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What is Dark Social Media?

Dark Social Media. Dark Social. Dark Traffic. Whatever you choose to call it, the common word remains. Dark. To be in the dark about something means you don’t have all the information, so you are unable to really figure out what is going on. For marketers it is almost an innate need to measure and track everything. Metrics, metrics, metrics. If you can’t track it it how do know it’s working? How can you improve? So it’s understandable that you are a bit wary of things you can’t measure or control. Dark social media, however, isn’t quite as scary as it sounds.

The Term was First Coined in 2012.

This isn’t a new concept. The term was originally coined by Alexis Madrigal, a writer for The Atlantic, in an article titled Dark Social: We Have the Whole History of the Web Wrong . She says we have gotten the whole history of the web wrong. Even though the web wasn’t originally created for social purposes, with parallel tools like chat rooms, IM, and email, the web became very social. Therefore, link sharing wasn’t invented with Facebook, but rather with the invention of early chat forums.

What is it?

Now that you know where the term originated, let’s discuss the definition. According to Social Media Week, dark social media or dark social refers to sharing of content that isn’t trackable for analytics purposes. This includes all the stuff that is shared via text messages, Facebook messenger, email, and other social apps.

The problem is the referring link. If the link sharing occurs over private secure networks, there is no referring link. These links are what marketers track and without them this type of sharing is very difficult to track. For example, you can see if someone comes to your content via Facebook, or other referring sites. However, with dark social you cannot see how someone came to your content because it happened over their device’s secure network.

What’s the source? As stated earlier it is most likely links being shared via email or secure text messaging, mostly through a smartphone. We use our phones to send text messages and emails on a daily basis. Therefore, a lot of sharing in undoubtedly going on.

So What?

It is more extensive than we know. Because it is hard to measure we don’t know exactly what percentage of dark social makes up shares and traffic to websites. However, a good estimate according to research done by DIGIDAY reveals that dark social is responsible for 82% of mobile sharing activity. With this being said people are getting serious about how they track their data, meaning marketers are getting a specific picture of their link break down. An article from Digital Doughnut suggests that you try and reduce the amount of traffic which falls into the dark social category by displaying social sharing buttons, with trackable links, throughout your site and in all communications.

In all, dark social is still a relevant topic of interest and is a social trend that should be monitored to the best of your ability. After all, today’s marketers are cracking down on how to improve their link tracking. For more social media and marketing news, check out our other blog posts.

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