Don’t be in the Dark About Dark Social

Consumers worry about their ability to be tracked online, but the reality is, in many cases marketers and communicators are often in “the dark.” That’s because as more and more emails are being read and websites are being visited on mobile devices and viewed in private chat apps, we are seeing the rise of “Dark Social.”

The Atlantic is credited with coining the term three years ago, but it is increasingly more revelant every day. What is “Dark Social?” Social media sites are popular with marketers and PR communicators because they have built-in metrics, like Facebook “likes” and YouTube “views.” The problem is that most of the time someone is arriving there through shared information on chat, via IM or instant messaging apps, SMS text messaging or in private e-mail. How you get to the site is often as important as why you’re there. But “Dark Social” is often something that no cookie or current form of analytics can accurately measure. In fact, The Atlantic indicates that most social referrals are done this way and that makes them very difficult to measure.

“Dark Social” is essentially outside the main core of the social ecosystem. Recent data shows three-quarters of all social media shares happen when users copy, paste and share links through chat applications, e-mail and text. That’s three times the amount of sharing that happens on Twitter and Facebook—combined.

Current analytics tools tend to erroneously report dark social as either unknown or direct traffic. That means if you thought you knew where you were spending your marketing money online, it may not be going to the right place. What’s the old adage in advertising—half of your money is always wasted, but the catch is you never know which half?

Some believe that this means that the value of traditional web analytics may be declining while the value of app analytics is on the rise. One sure way to get around dark social is to embed trackable codes in short urls that are copied and shared through dark social practices.

If you’d like to learn more check out The Atlantic’s original article at

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