Dark Social springs forth, sounding as if it were the long lost cousin of the Deep Web, that seedy place on the internet where only drug dealers, pimps and black marketers frequent. To think that would be a devastating mistake as a business owner. Dark Social is that part of the social web where businesses often avoid, only because they aren’t aware of how valuable it is to marketing efforts or that it exists at all. From freelance content writers to advertising execs, Dark Social needs to become the new frontier for content optimization.
Defining Dark Social
Sharing content among customers can be done via a medley of means. On the Internet content is shared through social media, as well as through email and instant messaging. The latter two, dear reader, is where Dark Social lies. IM and email holds fast as the top movers of content, beating out social media exponentially. The problem is that it is difficult to measure what is being shared when, by whom, how often and for what reasons in the realm of Dark Social. For businesses interested in expanding their content reach, however, Dark Social is the Holy Grail.
Shining Light on Dark Social
Social media’s darlings are Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and LinkedIn. Let’s refer to these as the popular kids of the internet. If these are the popular kids, then Dark Social is the nerds, the geeks and the outsiders. When it comes to measuring social referrals, which is the number of likes, tweets, thumbs up and shares content receives, the popular kids are actually the losers. According to Venture Beat, as of December 2014 Facebook brought in only 31 percent of social referrals. Where is the other 59 percent of online sharing coming from? That would be Dark Social. This isn’t a new thing, either. Back in 2012 The Atlantic first started reporting on the numbers of social referrals. At that point Dark Social took 69 percent of social referrals, leaving Facebook to bite the dust with only 20 percent of the content sharing pool.
Sharing with the Cool Kids
Why are businesses so fixated with measuring social media, aka Facebook and Twitter, in terms of content sharing, when clearly Dark Social is where it’s at? The main reason is that the popular kids of social media are easy to measure and evaluate. From YouTube Analytics to Facebook Page Insights you can visually understand how many users are accessing and sharing your content. Dark Social remains unmeasurable. If your marketing team can figure out how to measure and market to the Dark Social of your clientele, then you will have won the ultimate reward of content marketing.
Dark Social Statistics
If you are interested in the Who of the What of Dark Social Venture Beat has the stats you desire. Among Dark Social shares, which are typically one-to-one in terms of sharing, the top shares are in the following topics:
- Arts and entertainment—80 percent
- Careers—78 percent
- Travel—78 percent
On the other hand, social media channels are more likely to share the following types of content:
- Pets—84 percent
- Family and parenting—63 percent
- Real estate—55 percent
Consider the area of business you are in, and if you fall in these categories you can turn your focus to either social media or Dark Social. Additionally, if your target consumer is in the 55 plus age division you will want to go the way of Dark Social, given that 46 percent of these web users are only emailing and instant messaging.
Additionally, 92 percent of those ages 16 to 34 share using Dark Social; 19 percent share solely via Dark Social. Make the most of Dark Social by adding branded URLs available through short ULR services. Use these within your website’s sharing buttons so that their shares become traceable. Also, it goes without saying that you must make email a focus within your content distribution campaigns.
Miranda B takes content optimization seriously, both for work and play. When she’s not writing content in the marketing sector, Miranda is attending some lecture or taking an online course in the latest offerings of online content optimization.