Jun 13, 2019 By: Prakash Yadav

Are you on social media?

Ok, wrong question, I know!

Everybody is on social media today.

But are you active on social media?

This time, it is not the wrong question. It is not necessary that everybody present on social media are active on it.

Or maybe they are active, in their own hidden dark ways.

Do not get confused, I am not talking about anything suspicious or illegal by the word ‘Dark’.

I can understand, the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear ‘Dark’ is something hidden or secretive.

Even I thought the same when I first heard the word – ‘Dark Social Media’. So I will not blame if you would have decided to keep a distance from getting to know about this term.

But trust me, after reading this article, some of your theories are going to change. Not everything dark is suspicious or illegal. It may be hidden or secretive but not bad in any sense.

Dark Social : your new largest traffic source

Infact, today I am going to discuss about:

How Dark Social Media can be your new largest traffic source?

Before starting, I would like to come back to the same question I asked earlier.

You are on social media, but how active you are on social media?

And I repeat the same thing once again. Everyone is active on social media in one way or the other. Some are openly upfront and share everything on it, starting from waking up in the morning to not able to sleep at night.

But here we are going to focus on the other group, who are active on social media, but not openly.

Let me explain in detail about…

What exactly is dark social media?

Dark social media is a way of sharing information in a secretive way. I mean you share something, but not everyone knows that you did it. It is like passing on something to someone but in the dark.

Ok, do not be confused, let me explain it with an example.

Suppose you came across a very attractive discount deal, while scrolling down your feeds on Facebook. You are not much of a shopping lover, but your friend is.

So you decided to share that link with her. You copied the link and shared it with her via, WhatsApp or email or any other channel.

You just engaged in ‘Dark Social Media’.

So basically it is sharing any information with someone else indirectly.

Now let me take this example further. You friend hit the link and landed on the discount deal page. So she just engaged in ‘Dark Social Traffic’.

The most important thing about dark social media and dark traffic is, you don’t exactly know where it is coming from.

This might lead to misinterpretation sometimes.

In the example I mentioned above, if the company who launched the discount deal, at the end calculates the traffic and its source, it may not get the right data.

Because the algorithms only count the last click from where the traffic was generated, but here Facebook, where you originally saw the ad and passed it to your friend, will not be taken into account.

My point here is, it was basically Facebook in the first place that originated the lead, but it was not counted as one.

Dark Social : your new largest traffic source

So this is the thing about dark social media and dark traffic.

But believe it not, dark social media is frantically becoming the largest source of traffic these days.

Let us understand…

How Dark Social came to existence?

The term ‘Dark Social’ was first introduced by Alexis Madrigal in 2012. Earlier in the 2000’s it was believed that all the website traffic was either a result of the search engine or social platform.

However, Alexis thought otherwise. He had a strong hunch that other than the search engine and social platforms, there was a hidden or mysterious source of the traffic.

The traffic that was a result of word of mouth or sharing the information with relatives, friends, family or close ones. For this type of traffic that the algorithm called as direct traffic (as the source of this traffic was unknown), he termed it as Dark Social.

He stated. “it shows up variously in programs as “direct” or typed/bookmarked” traffic (…) but that’s not actually what’s happening a lot of the time. Most of the time, someone g-chatted someone a link, or it came in on a big email distribution list, or your dad sent it to you.”

Now that you are more or less clear with the term, let me explain…

Why Dark Social is important for your business?

According to you, what is the most powerful and the most difficult marketing strategy?

The answer to both is – Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM).

This is natural human behaviour. Obviously, you will believe more about a brand or product if you hear about it from someone known rather than seeing it on any xyz platform.

And in the case of dark social, WOMM is the main driving force. You will share a link or information about something with someone else, only if you yourself believe in it.

Social platforms usually create a pressure of presence. And on the other side, you do not have to be worried about this social pressure if you are sharing any info via any other means indirectly.

In short, people are more inclined towards being private yet persuasive. And dark social allows them to do it exactly this.

Dark Social : your new largest traffic source

Don’t trust me, read the numbers:

  • 48% of the people are not very comfortable about sharing anything openly on a public or social platform.
  • According to the experts, dark social has become the largest traffic source since July 2018.
  • More than 80% of social sharing is via dark social.
  • By the end of 2019, nearly 2.19 billion consumers will be using messaging apps on mobiles.

