What you need to know about Dark Social

What you need to know about Dark Social

As we look at it now days all things as we have known them online are going dark. But do we know what Dark Social means? In this our first blog of the year, we tackle the meaning and the opportunities Dark Social presents.


If you work for a social brand and have ever needed to dig into a traffic source report using your favorite web analytics tool, you may have noticed a giant bucket of ‘direct’ traffic and thought to yourself what is this?


The interesting part is that it continuously goes on daily. Many people do it to  sidestep the social network ban at work, in the country via text message while browsing on mobile, or through private messages on major social networks when they don’t want their entire network to know they have  secretly enjoyed a Nude or Fake news article.

That there is Dark Social.  It’s when you copy the URL in the browser and paste it into an email or WhatApps chat the message without retweeting or sharing from a Facebook or Twitter Feed. It’s when we are connecting with people in private channels much more often than you are in publicly/openly.


Dark social links don’t contain referrer data, they don’t automatically attach tracking tags, unless if the shared link was copied with the tag included like Twitter original Tweet including the UTM code attached to it.


You should know that this kind of sharing is now very critical for 2017 social media marketers to understand.  The content being shared by our colleagues, friends, and others, needs to be looked into as the kind that can sustain and amplify your efforts.


This kind of sharing makes sense in areas of 1:1 instead of 1:many, and is more share than many marketer think. If you’re a digital marketer, or an agency that caters to digital marketers, you need to be prepared to identify, understand, and optimize how dark social is sharing.


Don’t be afraid of the dark! Start measuring it. A good first start is appending UTM parameters to the share buttons on your site i.e. &utm_source=sharebutton&utm_channel=facebook. This way when people reach your site via Facebook’s mobile app and other social apps that don’t pass referrers you’ll know they got there via a social share.


Chartbeat has identified native mobile apps that pass the identifier in the UserAgent field even when they don’t pass a referrer. For example, Facebook passes FBIOS as a UserAgent string for a user accessing content from Facebook’s mobile app. But still these solutions only address the dark social sharing and traffic that happens on the mobile apps of major social channels, but not SMS, chat or email. Measuring dark social on those channels requires a more nuanced approach that’s beyond the scope of this post.


But we hope we have opened your eye to this, and will continue to look into it and we both ways of measuring it and planning for it.

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