What is dark social?
The first thing you need to know – what is dark social? Although it’s scary territory to brands, it’s not actually as scary as it sounds! An example of dark social is seeing an article you like on Facebook, copying a link to it and emailing it to someone.
“Dark social is a term used by marketers and search engine optimization (SEO) specialists to describe website referrals that are difficult to track.” TechTarget
Dark social is usually seen as ‘Direct’ in Google Analytics, or any other tool you use
Dark social has been said to count for 84% of outbound sharing, according to Radium One
There are many reasons people may share through dark social
Users could be engaging in dark social activities because they don’t want to be tracked by social media websites, or because they don’t want the whole world to see what they’re sharing and looking at. Alternatively, they could just prefer another means of communication or be communicating with someone who doesn’t use social media. Yes, those people exist!
Where did the term dark social come from?
We know the answer to what is dark social. Now we want to know where it comes from.
Alexis C. Madrigal first coined the phrase in an article
published in October 2012. It’s pretty catchy, which made it stick. What’s interesting is that we still haven’t been able to solve the problem.
The most common dark social means of communication are:
- Facebook Messenger
- Native mobile apps like Instagram and Facebook
- Secure browsing – when a user switches from HTTPS to HTTP it will be tracked as Direct traffic
Put simply, dark social links don’t contain a tracking code, which means analytics programmes are not able to pick them up.
Shares via dark social allow brands to reach a different audience
In the RadiumOne Whitepaper
their findings show 19% of 16 to 34 year olds share using dark social, while 46% of 55 year olds share only using this method.
A good way to measure your content on dark social is to shorten URLs
Shortened URLs are likely to be shared in full. If you use longer URL structures on Social Media users will often remove the tracking code and only share the main content in their message.
There are tools you can use to measure dark social
There are various ways these tools allow you to measure your content. Po.st
allows your content to be easily shared and adds tracking to the content which can be traced through dark social. GetSocial
can also help, as well as sharethis
Make it easy for your users to share and you will reduce sharing via dark social
If you add social sharing buttons throughout your content and website, you will make it easier for users to share via social media streams which can easily be measured.
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