As marketers, we like to think we know a thing or two about making great content. We’re passionate about creating content so compelling that people can’t help but share it. And, for some time now, the battleground for shareable content has been Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Well, no longer.

What if I told you that, last year, Facebook and all other public social networks only accounted for 16% of all on-site shares worldwide? Yep, you heard. The clear majority of content shares online are now happening through so-called ‘dark social’.

dark social

Sounds like a nightclub…

“Dark social is the social sharing of content that occurs outside of what can be measured by web analytics programs.” Simply put: it’s any traffic you get to your site because your analytics can’t correctly identify the site sending you the traffic.

Picture this. You’re at work, taking a quick coffee break. You read a great blog *ahem*, and you know a friend who’d love to read it too. Are you likely to post it to everyone you know on Facebook? Probably not. Chances are, you’ll send a link directly to your friend by email or WhatsApp.

This is dark social. It’s happening all over the world, all the time. And it’s growing. From 2014-2016, dark social shares as a percentage of on-site shares jumped from 69% to 84% globally.

Why is this a problem? Well, for marketers, it leaves a great big hole in your brand’s analytics. See, if someone clicks a link to your website from an open social platform such as Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, your analytics platform will tell you exactly where that referral came from.

But links shared via private messaging apps, such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, lack referral tags. So when the recipient clicks on it, their visit will show up as ‘direct’ traffic.

Dark social does not change the fundamental principles of content creation. What is changing is the way audiences interact with your content.

So how do I measure dark social?

We’ve got some good news for you: there are some basic tools and tricks you can use to begin delving into dark social. The bad news: there’s no real solution for properly tracking it…yet.

Here are three tips from Econsultancy that you can start using today:

  1. Include highly visible sharing buttons on your site to encourage people to share content using these, rather than copying and pasting the link
  2. Be sure to include sharing buttons for WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and other dark social channels
  3. Set up a segment in your analytics that takes into account all direct traffic links with parameters, i.e. direct traffic to any pages that aren’t your main URL, your blog homepage or prominent sub-pages on your website

Dark social does not change the fundamental principles of content creation. Fresh, relevant and valuable content targeted at a clearly defined audience will always increase your bottom line. What is changing is the way those audiences interact with your content.

We’re tracking this trend closely, so follow us to discover new tools and techniques that’ll help you and your business get ahead.