The term “Dark Social” itself sounds somewhat sinister, which really isn’t the case but it is something that we should be fully aware of when we are looking at metrics, conversion rates and social statistics. In this blog we will uncover what Dark Social actually is, how it works and what we can do to combat it.
What is Dark Social?
The term was coined by Alexis C. Madrigal, senior editor at The Atlantic, to refer to the social sharing of content that occurs outside of what can be measured by web analytics programs.
For example: sharing a link with someone via an online chat or email instead of sharing through a social media platform where referrals can be measured.
Dark social is an increasing common trend, and I am sure that many of us have done this ourselves, I know that I have! Sharing a link to a website via Facebook messenger means that there is no way of tracking where the referral has come from.
According to RadiumOne, 82% of content shared on mobile is done through dark social.
This is rather a large and alarming percentage, and when you consider that this statistic was based on aggregate actions taken from 940 million unique users, it really is quite a big deal.
How does Dark Social affect social metrics?
The increase of Dark Social is now challenging the traditional ways that marketers use to measure social ROI. Analysing referrals and click-throughs and measuring where these are coming from can be impossible to track if there is no trail left. By sharing a link through social media platforms, it is clear to see these metrics, but Dark Social masks this and we end up being kept in the dark ourselves about where these leads, conversions and referrals have come from, which can have an impact on our future marketing strategies and campaigns.
Combating Dark Social
It is not impossible to combat Dark Social, and many companies are realising that there are things that can be done to shine a light on Dark Social.
Track with UTM codes
A simple code attached to a custom URL can enable you to track the source, medium and campaign name giving you the opportunity to track where searches are coming from, as well as where they have been directed from.
Add a “share via email” link
By adding a “share via email” link button on posts you wish to track will enable you to see this information, rather than missing out by someone cutting and pasting the link into an email themselves, where you will lose out on this valuable data.
There are also solutions offered to help such as Hootsuite’s Measure end-to-end social ROI and their Marketo integration that helps you to connect social activity to revenue.
Dark Social is increasing and is unlikely to go away, especially with the increase in expirationary social media like Snapchat. We just need to embrace the change and discover new ways of overcoming its challenge.