What is Dark Social

Dark social is the term coined by marketers for the content shared through private channels such as messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, email, or other direct messaging services. Virtually everyone shares content via dark social at some point. Until recently, dark social metrics were often overlooked despite the wealth of data it provides.

The reasons for sharing via darks social vary, but could be to sidestep prohibitions about using social media at work or because you only want to share the content with one or two people instead of your entire following. Dark social is responsible for a large percentage of outbound sharing. The New York City marketing agency, East End Yovth, has some innovative suggestions for harnessing the power of dark social sharing.

3 Reasons You Can’t Afford to Ignore Dark Social

Dark social is everywhere, and social media management services are developing new ways to use dark social to increase traffic. Ignoring the marketing potential is perilous given that it is one of the most significant ways content is shared across the web.

People across all demographics around the globe have lost confidence in traditional social media sites. While most people still have a social media presence of some kind, in-depth conversations and sharing occur through private messaging and email.

Dark social data is a representation of consumer’s real interests, more so than social media shares. Familiarizing your brand with this information allows your business to access a highly-targeted audience.

  1. Dark social has a significant impact on traffic. Dark social shares are increasing at an unprecedented rate while traffic from regular social media has remained steady. Site-originated mobile shares and click backs via dark social is growing at an unprecedented rate.
  2. In many industries, dark social sharing is prevalent. If you are in personal finance, travel, food, and drink, or a service provider, then most social sharing takes place through dark social.
  3. While social media use is down, dark social sharing is increasing exponentially. The majority of content consumption is now taking place outside of traditional social media channels.

Messaging is the New Social Media

Most dark social traffic takes place on one of the five top messaging apps. These include:

  1. WhatsApp—according to recent statistics, 16% of the global population uses WhatsApp.
  2. Viber
  3. Facebook Messenger
  4. Snapchat
  5. WeChat

These messaging apps have a higher global monthly active user count than any of the major social media networks such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. As more users continue to switch to private messaging, marketing companies are scrambling to find new and innovative ways to track data from these ‘direct’ traffic sources.

As the number of users on messenger apps continues to grow, individuals will continue to share more content in private messages rather than public posts.

Improving  Your Dark Social Footprint

Dark social is often attributed to the wrong channel. If you visit a popular news site, read an interesting article, and copy the link into a private message to a colleague, you have just used dark social. When your colleague clicks on the link, the metric will register as direct traffic. Currently, the best way to measure your traffic from dark social is to look at your direct traffic and exclude those who land directly on your homepage, but instead, go directly to the content. This tells you that they got the link from somewhere.

Understanding how to capitalize on dark social means learning to measure sharing patterns, the traffic generated, and what actions take place as a result. Work with an experienced marketing agency to better target potential customers in the dark social environment.

Understanding your presence on dark social will also help you cater content production to your target audience. Identifying industry trends and focusing on content production that caters to those trends will help drive growth and organically receive traction. Using dark social data can increase revenue and improve your return on investment (ROI).

Companies are using this new marketing opportunity to learn and understand their consumers’ interests and behavior and use it to improve their content distribution. The future of social media marketing will focus more on dark social, and the companies that invest in understanding the impact of dark social now will be among the first to reap the rewards.