Dark Social

I took the opportunity to write my next blog post on a topic which isn’t known to many. I’m sure you are having several thoughts flowing through your minds regarding what the term ‘Dark Social’ is, and no it’s not some evil spirited party where souls become corrupted and lives are taken.

So, what exactly is ‘Dark Social’? ‘Dark Social’ is a term which was coined by Alexis Madrigal, the former deputy editor of The Atlantic. Dark social isn’t as sinister as you may have initially thought. Simply put, it’s a reference to social sharing that can’t be accurately tracked (Things not monitored by web analytics).

In this post, I am going to explain in a little more detail what dark social means, why it matters to your business and whether there is anything you can do to prevent it.


What is dark social?

Imagine a scenario where you have reached that period in the afternoon where you struggle for motivation and ‘hit the wall’, So you decide to try and motivate yourself by opening up YouTube and browsing for funny cat fails. After finding the perfect video to sit and amuse yourself to, you decide that Jeff needs to see this video, so you open up your emails and paste the link. This is what Dark Social is and that makes you a participant.

Web analytics are unable to track where the link came from because it wasn’t done using the share features. It doesn’t necessarily have to be through email, apps such as Messenger and WhatsApp are making it easier for Dark Social to take place.


Why does it matter?

Links which are shared over messaging apps and emails aren’t able to be tracked through referral tags. This means that when you are monitoring your stats and you can see a huge increase in ‘direct’ traffic, it’s not going to actually be direct traffic. In theory, it isn’t really ‘direct’ traffic because the chances someone will type ‘https://www.pogofilms.co.uk/2017/05/01/top-tips-for-sme-social-media-posting/’ into the search bar is highly unlikely.


What can you do about it?

According to RadiumOne, 77% of content is being shared via ‘dark social’. There are a few tips which can help to prevent dark social taking place. If you are sharing links to social media, make sure they are as short as possible, this will help to generate a deeper analysis of engagement rates. There are plenty of URL shorteners roaming around the internet such as https://www.bitly.im/ Bitly which can help, it will also make your social feed look cleaner.

Make sure that your content can be easily shared – there is nothing worse than having to spend several minutes trying to find the option to share content, make sure it is easy to find, fast to use and this will help encourage social shares.

Download dark social trackers, tools such as https://www.sharethis.com/ which is an excellent tool which enables people to share different pieces of content which they find online, through email, direct message or text message. The tool can also be used to measure shares of your website’s URL.

https://www.po.st/sharing is another great tool which allows users to share your content through messenger, WhatsApp or other messaging channels whilst tracking it. Po.st also comes with an in-depth social analytics and audience insight to help you optimise your content and drive user acquisition for free.

As Madrigal puts it, “There’s no way to game email or people’s instant messages. There’s no power users you can contact. There’s no algorithms to understand.”

The best way to limit the amount of dark social activity which takes place on your site, is to make engaging and creative content and using the above tips to help you narrow down your dark social traffic to help keep your data informative and give you a better understanding of your audience’s behaviours, interests and patterns.

Twitter – @Pogofilm

Posted by Chris – Pogofilms

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