Have you ever used Bitly in order to measure the number of clicks a link receives? If so, you’re likely to have seen ‘Dark Traffic’ as one of your referrers. ‘Dark Traffic’ refers to clicks on that link from emails, mobile apps (such as your email app or WhatsApp), text messages, or when the link is typed directly into a browser. So what is Dark Social?
Dark Social simply refers to the act of a link being shared through private messaging apps such as WhatsApp or Snapchat, or shared through platforms such as email or SMS (text messaging). It’s nothing new – in fact, the phrase ‘Dark Social’ was first coined in 2012 – but, the shift in the way we communicate and share information is fuelling a rise in its importance and also the awareness of dark social.
Think about it this way: you find an interesting article like this one, and you simply copy and paste the link into your text messaging app and hit ‘Send’. In an instant, the person you’ve sent the link to can open up the really useful article you’ve shared with them. You’ve just shared something on dark social!
Millions of people do this every day, sending lots of traffic to websites (I do… I even send links to an eBay item I might like to my other half via SMS!). In fact, RadiumOne suggest that “84% of consumers’ outbound sharing from publishers’ and marketers’ websites now takes place via private, Dark Social channels such as email and instant messaging”. This predominantly takes place on mobile phones which just shows the importance of mobile-friendly social media marketing.
Is Dark Social Important to me?
If you’re trying to market your business, then YES… dark social is very important. It can affect your marketing efforts in many ways. If you’re using social media as an effective marketing tool, you will know that ‘sharing’ is everything – it sustains and amplifies all of your social media marketing efforts. Dark social means a large chunk of traffic coming to your website is extremely difficult to track. And being able to track traffic is important to your marketing efforts as you will want to know how effective your marketing was and you do not want to waste time and energy in repeating the same mistake over and over. Without a clear insight into how your link is being shared, you are not able to see the full picture of how your efforts are paying off.
Sounds like Dark Social is a nightmare! What can I do about it?
Well, firstly, don’t see dark social as a problem. Consider the value of this kind of traffic – don’t be afraid of the dark! I mentioned earlier that if I find a link for a product that I know my other half is looking for (or one that I’d quite like myself) and email that link to him, it’s fair to say he’s likely to convert. How valuable is that? It is effectively word-of-mouth between people who know each other well.
Secondly, try to reduce the amount of traffic which falls into the dark social category in the first place. Do this by prominently displaying social media sharing buttons (with trackable links) throughout your site and in all communications. However, just ensure you understand which social media platforms your customer base has a preference for.
Thirdly, you could use Bitly to track clicks that would otherwise become dark traffic. I use Bitlinks as a way to track how prospects and clients engage with my emails.
For the more technical minded among you, Google analytics allows its users to create segments. This feature enables specific filtering of your traffic according to a defined criteria. It’s great to dig a little bit deeper into your data if you want to create reports based on behaviour, location or any other traffic attribute.
Many businesses are still not properly monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of their activity on social media. Getting this right first should be your first priority. Don’t know how? CLICK HERE to get in touch with us and we’ll give you a helping hand.
Oh, and you know how we said you should make it easy for others to share your content with social media sharing buttons? There’s some of those below… it’d be nice if you clicked one or two of them and shared this with your friends!