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What Is Dark Social Media?

what is dark social media

When it comes to social media marketing, the focus almost always sits on the big platforms, namely:

But, as popular as these platforms are, they’re not the busiest channels for social media marketing.
Hidden away from taggers, trackers, and monitors, is dark social media.
But what is dark social media? 
Let’s take a look.

Shining A Light On Dark Social Media

Ultimately, dark social media makes up as much as 95% of total web traffic.
That means that only around 5% of social media data is accessible through traditional marketing trackers like Facebook’s Pixel.
That means it’s incredibly important to know as much as you possibly can about dark socials.

What Makes It Different?

Apart from the fact that it’s where the majority of interaction happens, dark social media is also mostly one-on-one sharing.
That means that brand information is very persuasive if it’s had a good impact on one party who shares it to another.

Why Is It Important To Track Dark Social Media?

Well, tracking dark social media is important for a few reasons:

It Dominates Sharing

Regardless of your target audience, every single person uses dark social media in some way, shape, or form.
If they’ve sent a WhatsApp, email, spoken on the phone, or sent a Facebook message, they’ve used dark social.
Which means somewhere that you haven’t been able to track.

It Affects Analytics

Past studies estimate that dark social accounted for as much as 84% of all referral traffic.
A Google Analytics expert named Steve Lamar ran an experiment where he directed traffic from 16 subdomains to a Facebook page with the same name, to track how referrals were tracked
Here’s what he found is considered dark social media:

  • 100% of TikTok profile clicks
  • 100% of clicks from private messaging apps
  • 75% of clicks from Facebook Messenger
  • 30% of Instagram messages
  • 14% of LinkedIn messages
  • 12% of Pinterest messages

It Provides Valuable Information

Chiefly, dark social media is all about connecting.
Private Facebook groups and other forums are a place for people to meet with other like-minded people.
And it’s a gold mine of information.
For example:
Somebody in the last stage of purchasing a product may consult a forum to find people who’ve made the same purchase and get feedback from them.
These specific channels are packed full of incredibly useful data that allows marketers to shape how they communicate their message and, ultimately, convert.

How Do I Measure Dark Social Media?

To be honest, it’s not going to be possible to track each and every user.
But there are some things you can do to get a lot of data from dark socials.

Shorten URLs

Apart from being a good SEO practice, shortened links let you add analytics parameters, or write your own custom ones if you’re tracking specific campaigns.

Much like shortened URLs, UTMs can be used to track user movement into dark socials.
Referral links are specific to an instance, and can be used to track where a user has come from.

Make Sharing Easy

Firstly, utilise easy-to-use buttons that allow sharing to various social media platforms.
Because these can also be coupled with buttons to share via email, or WhatsApp.
This way, you can monitor where a user came from, and which article they read.

Build Your Own Dark Social Community

It’s not done often, but brand-run dark social communities are a great way to see huge ROI by having a direct view of what’s happening.
These communities take a lot of upkeep and maintenance, so only try it if you know you can dedicate the resources.

For example:
The Bored Ape Yacht Club has a publicly accessible Discord channel.
However, there is a subchannel that’s available only to owners of the world-famous NFT.
These people get early access and invitations to developments before others do.
Meanwhile, those in the public group are still directly visible to BAYE admins, who can see what’s being said at any time.

Be Transparent

Every day, people become more wary of what data is being shared.
Research has found that up to 73% of people worry that their personal data is being used to benefit brands.
With this increasing concern over data, and the fact that the majority of countries have internet privacy laws, it’s important to make sure people know exactly what you’re doing with their information.

Conclusion – Should I Worry About Dark Socials?

Dark social media should be seen as the future of marketing.
Having the majority control over how content is shared, dark social is a gateway to massive ROI for marketers.

However, it means you have to be able to be held accountable for how you share data too.
If you can build trust with your users, they’ll give you access to this mysterious world – and the benefits it contains.

What Is A Dark Post?

Dark posts are just a social media ad that shows up on your timeline, regardless of whether or not you follow the account or page.

What Are Some Examples Of Dark Social Media?

Private messaging apps like WhatsApp, Slack, and Facebook Messenger.

Why Should I Care About Dark Social Media?

It’s where the majority of online traffic happens!