Dark Social is a term used to describe all the social media sharing that occurs in private, such as email and instant messaging.
For example, sending a private recommendation to a friend via iMessage, sharing that recipe using Facebook Messenger, or an email to a friend about an offer you came across on a website.
When a person clicks on a link to your website from Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, your analytics software will tell you exactly where that visitor (and buyer) came from.
But people are increasingly sharing links through private messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Snapchat or Messenger, and continue to share through platforms such as email or SMS. And I'm not even going to start to describe HTTP against HTTPS.
This Dark Social activity is not traceable; it’s often found in one bucket on your Web Analytic platform as “Direct”.
Why Dark Social Matters
Dark social has been reported to be responsible for 75% or more of outbound sharing, and you cannot track or measure influence.
We rely on analytical data for tracking Return on Investment and to make decisions on where our advertising is going.
Not attributing value to Dark Social can affect:
• Media Budget Allocation
• Influences & Advocates
• Content Strategies
Dark social is a representation of consumers’ real interests. Familiarising yourself with this information will allow your business to access a targeted audience of connections.
Is Dark Social a Risk or Opportunity?
It's both and neither.
Dark Social is not a new medium or channel, it's a new behaviour facilitate by our digital habits. It doesn't offer a high risk; however it can disturb or mislead analytical data, generating inaccurate and wrong predictions.
That by itself is not a risk if you don't use analytics data to make marketing decisions.
When it comes to opportunities, again this is not creating anything new, however recognising the behaviour allow us, marketers, to leverage. Facilitating the sharing and making it easier for your prospects and customers is a great start.
What can I do right now?
There are few technical solutions being built by vendors, and I believe very shortly they will be available. In mean time you can:
· Make sharing easy – including WhatsApp, email and FBMs
· Shorten URLs
· Potentially set up a segment in your analytics that takes into account all direct traffic links with parameters.
Quite honestly, nobody really knows what to do about Dark Social, there are very few solutions and minimal guidelines. Ensuring you understand the principles and the behaviour of the phenomena is the first step.
We have prepared a more detailed Guide to Dark Social for Marketer’s; it can be downloaded here for free for SMK readers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lucio Ribeiro, is a co-founder and lead strategist of Online Circle Digital where he works with Fortune 500 brands in developing their digital marketing strategies and execution. He is considered a thought leader on digital marketing; authoring articles in digital innovation and strategy, speaking at seminars and judging global awards.