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Dark Social: what is it and why does it matter? 🗣📲

We text, iMessage, WhatsApp, direct message and Snapchat every day – and the chances are, as we chat, we’re sharing links with our friends, loved ones and colleagues. These links make up 84% of everything shared digitally across the globe (according to The Drum), and this is dark social.

It’s the social networking that can’t be tracked by marketers or brands, the messages we share one-to-one and the links we post to our communities in private. Dark social includes messages we post from behind secure browsers, via messaging apps, some native mobile apps and through email; it’s essentially anything we post that isn’t public, and as a result trackable.

When brands/marketers look into web traffic and where it’s come from, anything posted publicly on social media is accounted for – we know where the traffic has directly come from. Dark social statistics on the other hand, aren’t taken into account by social media analytics software and are often ignored both when setting briefs and when reporting on campaigns.

Understandably, this is probably because this type of sharing is so hard to track or prove. In fact, budget often isn’t allocated to nurturing its growth or widening its reach; 90% of all budgets allocated to social sharing is specifically for public sharing. Sure, there are dozens of reasons public sharing is great, but these are often for the benefit of vanity metrics.

The numbers surrounding dark social sharing are huge and this is why it’s so important that as brands we don’t discount it. With so many of us opting to share privately, it makes it nigh-on impossible for marketers to confidently know what is and isn’t working across social media – it actually makes content planning somewhat of a dark art.

Traffic that comes from dark social is also more likely to convert.

Consider this; your friend’s favourite band announce a tour, and you spot it. Do you post the link to the ticket page to your public profile, or do you share it directly? More than likely, you’ll send the link to your friend directly, and more than likely they will go on to make a purchase or at the very least hand over some data through joining a mailing list or signing up for early access codes etc. If you post the link publicly, people may click on it to see what it is, but are these people as likely as your friend to make a purchase? No. Therein lies the theory that traffic from dark social carries a higher weight than that from other sources.

Furthermore, with dark social you’re benefitting from two marketing heavyweights collaborating making your content pack a real punch – social media and word of mouth. Both proven to lead to increased sales, brand loyalty and customer retention.

A majority of brands aren’t harnessing dark social yet – but some trailblazers are leading the way in fine fashion.

  • Amongst them, Adidas are using WhatsApp to create hyper communities across the globe for sharing content and product updates, gaining a real edge when it comes to being the most personal sporting brand.
  • Greggs are also up there, gaining plenty of PR last December when they launched their famous festive bake by giving them away for free via a WhatsApp group.
  • Luxury lingerie brand Agent Provocateur are using WhatsApp to try and offer a really personal service to their VIP customers. They claim that from initial trials, where assistants were added to conversations between couples, 31% of conversations culminated in a shop visit and 61% in site traffic, meaning just 8% of the conversations didn’t go any further, and you can’t really argue against stats like that!


To find out how your brand can make the most of dark social, give us a call on 01772 915005!