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Why You Can’t Ignore the Idea of Dark Social

If you’re not preparing for the rise in dark social, where have you been? There are plenty of digital marketing tools and techniques, and dark social is proving to be one of the biggest for 2018. If you don’t know what is dark social, let us explain.

What is Dark Social?

To get you to understand dark social, we’ll need you to a picture a scene, can you do that for us? Here goes… You’re at work, and you’ve just seen a video of a dog dressed as a human, running to the camera, and you want to share the video with your colleagues (without the boss seeing). To share the video with your dog-lover colleague, away from the eye of your boss, you copy the URL and send it in a message, or email. You’ve just partaken in dark social.
Some of the channels that are attributed to the rise in dark social traffic include:

  • Mobile apps: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter
  • Email: For users privacy, referrals are not passed
  • Messaging apps: Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger etc.

Dark Social

Unfortunately, as people are more often sharing links through the private messaging apps and so on, links shared this way lack referral tags. If someone were to click on a link from your Facebook, your analytics should tell you where that came from. However, when your colleague or whomever you share the (more than likely) cat/dog/someone falling flat on their face video, that click will show up as direct traffic, yet it comes from untrackable referrals.

Why You Can’t Ignore Dark Social

Now you understand what the concept is, you need to know why it matters for digital marketing. More than 77% of content is shared via dark social; over three quarters of content from publishers or marketers.

This is a spectacular marketing opportunity, providing fantastic data and an accurate representation of your consumers’ actual interests. Therefore, you can make informed decisions and place your products in front of the right audience. Dark social sharing is also prevalent in many industries, particularly food, finance and travel, with more than 70% of social sharing done through dark social.

Dark Social

How to Use Dark Social

There’s no beating around the bush; dark social tracking is difficult. It’s almost impossible to completely track your dark social traffic, but there are steps to help narrow the traffic down. For example, any long links in your analytics are more than likely from dark social, and not typed in manually. We’re sharing some digital marketing tools and techniques to helping you measure dark social traffic to your website.

Sharing Buttons

Reduce the amount of dark social traffic by clearly displaying social sharing buttons, with trackable links, alongside your content, and throughout your site. Make sure those buttons are prominent and differentiate between ‘share’ and ‘follow’ buttons. Encourage people to share your content, rather than copy and paste the link. It should be quick and easy for your audience to share your message, and consider buttons for email and WhatsApp, along with other dark social channels.

Shorten URLs

Shorten URLs to track outbound links, using various platforms. The shortened URLs save precious characters for your consumers, making them more likely to share. They also look cleaner on social media platforms, such as Twitter.

Dark Social Tools

There are digital marketing tools and techniques that provide further dark social analytics. Po.st is a link shortener that enables users to gain deep insights into who has clicked on their shortened URLs, from social media channels. The audience can then be segmented into further categories. There is also the option of the commonly used bit.ly and even ShareThis, that allows people to share content through email, direct message or text message.
It’s possible to track dark social from a spike in traffic arriving from social media.

If there’s one thing we can conclude, it’s that dark social is the sharing of the future.


Dan is a self-taught developer who has created hundreds of websites over the past nine years. Here at Flow, he builds websites to client specifications and helps maintain existing customer systems using his knowledge of PHP, HTML, JavaScript and CSS. Whether the problem is big or small, Dan will find a solution to get a project back on track.

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