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Understanding Dark Social – A brief guide to the untraceable traffic

Dark Social Media, What is Dark Social

When it comes to ‘dark social’, most of the general public, it seems, is ignorant enough and either don’t know what the term refers to at all or have been fooled into believing it to be some sort of demonic get-together,when in reality, it isn’t. In fact, it is much less sinister than most marketers believe it to be.

The term ‘Dark Social’ was penned down by Alexis Madrigal, senior editor at The Atlantic, in 2012. It’s been more than 5 years since the term coined, and most, if not all, are still clueless about the same.

So what exactly is Dark Social and how can it be of any relevance to businesses? Let’s find out.

Dark Social or Dark Social Media is nothing but social sharing that can’t be tracked – any stuff that cannot be picked by web analytics.

Let’s take a look at some examples: Just suppose you’re at work and about to hit your 7 o’clock shift. Just when you’re about to shut it all, your eyes land on an interesting article you’d like to share with friends. Oblivious to the consequences, you paste the URL into an email message or any other messaging application. Good going, you have simply engaged yourself in dark social.

Let’s not kid ourselves. We are all guilty of doing this infinite number of times. Everyday, millions of people do this, sending a huge inbox of traffic to the content publishers. But, but, but, links that are shared this way lack referral tags, making dark social tracking fairly difficult.

Think about it, when a person gets to your website through any social media forum, say Facebook or Twitter, a simple analytic report will inform where the traffic came from.

This is so not the case with links shared through emails and other messaging applications. Factually, analytics suggest this traffic to be direct traffic, when in reality, it is not exactly ‘direct’. Nobody is going to type a 100 character long URL into their browser.
Now that it’s all clear, let’s now come to why it’s important.

Like I mentioned above, millions of links are shared privately everyday. So much so that nearly 70-80% of online referrals come from dark social. Since we cannot compute where most of our websites traffic came from, we cannot paint a clear picture of how our website, and more specifically, our individual content pieces are performing. Your data is clouded, you don’t possess a complete picture, and you end up wasting your time and resources on optimizing things that didn’t need any improvement in the first place.

A social media marketing company can definitely help you narrow these direct links down. Brandsmartini, a Delhi-based social media agency that can help you shine some light on your traffic coming through dark social.

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