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what is Dark social and how to detect it?

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Dark social is defined as visits from unknown sources, it can be a synonym for invisible traffic on our social networks or websites. These visits translate as social actions for which we have no digital referral information. This concept arises in web analytics and online advertising. Unlike public sharing on social networking services such as Facebook, Dark social is shared privately through IRC channels, email or SMS.

The article was coined by editor Alexis C. Madrigal in an article, in which he refers to the lack of access - by analytical tools - to analyse and evaluate all the traffic that enters our website. The inability to identify the source of website traffic is mainly due to the rise of mobile applications and instant messaging programs. We can define the concept of dark social as: web traffic generated by copying a link that cannot be measured by analytical tools that do not allow us to know the source of the link.

To detect dark social, we must first perform an audit of our website. Analysis and measurement are steps that we cannot avoid in our Inbound Marketing strategy. Measurement is an essential part of inbound marketing, knowing our users, examining the steps we take to win their affection and even knowing where they came from and how they got to us is a successful inbound marketing strategy. The problem is that we cannot always find out everything we want to know about a user. Examples of dark social would be: some content sent by a single user via email, chat, mobile applications or text messages from mobile devices.

Without transmitting data, measurement becomes an impossible task. The traffic generated by these sources varies by industry and user profiles, but can represent more than 50% of a typical website's traffic. One of the characteristics of this traffic is the sheer size it can represent in audience and insights.

pay close attention to this type of traffic!

Although dark social may be an obstruction to our full analysis, it has no reason to be a negative point. We must take advantage of the volume of traffic that arises from these practices. Keep in mind that this type of traffic arises from content shared via mobile phones, this can be a positive point - thanks to the fact that, if it is shared content, we can think that it is recommendable for our customers or leads - thus, it translates into a possibility to generate new leads and attract new customers.

In the next few years, it is predicted that more than 70% of the world's content sharing will be via Dark Social. Currently, Dark Social has twice as much traffic as Facebook. Especially in Europe, users use instant messaging apps like WhatsApp more than social networks. Therefore, it is difficult to track traffic.

Although it is difficult to measure, dark social can be a very profitable part of a company's marketing strategy. Because it allows you to capture the percentage of the audience that visits the site from unknown channels. Additionally, it should be noted that the visits received are direct referrals from digital word of mouth. In most cases, this is traffic from closely related or reputable sources, which greatly increases the credibility and value of the site. Therefore, we find a few characteristics that dark social and word of mouth marketing share. User recommendations and word of mouth marketing is a strategy that has persisted in our society for thousands of years, one of the goals of our Inbound Marketing strategy is to get our leads to promote our company.

In contrast to social networks that are public, dark social is private and intimate. It is less stressful and more open when a friend or family member writes directly and shares a link. 48% do not want to share certain content in public forums. This makes dark social sharing very selective. When someone shares something with you via a WhatsApp message, it is because they believe you are connecting with them on a personal, even private, level.

Data supports the preferences shared on public channels. RadiumOne 's research shows that the amount of communications on dark social channels in 2016 exceeded the amount of communications on public sites like Facebook. While sharing on dark channels has been an important activity for years, this type of sharing has recently become a source of quality traffic recommended by Facebook. In 2018, Get Social analysed its clients' traffic and found that dark traffic from dark social networks exceeded traffic from public Facebook posts. Dark traffic from dark can already increase traffic to your website.

Moreover, the traffic generated by Dark Social is very valuable. It usually depends on the department you work in, but some sites can generate more than 50% of the traffic. Best of all, tips and advice are shared in the food and beverage, travel, tourism or job search businesses. If we analyse the audience that comes to the content and different pages, we can draw a profile on the type of information that is interesting - for our leads and customers - and recommended to their close circles. With that analysis, we can discover a type of content that we can go deeper and continue publishing, with the aim of increasing the volume of traffic to our website.

how can we detect dark social?

  • Shorten the URL with tools that allow us to obtain short links automatically.
  • Add buttons to share the content of the page. In this way, you can track widely shared information, although it must be clearly distinct from the tracking button. They can be included in websites and emails.
  • Create segments in Google Analytics. Add a new one in Audience>Summary >Add Segment. Name it Dark Social and click "Advanced". Then generate two of them in the "Conditions" section.
  • There are tools for dark social. They help monitor what the content is and how users share it.

In summary, we can summarise the concept of dark social as: web traffic generated by copying a link that cannot be measured by analytical tools that do not allow us to know the source of the link. Although it is difficult to measure, dark social can be a very profitable part of a company's marketing strategy, as we can consider this type of traffic as word of mouth, so we get leads that promote our company.

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