles in the UK happens in "dark social"; just 23% is shared on social networks, according to RadiumOne.

The martech company analysed the actions of 940m users around the world who shared content from sources where its sharing software is deployed for its report, The Dark Side of Mobile Sharing.

The UK figures for dark social sharing were slightly below the global average of 82%, although more UK users were likely to engage with content shared this way: fully 80% of UK mobile clickbacks happen via dark social, compared to 67% globally.

When looking at dark social sharing across all devices, in the UK, smartphones accounted for 64% of the times people clicked on a link shared in dark social; worldwide the figure was 62%.

Rupert Staines, European Managing Director at RadiumOne, suggested the industry – brands, content creators, media buyers – needed to take a broader and more ROI-focused approach to how they think about this aspect of the sharing universe.

Uppermost in their thoughts will be the disconnect between media spend and consumer activity: even though more than 80% of all sharing is happening outside of public social networks, eMarketer figures indicate that more than 90% of social and sharing marketing investment is going to public social networks.

It's hard for marketers just to keep up with the number of channels and platforms consumers use let alone how they are being used. And that behaviour, Staines added, is evolving by the day.

But "brands can harness sharing technology to allow them to take a channel and platform agnostic approach to keeping up with consumers," he said.

"The opportunity for brands is to track, gather and activate these valuable signals to connect their owned and earned media investments with paid media effectiveness."

Data sourced from RadiumOne; additional content by Warc staff