What Is Dark Social? (And Why You Should Be Using It)

Posted by Nicole Gardner on Jul 11, 2022 12:00:00 AM

What Is Dark Social_-1While it sounds like it might be part of the Upside Down, dark social is not the next Vecna from Stranger Things. It’s a phrase coined in 2012 by journalist Alexis Madrigal in a piece written for The Atlantic. And while it may sound malevolent, it's just a way of discussing the impacts of social media sharing that are hard to measure.

But measuring your social media marketing ROI is key to figuring out what types of posts and content work move the needle for your business. In this article, we'll break down what dark social is, how you can measure it, how your company can participate, and how employee advocacy supports your dark social efforts.

So put on your villain glasses and let’s get the scoop on how to create a dark social media strategy.

Dark social explained

Completely unrelated to the term “dark web,” dark social is an all-encompassing phrase for web traffic from shared links that contain no tracking information. Analytics software can’t read where these sources come from, making it harder to understand what prompted these people to share your content.

Dark social channels are used all the time. You’ve probably used them yourself without really thinking about it. Some popular ones include:

  • DMs (Direct Messages) on social platforms like Facebook and Twitter
  • Phone systems like text messages or calls
  • Events like in-person or Zoom calls
  • Messaging apps like WhatsApp
  • Podcasts or web videos

And people are turning more to private sharing methods, like messaging apps, to clue into new content. Around 84% of outbound link sharing occurs on dark social channels rather than open ones, like Twitter pages or Facebook timelines. People are increasingly worried about companies collecting too much personal data. By using more private means of sharing, only the people in the conversation can read the message. When people click on links from dark channels, marketers can't tell where the click came from.

This is especially true if you work in the B2B space. Many B2B buyers complete their research in spaces that are difficult to track, like podcasts and word of mouth from their peers.

Measuring dark social

But buying decisions happen where the sharing happens, especially for B2B marketing. This means that firms still need to figure out how to measure dark social to maximize their online marketing strategy.

You can try to measure your dark social by splitting inbound traffic that lacks referrer data into two categories: one for visitors who go to a home page or a landing page and one for everything else. The second category you can assume is from dark social. This won't give you a complete picture, but it can help you start to navigate where your dark social is.

There are also tools you can use to track down where your clicks are from:

  • Link shorteners: try something like Bitly. This shortens the links you post on your social feeds and tracks the people who click or share them.
  • Try button-sharing tools that help you track when people share your content via dark channels like email, messenger, or text.

There are also more comprehensive dark social tools that include items like URL shorteners that you can try for free, as well as in-depth dark social analytics for tracking social engagement. This option is more expensive, so you have to decide if the high costs are worth eating into your social media marketing budget.

Using dark social for your company

While it can be frustrating to realize how many people are talking about your company behind your back in messages you can’t partake in, take comfort in the maxim that “any publicity is good publicity.”

And if you're feeling some major FOMO, one of the best ways to use dark social to your advantage is to join those platforms. Some companies have recently entered these spaces to start conversations. Big brands like Adidas and Starbucks use Facebook Messenger chatbots and WhatsApp Business API solutions to learn more through interviews and focus groups.

While this doesn’t always work because people tend not to be honest with the company and chatbots don’t always function right, it gives you a chance to be there.

If you're a smaller company, you can offer messaging directly with top people at your firm to help people feel comfortable chatting with you. Leave the messaging feature open on your Twitter page—this lets people directly approach your firm with private questions. If you have the bandwidth to create one-to-one connections on your socials, then you can create dark social channels for your company.

Dark social and employee advocacy

Dark social happens in all spheres of social media. That includes employee advocacy.

Employee advocacy can create conversations with potential buyers in dark social spaces. For example, if your employee posts some of your firm’s content on their personal Facebook page, a friend could share that post with their mom on a Whatsapp message.

And while you can’t necessarily track these connections, they’re still valuable because friends and family are the most trusted source to consult before buying a product or choosing a business to work with.

Remember that just because something isn’t readily measurable doesn’t mean it’s not having an impact. It takes 5 to 7 impressions for people to start remembering a brand. If potential customers see your company or firm’s content more frequently across various social media platforms, they’ll soften to your messaging and your value proposition. This means they might become more interested when they see an ad for your product or receive a form of cold outreach.

But you may have noticed, it can be tough to try to get your employees involved with your social media marketing. That’s where employee advocacy software can help.

Boost your dark social engagement with Clearview Social

With Clearview Social’s employee advocacy software, you can get a sense of what’s going on in your dark social. With our queue builder, you can create posts with links from sources like Bitly that can help you better track where your leads are coming from.

You’ll also gain the advantage of simple, effortless employee advocacy. The key to successful employee advocacy (and expanding your brand's reach and influence) is to make it as easy as possible for your employees to post your company's content. Clearview Social offers pre-approved one-click sharing options delivered straight to your employees' email. All they have to do is click one button, and business content is shared on their personal pages. And with Clearview's "share-all" function, your employees can schedule out an entire week of pre-populated content in one click.

Plus, Clearview offers robust analytics that can help you understand where your dark social may be coming from.

Schedule a demo with Clearview Social today and take full advantage of your not-so-nefarious dark social channels.

Topics: Topics: Employee Advocacy, Content Marketing, Soci