Working out how to ‘prove results’ on social media channels can be tricky.
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Dark social refers to content that is shared privately on social media and can’t be tracked by web analytics software. For example, sharing a link from a local news article with a friend via Facebook messenger or Snapchat is a form of utilising dark social.
This affects marketers and business owners because social media has billions of active monthly users, who are primarily Millennial and Gen Z. This offers limitless marketing potential to brands who want to start to leverage this ‘dark’ social space.
In this period of developing technological advancements, it makes little sense to ignore this area of social media. As Alexis Madrigal wrote for the Atlantic in 2012, when he coined the term: ‘…this vast trove of social traffic is essentially invisible to most analytics programs. It’s being coined Dark Social.
As we continue along this path of social media expansion and technological development, dark social could provide a huge potential for brands and marketers as dark social dominates sharing activity. The largest problem that will be faced in trying to leverage dark social is ensuring you’re operating from the data that can correctly advise you on where to invest your money.
The first thing to do is make sure you understand what dark social is referring to. Below, we’ve noted some typical forms of dark social:
Now that you have an idea of what exactly dark social refers to, you can begin to narrow down where you’d like to tap into it.
It’s important for brands and marketers to realise the importance of dark socials and react accordingly. It’s been reported that ‘84% of consumers’ outbound sharing from publishers’ and marketers’ websites now takes place via private, dark social channels such as email, social networks, and instant messaging.’
This way of sharing information is only going to grow over the coming years and this is why brands need to become active in these spaces to reach their ideal customer profiles.
By operating in this space, you can influence how buying and purchasing decisions are made because the most powerful sphere of influence for consumer purchases happens right at the source – people.
It’s also important that you understand just how the data can be misinterpreted due to dark social media. For example, say your ideal customer profile takes stock of your product due to social posts from their network.
They would then go directly to your site to find out more information and potentially sign up for your product. The analytics of that decision would state that it was ‘direct traffic’ as the customer directly inputted the URL for your business or company.
While that’s true, it drastically misses out where the social influence came into play and how it impacted the customer’s decision. Attribution software will inform you if the decision came from an organic or paid search but fails to recognise if it’s the social posts that are really having the influence and that this is where your time and money should be focused.
When it comes to measuring dark social traffic, the key is to firstly find out what percentage of your traffic is not attributable. You can use sites like Google Analytics to find this information out and then begin to take a closer look at your campaigns and content to effectively target customers.
You’ll want to really focus on how your customers are sharing. Make sure to invest in the right tools to understand the clicks your links are receiving and how they can be optimised for your campaign and content.
You should note that when looking at this data, working to ‘prove results’ when it comes to social media channels can be tricky and is only going to get tougher.
Make good use of ‘How did you hear about us’ forms that can relate to whatever area you need more information. This will show you the crossover between what your attribution software is telling you is organic and where the influence to purchase the product came from.
Marketing in this manner is so important to achieving growth correctly and the work should be put in to understand dark social and the genuine difference tapping into this area can bring to your business.
Mark Joseph is the founder of Vouch Global. After a successful 15-year career within other media agencies, including Steak and PHD, working with some of the world’s largest brands, startups and SME’s, Mark launched Vouch Global in 2018. A creative performance agency dedicated to helping clients gain real influence through insight and strategy-driven content creation.