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.
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.
Despite the difficulties it presents for its follow-up, understanding and addressing Dark Social can offer several advantages:
Tackling Dark Social can be challenging, but there are several tactics that can be employed:
In short, although Dark Social presents challenges, it also offers opportunities to better understand consumers and improve digital marketing strategies.