Imagine scrolling through Facebook and seeing a funny meme about the new season of “Game of Thrones” but you don’t want to share it on your page because you just want to be a decent human being and not spoil it for everyone. So you decide to share it with your best friend who watched it with you on Facebook Messenger or WeChat or Viber or whatever platform you prefer!
That’s “dark social”. In other words, dark social describes any web traffic that is not attributed to a known source.
Asides from messaging apps, some of the most common dark social traffic channels include email, native mobile apps (like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube), and secure browsing.
According to a recent study by Radium One, 69% of all global sharing is through dark social. In 2018, dark social more than doubled by +115%. Now, those are big numbers!
Messaging is the new social. For popular social media channels like Facebook, it’s apparent that content engagement such as shares, likes, and comments have decreased in the past few years. This 2019, Instagram is even testing out the removal of seeing likes on a post which can drastically affect data for businesses, influencers, and marketers alike.
For both platforms, the upcoming social media trend is privacy. We expect that more focus will be in the DM and story features of both platforms. Despite the typical content strategy approach being less effective than its previous years, many companies still ignore the fact that engagement is happening outside of social media channels.
The first step to uncovering the benefits of dark social is to use URL shorteners. Most link shorteners include real-time analytics on clickbacks which help you measure sharing patterns, volumes, traffic, and trends on content that drive organic growth for your company. You already work hard to make sure that your content is original, interesting, and relevant. Don’t you want to know if everyone else thinks the same? Do some research on tools to track dark social traffic such as Po.st, ShareThis, and GetSocial.io.
It is also important to make sharing easy. There should be an option on your photo, video, or blog post in which users can quickly share your content via the most popular messaging and native mobile apps. People are more reluctant to share if they have to scroll all the way down the page.
With dark social, there are no algorithms to decipher or power players to reach out to. It’s all a matter of understanding the behavior of users who share your content.