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What Is Dark Social? | WMI

Posted by Jenna Manula, Director Social Media Marketing on Jun 23, 2017 8:30:00 AM
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If you’re not familiar with the term, it may sound ominous or remind you of the sinister dark web. But dark social isn’t that scary, in fact, you’re contributing to it every time you share content privately on a messaging app, like Facebook Messenger, copy and paste a website link on social (instead of sharing via sharing buttons), or email a link.

What is Dark Social Media?

Dark social describes the “invisible” shares that happen through channels like messenger apps, social media, email, or text, which can be challenging for marketers because those shares can be difficult to track. Google data buckets this traffic as “direct” instead of attributing it to the originating channel and without a transparent view into each channel, marketers aren’t getting a clear picture of how their marketing efforts are paying off.

Too Big to Ignore

Most content sharing is done via dark social, which represents an estimated 79% of on-site shares in the U.S. On Facebook, about 13% of social shares are via dark social. Content shared through dark social is more likely to be opened on a mobile device—47% of click backs on dark social shares come from mobile (another reason to make sure your content is optimized for mobile). Researchers found that consumers who share content via dark social are nine times more likely to purchase than non-sharers. Moreover, dark social channels represent 75% of all converters. If marketers are not accurately tracking dark social activity, they are missing an opportunity to fully understand and analyze the consumer journey and target the consumers who are most likely to convert.

Shining A Light On Dark Social

As the customer journey grows more fragmented and complex, it’s essential that marketers adapt their tools for the reality of a dark social environment and include them in their marketing strategy. Using UTM parameters (trackable tags added to your URL) and shortened links can help shine a light on dark traffic and understand how consumers are sharing content across messaging apps, social, texts, and email.

Dark Posts: Part of the Dark Social Ecosystem

Dark posts, paid social ads that do not live on a brand’s profile or timeline, are not specifically categorized as “dark social,” but they do contribute to the dark ecosystem. Dark posts allow marketers to promote content to targeted consumers without hosting that same content on their public profiles. But if UTMs aren’t used to track paid social activity, Google Analytics categorizes the traffic into the “direct” bucket with other dark traffic. Although tracking metrics for dark posts are provided via Facebook, if marketers not properly assigning tracking tags, they will miss an important piece of the consumer’s path to purchase.

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Source: Radium One The Dark Side of Mobile Sharing 2016, Radium One The Power of Sharing Data 2016

Filed Under: Digital