Dark Social
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Dark Social


The term Dark Social was coined by Alexis C. Madrigal, editor-in-chief of The Atlantic, in 2012 to describe referral traffic on the internet that is difficult to track. This "dark" sphere of social media refers to the sharing of content through private channels such as instant messaging, emails, and other messaging applications.

Dark Social occurs when someone shares a link to a website privately, such as through a text message or messaging app, rather than sharing it publicly on a social network. Since this type of sharing is private, data analysts and marketers struggle to track and understand it, which can result in an incomplete understanding of how and where content is shared.

The impact of Dark Social on digital marketing

Dark Social has a significant impact on digital marketing, as much of the referral traffic comes from these private channels. According to several studies, more than 60% of online actions occur through Dark Social, and this percentage is even higher in certain categories, such as news and entertainment.

It is critical to understand Dark Social to have a complete picture of how content is shared and consumed online. Without a clear understanding of Dark Social, marketers may underestimate the effectiveness of their content and campaigns, and valuable engagement and conversion opportunities may be missed.

Advantages of understanding Dark Social

Despite the difficulties it presents for its follow-up, understanding and addressing Dark Social can offer several advantages:

  • Customer insights: Dark Social can offer valuable insights into how consumers actually interact and share content, which can help inform content and social media strategies.
  • Extended scope: Content shared through Dark Social can reach audiences that might otherwise be difficult to reach through public social media channels.
  • Increased engagement: People tend to engage more with content that is shared through private channels, which can lead to higher conversion and customer loyalty.

How to address Dark Social in digital marketing strategy

Tackling Dark Social can be challenging, but there are several tactics that can be employed:

  • Using URL shorteners and UTM tags: These tools can help track the origin of referral traffic, even when it is shared through private channels.
  • Encourage sharing on public channels: For example, users can be incentivized to share content on public social networks by offering them some kind of reward or benefit.
  • Conduct surveys and collect direct feedback: It can be helpful to directly ask users to explain how they arrived at a website or how they found specific content.

In short, although Dark Social presents challenges, it also offers opportunities to better understand consumers and improve digital marketing strategies.

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