In easy words, Dark Social refers to the practice of sharing content that can’t be tracked by analytic tools. Meaning content shared via e-mail, private messaging apps and other means that can’t be attributed to a recognized source by web analytic tools.
Let’s imagine you’ve found a video on Facebook with a recipe of an amazing green lasagna and you think of that vegetarian friend. Then, You copy & paste the content link straight to your conversation with her on WhatsApp. She loves it and shares the content with her vegetarian friends, and they will then share it with more people…that’s pretty much one of the roots of Dark Social.
A website visit from a link shared via e-mail, WhatsApp, facebook messenger, slack, etc. counts as a visit but it’s not possible to attribute it to a particular source using analytics programs. Also, if a person uses secure browsing, then those visits will also be considered Dark Social. As a result, these visits become invisible, and don’t count as social or referral traffic – and that’s why the term “Dark Social”.
How do I measure Dark Social traffic?
Google Analytics classifies all traffic whose visits are unknown as direct traffic, so you have to take that direct traffic and subtract the other types of traffic. Don’t be alarmed if you see a large number!
Why is Dark Social so important?
As you know, traffic measurement is an essential and key part of any Inbound Marketing Strategy (Digital Marketing): getting to know our users in depth, testing the activities carried out to create engagementwith them, are the foundations of a successful Inbound Marketing Strategy. However, the Dark Social does make it difficult to measure traffic.
This type of traffic invisible to more than one web analyst has been quite disconcerting because this sometimes makes your website registers excessive direct traffic peaks without any explanation.
What kind of traffic is Dark Social?
- From email: to click on a link that was sent to you by email.
- Messaging and chats: believe it or not, also to click on the links that pass through Facebook Messages, Twitter Messages, SnapChat, Instagram, Hangouts, WhatsApp Stories, etc.
- Mobile applications: such as Facebook, for example, by every Like or visit you give.
- To type the exact address in the browser: (https://efluenz.be/)
- Save an address in Favorites/Bookmarks.
- Click on a link in Safe Browsing -as the referrer doesn’t appear.
- In some organic Google searches
How to use Dark Social in your favor?
With the right tools, it is possible to use the Dark Social in your favor. For example, when it comes to links and personalized web content -when shared with one or more specific people- the data generated by Dark Social provides a timely representation of the tastes and interests of your audience.
Another aspect to take into account is that, in many occasions, this type of traffic can come from contacts or websites of renown, which makes the visit by mentions or recommendations.
Recommendations to take advantage of the “Dark Social”
Luckily, some applications have updated their algorithms to allow UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) parameters on the “share” buttons so that you know if it came by a click on these buttons or not. Anyways, that’s not enough.
That’s why we mention here some tips to take advantage of Dark Social traffic:
a. Improve social buttons
What you need to do is get a social media button provider that includes the options:
- Share by WhatsApp
- Send to a friend by email
Remember also to take care of the colors, icons, size, location, virtual weight and call-to-action of your buttons. You can test it until you find the place on your website that gives the best results…so hands on!
b. Integrate your blog posts or social networks into emails
What you can do is integrate the embed code into your email campaigns to drive a landing page or download. This way the traffic will be measured by the social network.
c. Track your links
If you are so concerned about Dark Socialthen you should know that most virtual campaigns are measured with link tracking to detect which is the best platform and the performance of the campaign itself.
Solutions you can implement
It’s true that Dark Social is not harmful to your website, but if you don’t want to live wondering where the traffic you receive comes from, there are two simple solutions that will help you solve the mystery. These options have to do with the creation of links:
Nothing out of the ordinary, in fact it is a habitual and simple practice. Simply log in to Google Analytics, use your link, and include the relevant tags. This method is suitable for newsletter strategies, because if no tags are included in your links, the source of traffic you will receive will not be direct, but reference.
2. URL Shorteners
These types of tools, such as Bit.ly, allow you to track your content: geographic distribution, the total number of clicks and, most importantly, the platform from which the link was shared.