Because of the manner in which it is shared, dark social links do not contain any referrer data and therefore are hard to track (which means a lot of inbound or direct traffic could actually be coming from dark social).
When the word “dark” is uttered in relation to the Internet, most associate it with the malevolent dark web or something just as digitally ominous. So naturally, the expression “dark social” may sound a bit menacing. However, chances are that you’ve engaged in one form of it or another.
What is Dark Social?
Dark Social is the sharing of content through private channels, such as instant messaging apps, email, or native mobile apps. Because of the manner in which it is shared, dark social links do not contain any referrer data and therefore are hard to track (which means a lot of inbound or direct traffic could actually be coming from dark social).
For example, if someone copies a link to an article or blog post and shares it with a friend over Facebook Messenger – this would be considered a “dark” share. The copied link does not attach any tracking tags and, when clicked, does not pass along any referer data (making it difficult for analytics tools to accurately determine where the visitor came from).
How Much Content is Shared Over Dark Channels?
According to a 2016 global study, nearly 84% of outbound sharing was done through dark social channels and 46% of consumers age 55 and older only share through dark social. The study also noted the most popular channels for dark social sharing were native mobile apps Instagram and Facebook and instant messaging app WhatsApp.
What Does This Mean for Marketers?
Dark social accounts for roughly 70% of all online referrals and shows no signs of slowing down, presenting a huge marketing opportunity; capitalizing on unique insights and emerging media trends is key. For instance, healthy snack company KIND used a unique URL on Snapchat to “organically drive traffic out and track engagement”. Because of how Snapchat functions, users had to manually type the URL into their browser. As a result, KIND was able to determine the number of individuals who “clicked beyond Snapchat and into the website”.
If we dig even deeper, we discover there is a whole other “dark” world to unearth that compounds the issue: exclusive, private social networks for the elite consumer (such as A Small World, Eleqt, and RichKids.life) continue to gain popularity, as do private social apps like 23Snaps (for parents who have “the urge to post” a plethora of baby photos but want to keep their activity private from the WWW).
As we continue to identify and appreciate the influence of “dark social” traffic, it is undeniable that we must adapt our tactics and shift focus and begin to explore new avenues for metrics.
The digital sphere changes in the blink of an eye – keeping up can be challenging. Contact Acart to help to ensure you stay ahead of the game.