The Power of Dark Social

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January 19, 2016

What is Dark Social?

Dark social is any web traffic that results from unidentified sources (as first coined by Madrigal here) e.g. if you emailed an interesting link to your friend and he posted it to his social media profile vs. sharing it directly from the source you found the link on (former is dark social and latter is traditional social media sharing). You end up at a site but there is no referrer information as to how you got there; eventually, your visit is lumped into the category titled ‘direct traffic’ on analytics software.

Why should digital marketers be aware of it?

The job of an analytics tool is to find out where visitors are coming from; however, there are obvious limitations if the sources are unidentifiable. This leads to difficulties in proving efficacy of social reach as showing high ROI is essential in securing budget for social advertising and social marketing plans; however, if 70% of social sharing is dark as research estimates, than efficacy becomes much more challenging to prove.

How should we deal with it?

It is a big challenge for brands and many promises to understand the complete user journey and channel mix that users go through but in practice there isn’t a specific answer. At agency:2 we believe marketers should continue asking the challenging questions around dark social and source out the best channels to gain high value conversions.

Some practice tips towards gaining a foothold on Dark Social:  

1)Be disciplined in use of trackable URLs e.g. Po.st links

2)Dig deeper into Google Analytics and don’t accept face value statistics

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