Don’t Be Afraid of “Dark Social”

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Patrick Cumming

Dark social. Sounds like the title of a social media themed horror movie. Anyone else picturing a cringingly bad The Ring refresh, complete with Samara crawling out of the Facebook app?

No? Just me? Moving on.

The truth is that dark social is nothing to be scared of. Despite sounding dodgy, it can actually be a good thing. To help you understand what it is, let me tell you a little secret about us marketers. We love to track stuff. Because that’s how we’re able to get killer results for our clients (like the ones you’ll find in these case studies).

One of our favourite things to track is where your website traffic comes from. Sometimes we’re not able to see the source of that traffic. But it has to be coming from somewhere…

Google Analytics tells us it’s direct traffic; the traffic we get when someone manually types a URL into a browser. But, since the URLs are usually lengthy ones that no sane human would manually type out, we can safely assume that it’s arrived from somewhere else. Most likely through one of these two social mediums:

  • Email: when someone copies a URL to an email and spams it out to all of their colleagues.
  • Messenger apps: the Youtube videos, blog posts and crazy good online offers you send links to in your WhatsApp, Facebook and iMessage group chats.

It’s called dark social because it’s being shared socially through apps that don’t allow tracking. It’s not dark because it’s weird, scary or dodgy, but because we can’t see the source, even though we can see the resulting site traffic. Hopefully that calms your anxiety.

Getting the message out. Find out more about our social media marketing expertise.

Why should you care?

  1. Because stats. Like this one from The Drum that suggests 63% of users online prefer sharing through “dark social”. That’s over half of your potential users. So it would benefit you to tailor your content to suit them.
  2. Dark social shares are sort of like viral content, which is usually good for business. It means people care enough about your content to go to the effort of sharing it with other people.
  3. Knowing what content gets shared through dark social can help shape your content strategy. For example, we’ve seen that on Elastic’s own site, opinion blog posts drive loads of dark social views – up to 30% on average. That tells us our readers like opinion pieces, so we can make sure to post more of them to the blog in the future.

Ready to take advantage of the traffic dark social offers? Here are some tips:

Make your content interesting

There are literally billions of pieces of content floating around the internet. And, with more being uploaded every second, it’s getting increasingly difficult for brands to create engaging content that users want to share. That’s why the savviest business owners turn to Elastic to create shareable fresh content for them.

Promote your content

Uploading a blog post or video to your website isn’t enough to get people sharing. You also need to promote your content. This will involve posting content to your social media channels. But you’ll also want to utilise paid ads to get maximum exposure. Especially if you don’t have masses of followers.

(If you’re not sold on paid advertising, then check out this mythbusting article. It’s filled with stats show how effective they can be.)

Conclusion

With all that in mind, you’re probably wondering how much attention you should be paying to dark social. And there’s no clear answer, because it really depends on your business and the behaviour of your users. If it makes up a chunk of your traffic, it’s probably worth looking into crafting content specifically to harness its power. If it’s not, then you’ll probably do fine without a dedicated dark social strategy.

(Unsure what platforms your brand should be using? We can help you create an effective digital marketing strategy, so be sure to get in touch.)

And it’s also worth noting that dark social strategies are by no means commonplace in digital marketing right now. But brands like Starbucks and Adidas are starting to put considerable investments into exploring the area. As is the way with most digital marketing trends, it probably won’t be long before more brands follow suit. It’s pretty safe to stay it’s here to stay.

The important takeaway is this: whether you foray into a concerted dark social strategy or not, the success of your digital marketing strategy will always come down to the quality of your content and the investment you put into promoting it. So make sure that’s your primary focus. As always; engaging, shareable content is what we do best, so drop us a message if you want help creating some.

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