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You're Most Likely Using Dark Social Without Even Realising It 🤯

If you're an avid internet dweller like myself, you may have occasionally come across the phrase 'Dark Social' whilst browsing Social Media Marketing news sites and Reddit. Although this particular type of Social Media has existed for quite some time now, it has yet to really see the light of day (😉 pun intended) with many marketers still choosing to focus on standard Social Media practices and behaviour.

Okay, now before we get into this, I want to share some pretty cool and insightful facts with you about Dark Social that may get you thinking about using it (or at least thinking about it more) in your own marketing activities.

Firstly, I would like to say that I'm still blown away by the fact that only 4% of marketers took Dark Social seriously last year (4%!) sadly I wasn't one of those. What is even more mental is that a huge amount of consumer outbound sharing takes place on Dark Social 🤯.

So, what exactly is Dark Social?

You would be forgiven for thinking the phrase Dark Social refers to some sort of evil society or hacking group that is looking to steal your Farmville account on Facebook. Luckily for you, this is not the case. To summarise Dark Social in a simple sense, it is a phrase used to describe social shares/metrics that do not contain digital referral information about the source.

Interestingly enough, this term was actually made popular by web analysts and marketers much like you and me trying to figure out where this mysterious, untraceable traffic was coming from.

dark social media

Right, I know what you're thinking, you're wondering if there is still a way to track Dark Social, right? Well to tell you the truth, it's pretty tough to get super accurate results in this particular area (HOWEVER), If you're a data junky like me, and spend quite a lot of time on analytical tools such as Google Analytics, you'll be able to spot these illusive metrics by checking your direct traffic and keeping an eye out for awkwardly long URL's.

If you want to go one step further (you know you want to 😏) you could always setup a new segment in Google Analytics that instantly identifies direct traffic with the set parameters (long URL's) you originally identified - I personally find this helps you spot Dark Social far quicker.

Another method I use a lot (especially when working on Paid Social Media campaigns) is to create UTM links. UTM, otherwise known as an Urchin tracking module is a traceable URL that can be applied to any link, helping you better identify where users are coming from. I use this method with my clients quite a bit so that I can break down where their traffic is coming from, right down to the specific Social Media ad group, ad and ad variation clicked on. If you're interested in finding out more about UTM codes, I would highly recommend this article from HubSpot.

With that out of the way, you may still be trying to figure out where Dark Social actually takes place - in short, it tends to happen in the following areas:

  • Email and chat clients: Gmail, Hotmail, Slack, Yahoo (*if you're old school)
  • Messaging applications: Direct Messages (DM's), WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger
  • Mobile Applications: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok
  • Secure and encrypted web browsing

Should you be focusing your efforts on Dark Social?

I wouldn't say I am asking people to down tools and forget all of their successful Social Media Marketing Strategies, however, What I would say is that it should definitely be on your radar going forwards into 2020 and 2021. Dark Social has been a growing trend for some years now and has really started to accelerate in popularity over 2019 and 2020.

It's no longer acceptable to share content directly to your friends Facebook wall, instead people are choosing to keep those engagements exclusive by sharing them via DM's on social or via widely used messaging apps such as WhatsApp.

In my personal opinion, I believe it is incredibly important to closely monitor and adapt to user behaviors (this is especially so) on Social Media platforms. Marketers that adapt to the daily (occasionally hourly) changes in execution and strategy will be the ones that succeed and break the mold going forwards. Speaking as a Marketing Specialist myself, I understand how easy it can be to see something work and rely upon it day after day. I urge anyone who is currently relating to this to reassess their current strategies and methods. Simply put some time aside either per day or per week identifying new trends and learning how they work, how to leverage them as well as how to potentially create them.

If you found this blog post insightful, please feel free to share your thoughts online, being sure to @ me on Twitter using my handle @UELukeT - I would love to hear your thoughts on Dark Social. If you would like to read another one of my articles, why not check out my previous post on how to 'Social Media Marketing tools to help super charge your 2020 strategy'




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