What is dark social? How should brands respond to dark social?

When you copy a URL from the browser and paste into an email or a messaging app and send it your friend or family member, you’ve engaged in what is called “dark social”.

dark social url
Photo: Pixabay

Everyone has shared or linked directly via messaging apps or email instead of sharing them through social media. Perhaps you want privacy, or perhaps you know who exactly you want to share certain content with, and want to send it directly. Regardless of the reason, everyone has done it; after all, it makes up 84 percent of outbound sharing.

Dark social is a term coined by Alexis C. Madrigal, a senior editor at The Atlantic. To put it simply, it’s when people share content through private channels such as instant messaging programs, messaging apps and email.  What makes these “private channels” private is because messaging apps and email all use encryption, making them harder to track than regular content shared on social media like Facebook and Twitter.

True to its name, many marketers aren’t aware that a huge chunk of social media traffic is untraceable.

So how do we respond to it?

This is not a new problem; it’s been an issue for online marketing for quite some time. For now, there is no significant solution you could take but you could try to at least reduce the amount of untraceable traffic by:

1. Shortening your URLs for outbound links from your content will help you get a deeper analysis of your engagement rates. They also look cleaner for platforms like Facebook and Twitter, a little icing on the cake.

You can find many services and gadgets online that do this. As you shorten links, it will allow you to track real-time clicks. Allowing you to analyze how much engagement you are getting.

2. Make sharing easy and take the time to manage and rearrange the share buttons on your website so they are at least easy to find. Some websites have the tendency to place their share buttons at the bottom of the page, making readers have to tediously scroll down the page to share it.

If the buttons are hard to find, users might opt to not share at all, or just copy the URL of the website from the browser directly, contributing to dark social.

3. Use online tools at your disposal, it’s 2017, there’s an app for everything, and if you don’t know how to do something, you can always Google it. That being said, there are many tools that would allow you to track dark social traffic sources and analyze their destinations.

As marketers we need all the tools and information that are at our disposal. Luckily for us, the Internet exists. [By Hanny Kusumawati]

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