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10 August 2016

The mysterious world of Dark Social


When it comes to discussing Dark Social, the first thing to be sure of is that you don’t confuse Dark Social with the Dark Web. Believe me, these are two completely different things.

By now we are all very aware of social media and the impact is has on our lives. As a Social Media Manager, I spend a huge amount of time looking at social media campaign analytics to gauge what is, and what isn’t working. I then work hard to adjust the targeting where it is needed to make sure the adverts are being delivered to the right audience (I’m a big geek and love analytics). There are some fantastic tools out there to help you gauge and monitor what is working. These analytics are of huge importance when it comes to tracking and monitoring a campaign and getting the results that are needed. 

What-is-dark-social.jpgImage Source: Hootsuite

So what is Dark Social?

How many times have you seen an article, post or link, copied the link and then emailed or messaged this to a friend or group chat directly? If you have done this, and let’s face it we all have, welcome, you have now entered the world of Dark Social.

The term Dark Social was coined in 2012 by Alexis C. Madrigal who wrote an article for The Atlantic called “Dark Social: We Have The Whole History of the Web Wrong

Dark Social is defined as, “social sharing that occurs in private digital communication tools such as email and instant messaging.”

When sharing a link through emails, text message or instant messenger services, referral data isn’t included which obviously means referral data cannot be tracked. It is reported that 60% of referral traffic for various websites is made up from Dark Social.60…. SIX ZERO, that is a HUGE statistic. So with the campaign you are currently running you could realistically be getting only 40% of the data you need. 

1174d90.jpgImage Source: LinkedIn

Using Dark Social

So how can you track Dark Social? In short, you can’t. But, don't worry, there are ways you can monitor what is going on with your campaigns. You can then work out what is Dark Social and from there adjust your targeting options if you need to. 

Keep a close eye on your web analytics. If you are running a campaign for users to click through to a specific web page, make sure you ALWAYS correlate the web data. Are there large spikes in data during your campaign period? Are you getting a lot more traffic than your social analytics are telling you? If so, this could be a good indication of Dark Social. 

Using shortened URL’s can be a great tactic for outbound links as you will get a separate set of analytics of where that link has been used. Shortened links are also shared on social media channels more often as it leaves users with more characters and looks more attractive than a long URL.

Ultimately, the best tactic if you are using Facebook is to keep up with their ever changing algorithm to make sure you are reaching the largest audience possible and delivering on the right platforms. 

Need help with an upcoming social media campaign? Want to drive more traffic to your site from social media channels? Get in touch to see how our social media strategies and audience targeting can help grow your pages and help you engage with a larger audience.