Dark Social Explained: Why & How Your Analytics Can Mislead You

Author: Jack Martin

With most of the world on social media networks like Facebook and Twitter, marketers and data junkies can track everything. You can learn just about anything about someone based on their social activities – and you can use that information to sell them things.

The one thing most marketers don’t consider is dark social media. If you don’t know what dark social is or why you should care about it, check out this explainer.

At the end of the article, we’ll talk about how dark social influences B2B marketing, and what you can do to make the most of this dark space.

What is Dark Social?

Not to be confused with the dark or deep web, dark social is much more innocuous. Dark social refers to the private sharing of public content on the internet.

In other words, dark social is when a user shares a piece of content with another user in a private medium, and the sharing can’t be tracked by marketing analytics.

Here are a few examples of dark social:

Emailing or texting a link to a publicly available article.
Instant messaging a meme in Facebook chat, WhatsApp or another private messenger.
Interacting with a link that didn’t start in a public forum (email, PDF, intranet, etc.)

Why You Should Care About Dark Social

What’s the big deal about the dark space of social media? Most user activity actually happens there. According to Radium, 84% of all social media activities are in this dark space.

Along with high quantity, the quality of dark social interactions matter, too. Users interact more frequently with dark social content because they trust the opinions of their friends and family. Think of it as digital word of mouth.

B2B Marketing and Dark Social Networking

How can dark social fit into your B2B marketing efforts? Here are a few ideas:

– While you can’t track the analytics of dark social, you can influence user behavior. For instance, most dark social interactions happen on mobile devices. You can use targeted mobile advertising to reach your audience while they use dark social.

– Brand your outgoing content with links back to your website. Make it so when a user copies and pastes text from your site, a link to the source material is automatically included.

– Integrate social media sharing tools on your website. Highly-visible, one-click solutions, like a Facebook Like button, make it more likely for your audience to share your content in a trackable way.