Digital workplace analyst Gavin Tay is confronting his own form of shadow IT - the rise of "dark" social networks where staff share knowledge and collaborate outside the formal corporate structure.

Shadow IT is the name often given to the trend of staff buying and using apps or tools for business purposes that are not authorised by central IT - think Google Apps, Evernote, Skype and so on.

Similarly, employees or teams are increasingly setting up their own social networks rather than use or set up official channels or platforms.

These can become influential internally, and Tay - a Singapore-based research director for Gartner - explains at the firm's Business Intelligence, Analytics and Information Management Summit that it might be in your best interests to hunt down and "illuminate" these networks.

Here are four reasons to turn darknet sleuth:

1. Identify "informal" influencers
"Informal influencers are very key to a lot of organisations because they're indirectly shifting the mindset and thinking of employees in the area that they work in," Tay advises. "As such you will probably want to discover who these network influencers are and what they exactly do".

He advises tools such as Radian6 can help pinpoint the "epicentre" of conversations in a network; such a focal point is likely to lead to the unmasking of the influencer.

2. Create champions
There's another reason to work out who these influencers are - they make great champions or stewards for a formal, corporate-backed social networking strategy rollout.

Tay says the influencer - the person at the centre of a "dark" social network - is likely to be the most passionate employee "about a topic, a way of doing things, a methodology or an approach.

"These informal influencers are usually converted to become champions or stewards who will spearhead a formal social initiative because they have the passion and drive on the topic but also because they have the knowhow of setting up an informal network".

3. More value
"Dark" networks spring up for a reason - and it's for that reason that others might find them useful. Invitations to join such networks are typically by word-of-mouth, according to Tay.

"It becomes a question of, 'How can we discover what they're using such that we'll allow them to do it but we'll bring others on board as well?"

4. HR might love you
The knowledge in "dark" social networks could help new employees get up to speed, particularly in organisations where mentoring isn't immediately possible.

Rather than being left to their own devices, a social network could help them "find out how things work in the organisation and whether politics exists - for example, who talks to whom and about what," Tay says.