30 Apr What is Dark Social and Why Should You Care?
Dark social sharing is what happens when people share content via private networks and messaging apps such as email, text, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. These shares are called dark because they are hard to track and quantify. Dark social is traffic that’s not attributed to a known source, such as a Google search or a social network.
In this post, we’ll look at the impact of dark social sharing. We’ll also discuss some tools for shedding light on dark social.
How much sharing happens in the dark?
When you look at your analytics for sources of web traffic, you probably see a big slice of the pie labeled “Direct”. The Direct category includes all the traffic that comes to you without an identifiable source. When you click a link on a Facebook post, a tracking tag is added to the URL to tell the destination website “Facebook sent me!” Links shared through private messaging apps and networks do not have these trackable tags. As far as your analytics knows, these visitors appeared out of thin air.
It’s very likely that a high percentage of traffic to your site is the result of dark social shares, which show up in the Direct category in your analytics report.
According to research from RadiumOne, 84% of outbound sharing (that’s consumers sharing content from your website) occurs over dark social channels.
Think about that for a minute. More than 80% of shares are happening where you don’t see them or track them. You might obsess over Facebook shares and Instagram likes, but this public sharing is just the tip of the iceberg.
If you are measuring the impact of new marketing initiatives only by looking at public social network likes and follows, you’re getting just a small part of the picture. Dark social sharing is so pervasive, your new content has likely been seen and shared with far more consumers than is reflected by counting Instagram likes. Was there an increase in “direct” traffic to your site? It’s highly likely this increase was driven by the dark social impact of your marketing program.
Dark social sharing impacts your business, whether you see it or not
RadiumOne’s research shows that 32% of consumers share exclusively via dark social channels, with this number jumping to 46% for consumers over age 55. This segment is likely to grow with the recent controversy surrounding Facebook and other public social networks. Privacy concerns and an increased wariness about “oversharing” will amplify the importance of dark social in the future.
Dark social sharing is far more compelling than public social sharing. Imagine two scenarios:
1.Amy is looking at her Facebook feed and sees that her friend Christie has shared a link to your new product announcement.
2.Amy gets a text message or email from Christie with the same link, to which she’s added a note: “I came across this and thought you’d enjoy it.”
Which link is Amy more likely to click?
Dark social shares are marketing gold. A direct message from one interested consumer to another carries a halo of like and trust that no public Facebook post can match. The dark social share is far more likely to result in a sale.
Shining a light on dark social sharing
When customers copy your URL from the address bar and paste it into an email or message, any traffic resulting from that link will be dark. There are three popular tools that enable you to encourage dark social sharing while tracking the impact of this activity. All these tools work by capturing information about what is being shared. Rather than looking at traffic coming into your website, you can see what content your customers find share-worthy and see what channels they are using to share it.
Sharethis is an easy to use tool that adds share buttons to your content. You can choose to include buttons for popular dark social channels, such as email, WhatsApp and SMS (text message), as well as for the public social networks. The buttons are optimized for mobile use, and you have choices about the size, position, and look of the buttons.
Po.st is a product of RhythmOne (formerly RadiumOne, the company who produced the definitive study of dark social trends). Po.st adds a sharing tool to your website which includes robust tracking and analytic tools.
GetSocial works through plugins for WordPress or Shopify. In addition to tracking the use of share buttons, GetSocial will tell you how often a URL is shared through copy/paste.
Once you’ve got your share buttons in place, remind people to use them! A surprisingly effective, but often overlooked, way to encourage sharing is to simply ask. End your tutorial or blog post with a friendly request, like this: “Do you know someone who would enjoy this project? Use the buttons below to share it with them!” Not only are you reminding them to share, you are directing them toward the buttons that will enable you to track that activity.
Social media marketing is key to the success of any business in today’s economy. Of course, you want to continue to maximize likes and follows on Facebook and Instagram. But don’t forget about the person-to-person sharing that is quickly replacing traditional word-of-mouth. Dark social sharing is a far richer source of potential customers than public social networks. A little effort spent encouraging dark social sharing and making it trackable can pay big dividends. If you see an increase in “direct” traffic to your website, that’s a good indication that your content is being shared in the dark.
Stitchcraft Marketing a niche agency specializing in creative companies. They are ready to work with you to create content worthy of sharing. Contact Leanne@stitchcraftmarketing.com to learn how we can help you grow your craft business.