Group of phones showing messages of people sharing dark social examples.

What Happens When Social Goes Dark?

Do you consider dark social part of your social media strategy? If not, it could be affecting your analytics.

The success of social media is often defined by metrics. How many people did it reach? What type of engagement did it garner? What was the CTR? But what happens when the conversation happens online but it isn’t trackable at all. 😱

Insert Dark Social. 

Dark social was coined by former deputy editor of the Atlantic Alexis Madrigal as “social traffic that is essentially invisible to most analytics programs.” Plainly speaking, dark social is simply shared content through messaging apps, texts and email analytics can not track. You can think of it as a digital form of word-of-mouth advertising. 

Analytics can sometimes pick these shares up, but they are not able to tell exactly where they came from. It could mess with your social insights overall as well. And according to our research* dark social accounts for around 69% of all sharing. Because messaging apps are becoming increasingly popular, that number is only going to increase.

Examples of the most popular social apps where dark social occurs are platforms like Slack, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, Discord, Viber, WeChat, Signal, etc. And that’s only social messaging apps. When we get into text messaging and email, the dark social numbers grow exponentially. The bottom line: If you’re only accounting for the metrics right in front of you, you’re missing the mark. 

But even though the research may seem daunting, there are a lot of opportunities to consider. 

  1. Create an advanced segment in Google Analytics that filters direct traffic and indirect traffic. Your indirect traffic will help you get an estimate of how many users find you via dark social.
  2. Perform audits on your direct traffic vs indirect traffic. Any data that exists that can’t be linked to a source is considered dark social. 
  3. Optimize existing content for shareability. Use link shortening through platforms such as Bitly to trim your raw links. Optimize your website for shareability through CTA buttons that make it easier to share your way vs. copying a link into messenger. 
  4. Think about how you can join the conversation. Dark social isn’t the place to sell, but rather it’s the place where you can ask questions, create dialog and really feel out what interests your customer. Consider making your brand visible on dark social platforms like Facebook and Instagram Messenger, Snapchat, Slack, etc.
  5. Keep it personal. Creating conversations is the starting point, but the follow-through is creating a personal connection with your audience. Optimize their experience by making everything mobile-friendly, responsive and easily shareable.  And encourage your people to create positive dialog online and offline as well. Your brand is not just a static thing, it’s also your people so making sure they have positive things to say this type of way. Finally, consider using outside influencers to help you reach more prospective customers. 

Other than skewing unknown metrics, dark social doesn’t have to throw a wrench in your strategy. Instead, think about it as an opportunity to reach more people than ever before in creative and thoughtful ways. Learning how to optimize your strategy in relation to dark social is a fantastic way to learn what interests your customers because it shows what they value by sharing through private channels! If you’re ready to join the dark side but you’re not sure how, start by sharing this information with your own audiences through this super shareable and easy-to-use CTA button!

Sources

MessengerPeople
WhatsApp, WeChat and Facebook Messenger Apps – Global useage of Messaging Apps, Penetration and Statistics

The Atlantic
Dark Social: We Have the Whole History of the Web Wrong

Convince & Convert
What is Dark Social and How Is It Affecting Your Brand?