Welcome to the Dark Side...of Social Media

05 Apr 2018
05 Apr 2018

That’s right, we’re not joining Darth Vader over on the dark side just yet but we do want to tell you about the dark side of social media. Don’t worry, it’s not an evil side or something you should worry about but it’s definitely something you should know about!

What is Dark Social?

Imagine you’re sharing something with your friends on social media, you’re excited for your friend to see it so you comment on the post with their name or you click ‘share’ and post it to your friend’s timeline. Everyone can see what you have done and, the original poster can track the actions and shares on their posts and keep tabs on its success in their analytics platforms.

Now, imagine a different scenario. You see a post, image or video that you like, so you copy the link and send it to your friend through Facebook Messenger, Email or WhatsApp. This is the sharing of content which cannot be measured by analytics platforms. This is dark social.

Every day, millions of people copy the link to interesting content that they have found online and paste it into a messaging app. Great! You’re content is being shared far and wide. However, the trouble with this type of sharing is, when the recipient clicks on the content, it becomes attributed to direct traffic in your analytics platform when, in fact, it should be labelled as a referral. This makes it extremely difficult to know the true reach of your content and may mean some of your content is more successful than you can see.

Dark social is becoming more prominent because not everyone wants to share everything publicly. The content that is shared via dark social is very different to that which is shared

Can I ignore dark social?

77% of content is shared via dark social. That’s over three quarters of the content shared by publishers and marketers. Dark social provides a fantastic marketing opportunity which provides great data insights and presents you with a more accurate representation of your customer’s actual interests. This will help you to make informed decisions about future activities and get your products in front of the right audience.

Over 70% of online referrals come from dark social so, if you’re not measuring it, it will be impossible for you to get a full picture of who your audience is, where they come from and how they interact with your content. With platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp on the rise, you’re going to want to pay attention to dark social as it becomes increasingly important.

Can you measure dark social?

There’s no doubt about it, dark social can be extremely difficult to measure but you can take certain steps to help segment and narrow the traffic down so that you can see where some of it is coming from. Here are a few of the methods we suggest to make dark social traffic a little easier to measure and track.

Sharing buttons

Make sharing easier for your visitors will reduce the need for them to simply copy the link and share it elsewhere. Display social sharing buttons on all of your content and throughout your site with trackable links included. Ensure that you make sharing buttons prominent and distinguish them from your usual social follow icons.

Shorten URLs

When posting any links to your content on social media platforms, always use shortened URLs. Not only does it save characters within your own post, it also saves the characters for your followers, making them more likely to share the content to their own profiles.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics allows you to your own segment in which to attribute dark social traffic to so that you can see how many people are being directed to your website via dark social. You can determine dark social by attributing it to your website visitors who came to your website through direct traffic and those who did not come through the home page.

Why measure dark social?

You might find that dark social drives much more traffic to your website than you originally thought, the data you gain from measuring dark social could help to improve your ROI on social media campaigns and, it could help you to refine and tweak your campaigns to help get the most from your budget.

Access more demographics

Millenials might be social media savvy and constantly sharing on social media, dark social is where you’ll find the harder to reach demographics. 46% of consumers aged 55 or older only share content via dark social in contrast to the 16 to 34 group in which only 19% share via dark social. Tapping into this data is a great way to reach these more difficult demographics and tailor your content for the older generation.

Dark social and mobile

When thinking about your content and the way it’s going to be shared, you must always remember that mobile is extremely important when it comes to dark social as 62% of click backs on dark social come from mobile devices so, you should always assume that, when someone shares your content, it will always be viewed on a mobile device. This means that you can optimise your content for sharing on the correct platforms.

To find out more about dark social and making it work for your business, please contact our team of experts.

© Rare Digital Marketing 2017