By Patrick Liddy | 13 min read
Table of Contents
- What is Dark Social?
- 3 Mind-Blowing Dark Social Stats
- How People Share Today
- The Origins and History of Dark Social
- How to Track and Measure Dark Social Sharing
- 5 Dark Social Tracking Tools
- Garmentory Case Study
- Why You Should Make Content More ‘Shareable’
- What Should You Do With Your Dark Social Insights?
- Stay aware of trending topics.
- Evaluate where to invest your marketing budget.
- Maintain top quality content.
- Share your insights
- 4 Easy Wins
- The Future of Dark Social
What is Dark Social?
Dark social is all the social media activity that analytics can’t track.Dark social includes cut and pasting links into messengers and sharing content via email, text messengers, and other web apps. Links and visitors from these private channels don’t include referrer data, which is why analytics can’t track the source. Instead, it’ll show up in the broad bucket that is Google Analytic’s ‘direct traffic’. Direct traffic has 3 main sources:
- typing a URL into the browser’s address bar
- clicking on a bookmark, or
- the dark social sources we're discussing in this post
3 Mind-Blowing Dark Social Stats
- 84% of consumers’ outbound sharing from publishers’ and marketers’ websites now takes place via private, dark social channels such as email and instant messaging. (RadiumOne)
- 46% of consumers age 55 and older share only via dark social, as opposed to those in the 16 to 34 age group, where only 19% do so. (RadiumOne)
- Messaging apps are now bigger than social networks (Business Insider)
Image Source: Business Insider
How People Share TodayThe answer becomes even more obvious when you think about how people share content today. I mean, how do you share content? If you’re like me, you probably share links periodically on your favorite social platforms. Places like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and other channels. However, I’ll also frequently share interesting links with my wife, family, friends, and coworkers on Facebook Messenger, email, Slack, and especially via texts. And that’s just the tip of the private sharing iceberg. There’s an ever-expanding universe of channels and apps that people use to share links, including WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, Skype, Viber, WeChat, Telegram, Tango, Snapchat and many more. They’re rapidly gaining in popularity, and new ways to share are appearing all the time. I personally share links via dark social way more than any other method. Most of the time I’ll share links via mobile, and I’m not alone; Cathy Boyle of eMarketer reported:
"The average US adult spent 3 hours, 17 minutes each day consuming media on a mobile device in 2017, an increase of over 1 hour since 2013. Meanwhile, time spent with all other major media has declined."The reality is that people are distributing your content via dark social, and this isn’t likely to change. You just need to find the best way to illuminate this traffic.
The Origins and History of Dark SocialAlexis Madrigal was the one who coined the term ‘dark social’ back in his 2012 article for The Atlantic . He was shocked to discover just how much of The Atlantic’s social referrals were dark at that time: 69%, while Facebook was 20% and Twitter made up only 6% of social sharing. He immediately saw the ramifications of this new information, noting that,
“...if you think optimizing your Facebook page and Tweets is "optimizing for social," you're only halfway (or maybe 30 percent) correct. The only real way to optimize for social spread is in the nature of the content itself.”
So the content has to be fantastic to compel people to share it. But how do you know which of your content is fantastic if you aren’t tracking it? Let’s explore why you need to start tracking dark social and what you can do with your data.
How to Track and Measure Dark Social SharingThe question now is how to turn all that ‘direct traffic’ into trackable traffic. Let’s dive in and take a look at a few of the top tools you can use, and the shocking results that are possible once you start illuminating your hidden social results!
5 Dark Social Tracking Tools
1. GetSocialAt PRO PEAK MEDIA we use GetSocial everyday with our clients. Here's why:
- GetSocial makes it easy to increase social traffic and followers and identify which links, articles, and products are generating the most interest
- GetSocial provides responsive social share and follow buttons which make it easy for readers to share to over 30+ networks.
- GetSocial allows for us and our clients to receive alerts by email or Slack when engagement at any given link or page reaches our customized alert criteria, such as the number of shares, virality score, social traffic and share rate.
Want to check out our demo dashboard? You can log in here: https://getsocial.io/customers/sign-in using the following login information: Username: firstname.lastname@example.org Password: getsocialHere’s a look at the dark social insights the platform provides: They’re inflexible. As we’ve outlined above, the way people share content has changed to such an extent that UTM codes just can’t tell you the true path your content takes. This SocialMediaToday post covers a way in which you create an advanced segment to filter out dark social traffic from your overall traffic.