What Is Dark Social And What Does It Mean For Marketers?

As a marketer, social media will (or should) play a large role in your overall marketing strategy. Shares and engagement are the key drivers of such strategies and are strived for in the social realm so it may perturb you to hear that approximately 70% of your social shares may be “dark” [RadiumOne].

“What is a ‘dark’ share?” you may ask. Well, it may surprise you that you’ve probably engaged in the act yourself many times over without even knowing. If you’ve found yourself copying the URL of a webpage that you found funny or interesting and messaging it to a friend or colleague in an email then congratulations, you’ve engaged in a “Dark Social” act.

We’ve all done it, one-on-one sharing of articles through a means other than social media. You may do it with email to sidestep social network bans at the office, via text message when browsing on your phone or through private messaging platforms on social networks when you only want to share the embarrassing results of that BuzzFeed quiz with your best friend. Because perhaps you don’t want your entire network to know that “if you were Bella in the Twilight series you definitely would have ended up with Jacob.”

 

Dark Social Definition:

Dark social is sharing that takes place over emails, texts, or instant messages. These shares mean website visitors have been forwarded the exact URL for the page they are visiting, resulting in these shares appearing as direct traffic in marketers analytics tools.

 

How Does Dark Social Affect Marketers?

Marketers need to be aware of Dark Social and should revaluate the way they perceive their direct traffic by identifying and segregating dark social traffic in their analytics platform.

While direct traffic that you receive to your home page or blog is likely to be genuine direct traffic, if you receive a great deal of direct traffic to very specific pages that have lengthy URLs it is likely this traffic is the result of Dark Social sharing. This type of traffic can and should be separated from the authentic direct traffic you receive in order for your analytics to be accurate and useful.

 

Embracing Dark Social:

Shining light on the murky waters of Dark Social is top-of-mind for social media marketers right now. This traffic may represent a portion of traffic that rivals all other social sharing combined.

A comprehensive study conducted by RadiumOne on Dark Social revealed that 32% of surveyed people would share pages and content only via Dark Social means.

There is evidence that suggests some information tends to be shared privately more than others. The top categories for Dark Social sharing are:

  • Arts and Entertainment,
  • Careers,
  • Travel,
  • Science and Education.

The study also found that click through rates (the number of times someone clicked on the link that was shared), are very high on messaging shared via Dark Social means. In other words, marketers should not be scared of Dark Social but should embrace it!

Whenever you have sharing options available you help increase Dark Social shares, ultimately increasing your overall exposure. Therefore, it is important to ensure that your content is as easy to share through dark channels as possible, one easy way to do so is to include a “Share via Email” option on your web content. It is also important to recognise the power of including email in your overall content marketing strategy.

 

While there are ways to optimise your website content for Dark Social sharing, in the end the best way to create content that is guaranteed to be shared is by writing interesting, informative and original material that provides value to your readers. With that being said; if you want to share this blog post with your friends via text, Facebook messenger or email, please be our guest!

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