Dark Social: The Social Media Channel You’ve Never Heard About

15 Nov,2018 by Bertrand Blancheton
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What Is Dark Social? -Swiss Digital Marketers

What Is Dark Social?

Have you ever shared an article, video or picture by sending it out via E-Mail or WhatsApp? Congratulation you’ve used ‘dark social’!

Dark social is when people share content through private channels like messaging apps or email.

While tracking content shared on public platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook is well understood, many people (including digital marketers) don’t realize how much content is shared over private channels.

According to marketing research firm WARC, over 80% of sharing happens over private channels.

Understanding this form of traffic is a part of your content marketing strategy you can’t afford to ignore.

What Are Dark Social Media Channels?

The interesting thing about this topic is that ‘private channels’ aren’t always what you think they are.

It’s easy to understand that instant messages and E-Mail are private channels. But does it include mobile apps for public networks like Facebook and Instagram? Yes, it does!

Any direct communication between users that are not posted publicly can be classified as part of dark social.

Here are some examples of dark social traffic channels for your content, courtesy of Hootsuite:

  • Instant Messaging Apps: e.g. WhatsApp, Telegram, and Facebook Messenger.
  • E-Mail –referrals to your content are never shared if the user clicks on a link sent via E-Mail.
  • Native Mobile Apps: i.e. direct messages sent from user to user on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and etc.
  • Secure Browsing: like E-Mail if you click from content served on the HTTPS to HTTP web protocol you won’t know who or which source referred traffic to you. 

Why Dark Social Matters

You might have noticed that I used to word ‘referred’ a bunch of times in the previous section.

Dark social is web traffic that we can’t attribute to a clear source. Like Google search results or a social network for example. This matters because current traffic is the first bit of information when we want to optimize your marketing funnel.

When we don’t know where traffic is coming from or can’t measure it accurately we won’t know which channels are the best lead generators for your funnel. Exact data about your traffic sources is a key part of growth hacking.

Closing Thoughts

Dark social is the most common way people share content online. It’s also the least talked about social media channel on the internet.

By properly tracking and attributing traffic from private channels you can optimize your marketing funnel more accurately for more effective results.

The right digital marketing experts can help you unlock the power and potential of traffic from private channels. So when you speak to an expert about content marketing ask how to make dark social work for your business.

Have you ever used dark social? Was it helpful? Did it get you the results you were looking for?

We’d love to hear what’s worked for you in the past or what you’d like to try in the future, in the comments below.

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Bertrand is an expert in online customer acquisition. Prior to his entrepreneurial involvement, Bertrand worked as a digital marketing manager for several large Swiss companies. He has also been recognized and honored several times for his work as a marketing innovator and top Swiss digital influencer. I offer free group consultation called "Coffee and Funnel". Let's meet! «Swiss Digital Marketers »

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