What is Dark Social and How is it Affecting Your Brand? | energyhill

eleni.gast
3 min readAug 1, 2023

If you are a business owner, you certainly know the importance of website data analytics and how they inform your marketing strategy. Being knowledgeable about the who, when, and where of your target audience is central to the growth of your business. And an integral part of getting the whole picture is understanding dark social and its implications on your business.

What is dark social?

Is dark social as ominous as it sounds? Thankfully, no: “dark social” encompasses all the social media activity that traditional website analytics can’t track. Even if you have great traffic on your website and an active content sharing module, there is some traffic that you are not capturing because it is being shared via messenger apps or texts.

Dark social was brought into the spotlight after the launch of Apple’s iOS 14 update, which offers users the option to opt out of data tracking across apps. While many iPhone users were delighted at the prospect of having more privacy, marketers were left with significantly less information about their audience’s demographics.

This shift has made dark social more powerful than ever, in large part because it represents the more personal nature of how content is being shared. Being able to capture this method of content sharing is instrumental for business owners: What specifically sparks your audience to share your content with someone they know? This helps you better understand your audience and what aspects of your content are most engaging.

How do people share information?

Despite the popularity of social media apps like Instagram and TikTok, the fact is that that is not how the majority of people share information with one another. In fact, 84% of website sharing now takes place via private channels such as email and instant messaging. All of that traffic is dark social, which means that only 16% of content consumption and sharing takes place in traditional social media settings that are tracked by website analytics. While the efforts being made to track Instagram and TikTok engagement are certainly valuable, they don’t tell the whole story of who is consuming your content.

The largest source of dark social content sharing is messenger apps. Here is a list of the most popular messenger apps, based on the number of users:

  1. WhatsApp: 2 billion users (representing roughly 25% of people on Earth)
  2. Weixin/WeChat: 1.3 billion users
  3. Facebook Messenger: 931 million users
  4. Telegram: 700 million users
  5. Snapchat: 635 million users
  6. QQ: 574 million users

Based on this, it would benefit business owners to attempt to tap into this aspect of content sharing and open up new avenues of audience engagement.

How you can bring dark social into the light

Dark social doesn’t have to stay in the dark. There are many ways in which business owners can try to engage this aspect of their target audience.

  1. Make sure you’re using the most updated version of Google Analytics (GA4). Setting up your reports to run accurately and consistently is essential to understanding your audience.
  2. Utilize specialized link-sharing modules. Platforms like ShareThis or bitly can enable your audience to share links to your content that you can track.
  3. Double check that your UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) tags are set up properly so that they give Google Analytics specific information about that link.
  4. Partner with a marketing and branding agency. These professionals can help you develop trackable links for your target audience to use when sharing your information on messaging apps.

For more information about dark social and its impact on your website’s traffic, check out this video on Youtube hosted by energyhill CEO and Co-Founder, Dr. Ryan Lowe.

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Originally published at https://www.energyhill.com on August 1, 2023.

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eleni.gast

NYC-based coffee-drinker who’s passionate about humanities, wellness, and spirituality.