Dark social is the transmission of content through links via email, instant messaging and text.
I first heard the term a few months back, but it turns out it was coined in 2012 by Alexis C. Madrigal. I admit I’m a bit embarrassed that I heard about this 10 years later, but I digress.
As a marketer, it’s important to monitor your budget and track every share, tweet, click and so on. But from the large pie of attribution comes a piece that is often left unknown.
This is where dark social comes in.
On any given day you might share or receive several links from a coworker, friend or family member. When you click on it, Google Analytics reports that as a direct traffic source (meaning someone googled your company and clicked on your site directly).
This untraceable transmission of content drives a lot of web traffic – some say 20-30% while others suggest it might be even higher.
This means a large portion of the buzz surrounding your company and its content goes undetected, making it harder for you to target these highly engaged customers.
I know it might sound scary that a marketing firm is telling you there is a huge missing piece of the puzzle, but fear not. There are ways you can monitor and adjust with this in mind.
The first thing we recommend you do is survey and audit all your channels to identify the variables you do know so you can find what portion is being incorrectly attributed as something other than dark social.
Be sure to consider earned, owned and paid media. Look at the traffic for each of these sources and use critical thinking when reviewing your Google Analytics. The errors in reporting should become painfully obvious if you take your time doing this.
Additionally, there are tools you can use to track how your links are shared, like Bitly or ShareThis. But there’s still no surefire way to verify the reporting is 100% accurate.
Larger companies are attempting to join customers on dark social through direct message solutions. They use these platforms to conduct focus groups and interviews to collect data on how consumers share content.
The downside is that most people use these applications for secure messaging with individuals they know and trust – not companies.
At the end of the day, one of the best things you can do is listen and engage with your audience. Stay up-to-date and plugged in to your community. This will give you the insight you’re looking for.
Don’t get me wrong – attribution and analytics are important. But staying in tune with your customers by remaining active and engaged on social is the best way to go.
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