This is exactly why dark social is highly targeted and have more chances of driving genuine traffic than other sources.

Dark Social : your new largest traffic source  Dark Social : your new largest traffic source

Now that we are talking about dark social media and its importance we surely cannot miss out on ….

The importance of mobile in dark social world:

Dark social media is not as new as it sounds. It has been there forever. It is just that it has come under the spotlight with the explosion in the use of mobile.

Just in case you missed it earlier, let me repeat it:

  • By the end of 2019, nearly 2.19 billion consumers will be using messaging apps on mobiles.

I guess this explains the situation.

According to research and reports of 2018, on an average, per person is spending a total 5.9 hours per day on digital media usage. And from this 55% of the time is spent on mobile devices.

I hope you get the important role mobile plays in driving your traffic. And of course, you would not like to turn your face from such an important source.

And to use the mobiles efficiently to your benefit, you need to make sure that the mobile experience is impeccable. Mobile users usually engage in the age-old copy paste method.

And this is more commonly known as the copy-paste shares, which sometimes accounts to more than 80% of the shares.

Dark Social : your new largest traffic source

The irony is, every good thing has a dark side. So, dark social also has a dark side. You are wondering how darker it could get.

In the case of dark social, the darker side is how to calculate the traffic generated from it.

Do not worry, keep reading and you will get a solution to this too.

How to quickly know how much Dark Social Traffic you have?

There is a solution to every problem. To know how much dark social traffic you are getting, all you need to do is, follow these steps:

  1. Use the dark social calculator:

Dark social calculator is a calculator that calculates by accumulating the data directly from the Google Analytics account and asses how much dark social traffic is generated on your website.

Step 1: All you have to do is visit: https://getsocial.io/dark-social-calculator and log in using your Google Analytics Account.

Step 2: After logging in with your Google Analytics id, the calculator will analyze all the data and bring in the result of estimated dark social traffic and the pages affected by it.

Dark Social : your new largest traffic source

  1. Audit your direct traffic:

Step 1: Log in to your Google analytics account. Get the report of the total session for the last month – Reports > Audience > Overview.

Step 2: Analyze the source of your traffic – (Reports > Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels).

Step 3: Create a filter. This filter will ignore all the traffic to the main landing page. This will help you to get the misattributed ‘direct traffic’. And this is your dark social traffic.

  1. Append tags/utms to private sharing buttons:

Append the UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) in your URLs. UTM parameters basically are glued to your URL. They do not leave the URL even when it is switched to different platforms.

In short if one of your audiences picks your link from Facebook and share it on Instagram, the algorithms will not count the last click to be Instagram. It will take Facebook as the main source.

Now you know:

  • What is Dark Social Media and Dark Traffic.
  • Why it is important for your business.
  • What is the importance of Mobile in Dark Social Media
  • And How you can calculate it

It is now time to jump to…

How is Dark Social affecting your brand?

I don’t think I need to explain this. The most important thing for any business is the customer and the source that is getting you the maximum customers, by default becomes the most important for your.

Dark social was not in the show till now, because algorithms only take into account the last click that brought the traffic. But now you know, there is a lot more than the last click.

You need to understand the entire customer journey, that ultimately landed it on your page. And dark social is a very important element of the journey that you definitely cannot afford to miss.

Dark Social : your new largest traffic source

The secret to success in deriving dark traffic is:

  1. Curate content for your favourite followers. Give them enough quality content that they can share via dark social methods.
  2. Understand your audience’s interests. Keep an eye on what type of content is getting into the dark category and give them exactly that.
  3. Use shorter URLs. This will help you to analyze the dark traffic easily.
  4. Embed UTMS in your URLs.
  5. Last but not least, do not divert from the focus. Dark sharing is not for selling. It is for branding and spreading awareness about your product or services.

A pro tip: If you are curating content especially for your fans and followers to share it further, add the UTM tracking on all the links that you shoot out on the social platforms. You can use the Google URL campaign builder to do this.

By doing this, you will be able to track down every click on the link shared, dark or otherwise.

Do not miss out on these important tactics to improve your marketing budget. Because if you know where your traffic is coming from, you will invest in those platforms rather than other, who do not give your expected return on investment.

Follow the steps mentioned in this article and do not forget to share the results.

Good Luck!

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