Since 2012 the phrase ‘dark social’ has been mentioned with increasing frequency amongst many marketing circles. It sounds like something you might expect to hear about in a Batman movie, but it’s actually all to do with your traffic, referrals and how you are able to track it.
Typically businesses will have many different analytical softwares in place to help them see where people are coming from, how they’re finding out about your company, and who they’re sharing it with. This includes Google Analytics, which provides a very detailed account for users of their website and the impact social media can have.
However, dark social is a concept that Alexis C. Madrigal, senior editor at The Atlantic, introduced to refer to content that is shared in ways that cannot be measured by web analytics programs. So how does this work in reality?
Essentially, you may see an article about the value of promotional merchandise or a list of the top 5 promotional products your company needs. A journey would have occurred for you to find this, which would be possible to track. For example, you may have googled a specific search term, or seen the link on social media.
If you were to cut and paste the link to this article or product listing and send it to someone in a messenger services, such as e-mail, SnapChat or Whatsapp, then you have just engaged in dark social. To the person whose link you’ve shared, you will look as though you are direct traffic, even though a referral process took place behind the scenes. Without recognising the impact of dark social, brands can be misled into thinking they’re getting more direct traffic than they actually are.
The article or listing you have shared in a one-on-one capacity rather than through social media means there is traffic coming to your site that you can’t always effectively measure. It is thought by Radiumone that dark social accounts for 84% of consumer sharing. Much more is taking place in private, even though 90% of social marketing ad budgets – on average – is spent on social networks. Dark social typically occurs on mobile devices, with 62% of clickbacks happening this way.
It’s important for businesses to consider the impact of dark social when looking at their social media marketing strategies, and implementing trackable sources for analytical purposes. Dark social is, as the name suggests, a lot more about being social and shows an awareness in customers of just how much technology tracks movements. Recognising this social part of the web and how customers are communicating with each other can ensure your brand or links are getting shared more frequently, and with greater success.