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What is Dark Social Media?

The last time you shared a funny or interesting article with your friend, chances are it was over email or online chat. This is because you don’t always want your public feed to see everything you are sharing, so you communicate more privately. This is called Dark Social Media and it’s changing the way we think about digital marketing.

Dark social is a term coined by Alexis C. Madrigal, which refers to the social sharing of content that occurs outside of what can be measured by Web analytics programs. This occurs when a link is shared over online chat, forums or email rather than shared as a status. Dark social media has been around longer than Facebook and Twitter, but nobody has quite realised just how much power it has.  When you share something over private chat, text message etc it’s more private and more personal and you aren’t keeping up your online image, so the data is a lot more honest and more valuable to marketers. Giving people the option on websites to share via Whatsapp, Text or Email helps people share certain things

When you share something over private chat, text message etc it’s more private and more personal and you aren’t keeping up your online image, so the data is a lot more honest and more valuable to marketers. Giving people the option on websites to share via Whatsapp, Text or Email helps people share certain things to certain people. Although the audience is not as large as publishing a social status, it is more direct and is almost guaranteed a click on the link. By utilizing this, brands can get their name out to people who will actually like what they sell or what services they offer and you get visitors who are tailored to your site.

Although the audience is not as large as publishing a social status, it is more direct and is almost guaranteed a click on the link. By utilizing this, brands can get their name out to people who will actually like what they sell or what services they offer and you get visitors who are tailored to your site.

Web analytics firms dug into the traffic of websites and split them into two different groups. One being those who arrived on the homepage, and those that arrived on specific article pages. Those who arrived on specific article pages must have been referred, as people will not sit and type long URLs in the address bar. Dark social now accounts for around 74% of all online sharing and many companies without a dark social strategy know nothing about a quarter of online consumers in the UK. This proves that Dark Social isn’t something we should ignore and should be something we all tap into.

However, it isn’t all that easy. Web analytics programs struggle to trace the source that the visitor came from so you can’t see where you are benefiting from Dark Social and where you are not. When someone clicks on a link from twitter to another URL, the web analytics programme lets you know where that visitor has come from. If someone shares a link with UTM parameters (the code you add to the URL to track the traffic) and it is shared over email when the code is for Twitter, it will register as it coming from Twitter. Currently there is no real way to track Dark Social in your analytics programme, but you can work out where some traffic is coming from.

In your analytics programme is will show you that someone directly visited a very long link  (http://blog.virallyapp.com/this_is/a_really/long_link12345/that/nobody_will6789/type) and then you know somebody isn’t going to type out that whole address so they must have been referred from somewhere. There is a chance that Dark Social will also come up under Twitter, Facebook etc due to the UTM parameters I explained earlier. The Guardian, who are miles ahead, estimated a rough 7-8% of their traffic was Dark Social, but this will rise as mobile traffic has risen substantially in the past year. They have in-house software called Orphan, which pinpoints traffic on a minute-by-minute basis.

Currently there is no real way to track Dark Social in your analytics programme, but you can work out where some traffic is coming from. In your analytics programme is will show you that someone directly visited a very long link  (http://blog.virallyapp.com/this_is/a_really/long_link12345/that/nobody_will6789/type) and then you know somebody isn’t going to type out that whole address so they must have been referred from somewhere. And there is a chance that Dark Social will also come up under Twitter, Facebook etc due to the UTM parameters I explained earlier.

By @kellyculver96