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Dark Social? Should we care?

Dark Social

Dark Social and what it could mean for agencies

Apr 21, 2017 - Some weeks ago, I stumbled accross the term "Dark Social". It sounded rather mysterious and therefore caught my attention.

In (my) summary, "Dark Social" - or "Hidden Social" as pioneer Paul Hurley of the agency Frictionless puts it - describes social networking not happening in public. In other words: if you chat with a friend on WhatsApp, that's Dark Social. Or even more down to earth: you send an e-mail to you mom, that's also Dark Social.

So nothing new, why should an agency care? Actually, there are at least three reasons.

The first reason is what led to the term "Dark Social" being coined in the first place. If you run a website, you should be interested in where your traffic comes from.  There might be users hitting deep links on your website directly, and you might want to know where these users come from (see the Wikipedia link below for details). Most likely, from Dark Social sources it seems. According to the Radum One study linked below, more than 80% of link sharing is done via Dark Social, or private social messaging. 80%?

There are many ideas floating around the web on how to better track Dark Social traffic in analytics tools. Following some best pratices - using link shorteners for links, adding tracking codes or "share on WhatsApp"-buttons will help marketers to better understand the value of the channel. This is a first step.

If the 80%-number is accurate, the second reason to care is obvious: Dark Social is an important source of traffic because users use it to share many, many links to content. Are there ways to make users share content even more frequently? Once you monitor it, how can you use it?

The third reason is far more broad: what are use cases specifically for Dark Social, without paying so much attention on what this channel can do for your website traffic? How can brands interact with customers through private channels, permission based and relevant? What value can brands provide users with so, they can be part of private conversations?

Currently, we are thinking about how and where these channels can be used. It seems to be an area worth investigating further, especially as private conversations - or Dark Social traffic - is as close to the customer as you can get these days.

So: yes, we as an agancy should and will care about Dark Social. Especially as chatbots and Dark Social are areas which will probably converge in the near future.