If it’s part of your work routine to dig around in web analytics, you’re probably already aware of a massive chunk of ‘direct’ traffic to your brand’s site and will probably have already been quizzed about where it’s come from.
Put simply, dark social is traffic that has originated from outside sources. Dark social is activity which web analytics can’t track, it’s people sending and sharing links privately through communications such as email and instant messaging.
Sharing has become dark
According to a RadiumOne report, dark social has been reported to be responsible for up to 70% of all sharing activity globally, with instant messaging and email being the most popular platforms for sharing content.
Dark social sharing happens when people copy and paste content or links from a website into a private message and selectively share it. The dominant shift in dark sharing can be partly blamed on the rise in mobile social messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, but ultimately the majority of the time people just want to share something one-to-one rather than to everyone.
I’m sure you’ll have WhatsApp’ed your friends a potential purchase, sent your boyfriend a link to a holiday destination or secretly emailed a colleague a sneaky career opportunity – well that’s all dark social.
Tracking your content in the dark
There’s a reason why dark social is called ‘dark’, because it’s currently very difficult to track. For anyone who publishes content online, it’s important to know where your readers have come from so that you can use it to your advantage.
With this in mind, brands are unsurprisingly keener than ever to understand the secrets of dark social and how they can harness its power to better understand their customer behaviour.
And the theory goes that dark sharing could provide a lot more insight into your customer because it represents their genuine interest in a specific piece of content, enough to share it directly with a select few and for very specific reasons. Whether it’s to inspire, inform or make a decision, it gives a much clearer view of an audience’s intent and interest.
Adidas shine light in the dark
Adidas have taken a step into the darkness and are trying to get a truer sense of what conversations are going on around the brand, using WhatsApp to do so. The brand is trying to track private conversations by building hyper local communities, where fans are invited to join dedicated ‘squads’ on WhatsApp. The scheme is set to spread across Berlin, London, Paris, Milan and Stockholm this month when the sports brand will release exclusive news to the squads before anywhere else. Adidas want to know more about the individual conversations that are taking place and the metrics they can measure them with, senior director of global brand communications for Adidas Football Florian Alt said: “Adidas wants to be the most personal brand, so we need to know and understand our consumer in order to have a meaningful relationship…. There is huge potential in dark social. We’re one of the first brands to embrace the opportunity so it’s important we test and learn as we move forward.”
Should ‘Dark Social’ shape your content?
With this in mind, (and with more and more brands trying to invade dark social), will people want brands stepping in to their personal conversations?
How will this affect content strategies moving forward? Will there be different tactics and approaches to what is shared dark? Will there be different measurements of engagement?
That aside, the best way to guarantee that your content is being shared, in the light of day or the dark depths of social is to focus on creating interesting, informative, inspiring material. Check out our blog for five content marketing lessons you can learn from house of cards here.
Dark Social in numbers
- 84%of people share content online globally
- 32%of people who share content online will only share via Dark Social
- 69%of all sharing activity takes place via Dark Social globally versus 23% via Facebook
- 36%of Dark Social sharing takes place on mobile devices globally
- Advertisers are achieving impressive results from harnessing and activating Dark Social data to engage with audiences outside of their owned media properties