What Is Dark Social?

Dark Social – it sounds pretty sinister right? Well, I suppose if unexplained analytics keeps you up at night, then it is.

There’s always a lot of buzzwords knocking around in the marketing world, and sometimes it can be hard to keep up, so today we thought we would give you the abridged version of ‘Dark Social‘, and what it could mean for your business.

What Is Dark Social?

In short, Dark Social is all that really irritating miscellaneous, direct traffic in your Google Analytics. You know, when your boss says to you, “Where has all this traffic come from?” and you say “I have no clue”, because it just groups it as ‘direct traffic’ from some unknown place on the interweb.

We’ll give you an example:

Normally when you share something, you will see a UTM tag in the URL. E.g. http://www.rocktailmarketing.com?utm_source=twitter. So if you saw our website on Twitter, pressed share, we would be able to see that your traffic came from a Twitter referral. With Dark Social, it’s all those instances where just the URL is copied, pasted and sent to someone  (through Whatsapp or other chat apps, for example), leaving the URL blank like this http://www.rocktailmarketing.com. As you can see, no UTM source has been added, and it would just be grouped in direct traffic on Google Analytics.

That is (a very basic!) explanation of Dark Social – and it makes it hard to find out where your traffic is coming from.


Why Is It Important?

Marketers rely on customer data, specifically where customers come from and how they arrive at their doorstep. Dark Social leaves a big gap in data, and it can leave you unable to tap into a market effectively, and to understand the real impact of your content.

With people sharing and discussing your content under a veil, it can leave marketers unable to understand customer perceptions and their true feelings surrounding a subject. This is a challenge that many organisations will need to face in order to continue generating appropriate and relevant conversational topics.

What Can Be Done?

There are some temporary and simple solutions available, with many organisations opting to use shortened URLs (for example, https://goo.gl/).  This means using the tool to shorten your links before sharing on social, which encourages easier copy and paste sharing, leaving you the ability to track effectively. As ever though, it will continue to be an obstacle to which a more concrete solution will be needed, in order for marketers to gain in depth and accurate customer insights.



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