What is The Dark Web & Who Cares?
You may have heard the term “The Dark Web,”and wondered what is lurking there and waiting to pounce upon you.
You may also presume the dark web is an underground of nastiness and you don’t really want to know much more than that.
Well, it may not surprise you to discover the dark web can be as nefarious as you dread. But it also can actually be useful to you and marketers in the near future.
What exactly is this Dark Web?
The best way to describe this place is to picture an iceberg floating in the cold sea. What you see above the water line is clearly visible and readily available to explore, touch and see. But what is invisible to the eye, but equally massive is the iceberg under the water line. It can be larger than the visible part, not necessarily treacherous, but it can be dangerous to ships and explorers.
The less visible part of the iceberg is where the Dark Web resides. Just because it is less accessible does not mean it is inaccessible. It is there. If you know how to access it.
The main function of the Dark Web currently is that unlike the World Wide web, it offers maximum privacy to consumers from the prying eyes of governments and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) alike.
This portion of the internet lurks beneath our visible and encrypted websites that are indexed by major search engines like Google and Bing. The technical aspects of how the dark web operates allows users to leave minimal trace of their likes and search history, their purchases or their location.
Of course for this reason, the dark web is a place where a lot of illegal activities go on, but there are also plenty of legitimate consumers, and marketers/retailers would like to access to such customers.
According to Dark Web News, which reports the latest happenings in the dark web niche, this subsection of the internet that’s not accessible by traditional means—i.e., conventional web browsers and search engines—carries enormous potential for anyone who wants to communicate anonymously.
In this way, marketers can harness the power of the dark web to gain insights about the needs and wants of current and prospective customers. They can use it as a market research tool, gathering data to inform stronger messaging in marketing their product or service.
Marketing on the Dark Web
Most marketers have avoided the dark web, due to its negative reputation and also because they may not be able to understand how it works.
However, smart marketers are willing to give up these reservations and enter the dark web for useful purposes. It can be difficult to build your brand when you are not able to communicate with and gather insights on your target audience within the dark web.
Here are the top things to know about the dark web.
- Needs a Separate Browser
Normal browsers such as Chrome or Safari cannot access the dark web. It is also not searchable using Google and other search engines. All dark web marketers should know that the dark web can only be accessed with a secure browser, like Tor or The Onion Router.
This toolkit offers securely packaged utilities for accessing the dark web. For using the Tor network, marketers will need the Tor browser. They might also need invitations for accessing .onion domains present in the dark web, which differ from typical domains that exist outside of the dark web such as .com, .edu, .org, and so on.
- Not Just for Illegal Activities
Although this fact tends to be misunderstood by much of the public, a very small percentage of the traffic on the dark web is related to hidden/illegal services and drug markets. As the dark web is highly disorganized, so it is not always possible to find the kind of websites present in it. However, research has shown that dark web users are accessing much more than just websites that carry nefarious and illegal content. Companies researching and analyzing dark web sites saw that many of them are mirroring legal sites like social media platforms.
And now those popular websites and platforms are moving into the dark web as well. Facebook unveiled its own .onion address in 2014, and news sites such as ProPublica and The New York Times have followed suit.
Political parties use these sites for discussions and forums, and many of these communication vehicles contain active communities related to technology or games. These sites are used for privacy rather than for criminality.
- Legit ways to use the Dark Web
Staying ahead of the curve, marketers have to know their audience and where they move. Go where they go. It is important to understand the different demographic groups within the dark web. For instance, tech savvy audiences might move to the dark web as they place great importance on privacy.
Marketers must try to understand their target audience present in such dark web sites, as this is the only way they can gather helpful insights on how those audiences might use the product/service they’re advertising.
- Tracking the Dark Web
Tracking the dark web can be very useful for marketers and they cannot afford to ignore it. For instance, before Bitcoin rose to the level of popularity and mainstream acceptance it holds today, the dark web was one of the first places where the cryptocurrency made its appearance. There might be many other potential technological breakthroughs making their first appearance on the dark web.
Marketers can get immense value from the dark web related to services and innovations, so that they have a competitive edge.
- Using Reddit
Marketers can use Reddit to know more about the dark web and its user bases. Reddit is being used as a sort of knowledge hub for useful information about dark web topics, transactions, resources and more.
Reddit also has forums for dark web market users where they can meet buyers, exchange information and share reviews of various sellers on the dark web. They also provide advice through these forums regarding safe drops and zones for picking up packages bought on the dark web and how to escape the grip of law enforcement from falling on you.
- Consumer Shift
Marketers must also realize that more and more consumers are shifting to the dark web. This will spell doom for their predictable marketing strategies. They will not be able to get customer information and will not know how to target them. Analytics will not be accurate with more consumers using the Tor browser and other hidden networks.
- Awareness of Popular Desires
Tor is now widely available to consumers who want to hide beneath the radar. Users are able to find new ways of hiding their identity. Marketers must realize that they will become more and more disconnected while trying to sell to consumers. They must realize that consumers will protect their information and their intentions and start choosing products more freely, without the interference and influence of marketers.
The message to marketers is that they have to be aware of popular desires. They must focus their attention on the important 4 Ps—the product, the price, the place and the promotion. They have to make their focus and strategy simpler and focus on the needs of customers.
The final message is that marketers have a lot to gain by analyzing the dark web and making themselves familiar with its demographics, along with the novel and breaking technologies and innovations being debuted on the dark web.
They can reap excellent fruits by exploring the dark web, but the important thing is to be cautious while doing so.
- This article is excerpted in part from: 10 Things Every Marketer Should Know About the Dark Web By: Martin Sumichrast
- “What is the Dark Web?” Matt Egin, Tech Adviso,from IDG; https://www.techadvisor.co.uk/how-to/internet/dark-web-3593569/
- Understanding the Deep Dark Web: https://hackernoon.com/understanding-the-deep-dark-web-8e4cad356587