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Dark Social: What it is and why it matters.

Dark social channels are those that are imperceptible for analytics programs. According to Smarp, over 80 per cent of all sharing from marketing websites happens through dark channels. This is problematic because you can’t manage and track what can’t be seen.

There are three types of social sharing: open social, closed social, and dark social. Open and closed social sharing is perceived by analytics programs correctly, however, dark socials aren’t. This inability to perceive dark social sharing makes it difficult to gain a comprehensive understanding of return on investment.

Open social sharing is when a user clicks on a share link within a piece of content and then shares publicly to their open social platforms such as their Facebook page, Twitter, or LinkedIn, etc. Closed social sharing is the same except instead of publicly, the sharing is done privately through closed social platforms such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or email.

Dark social is different because it’s not shared through a button that retains the metadata. By copying and pasting the link of a website or piece of content the metadata is lost, then when the user who received this link clicks on it, your analytical programs will interpret this as direct traffic.

You can often single out some pieces of dark social traffic by looking at the pages receiving traffic. If a page has a long and complicated URL but has a high number of direct traffic, you can assume that people haven’t typed this URL in, but rather reached this page through pasting the link in their browser.

It’s important to understand dark social traffic because these are often people who have been sent the link. After all, a friend or associate of the user believes this page or content is useful to them, so in a way dark traffic is pre-approved by someone within their circles.


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