Dark social isn’t a new phenomenon; in fact, it’s been around for about a decade. However, it seems to be the major buzzword among marketers everywhere. 

Whether you see it pop up in your LinkedIn, Facebook or TikTok feed, all your marketing mates seem to be talking about it. But hang on just a second, what is dark social exactly, and how does it impact the marketing space? 

Dark social, defined. 

The term dark social refers to content shares that occur over email, text or messenger apps that confuse traditional measurement platforms and software. 

For example, if you love this article, copy the URL and share it with your work team via Slack, you’d be participating in dark social.

As the name implies, it leaves marketers in the dark on where viewers are coming from, which could lead to the wrong channel being attributed for referring traffic. 

But the term dark social was first coined back in 2012 by Alexis C. Madrigal of multi-platform publisher The Atlantic - so why is everyone paying attention now? 

The metric conundrum

In Alexis’ initial article on dark social back in 2012, she reported that 56.5% of The Atlantic’s shares were happening in the dark and, thus, not correctly measured. 

It doesn’t seem as though time has made much difference to this dark social metric issue either, with WARC reporting in 2017 that 84% of shares occur via dark social

Why is this such a big issue? 

Let’s break it down: These stats mean that marketers make their budgeting and advertising decisions without having visibility of somewhere between 56 and 84% of their data.

With marketing budgets still lagging pre-pandemic numbers, marketers are looking to find ways to utilise the potential of dark social, rather than have it be a hindrance. 

Unlocking the ultimate weapon

Marketing journalist Andrew Watt says b2b businesses  “can only make informed decisions about where to spend [their] budget if [they] know what’s working and what isn’t.”

Many b2b marketers believe that all of the valuable information hidden in dark social data can help them allocate their client’s budgets more appropriately and could be the key to b2b success.  

There are a number of methods that can be used to begin measuring dark social data. 

1. Make sharing your content easier

Most sharing that contributes to dark social occurs from copying and pasting links - so why not remove the need for this altogether? 

By introducing a broader spectrum of sharing options on your content, such as Slack and WhatsApp sharing links, you are providing a simpler sharing option that would bring traditional dark social participants into the light. 

2. Add unique UTM codes to links across various platforms

UTM codes allow Google to more easily track links and where they are shared. 

Using UTMs across various platforms gives you a greater chance of seeing accurate data, reducing the percentage of dark social data you would normally see. 

3. Introduce a “How did you hear about us” field to your contact us form

When a potential consumer reaches the point of conversion, you want to know exactly where they came from and how they got there. 

The ‘How did you hear about us’ form field is a currently undervalued and underused tool that has the potential to confirm and dictate where best to spend your marketing budget. 

4. Start using more non-traditional social tracking tools

Where traditional analytic trackers may struggle to determine dark social data, some emerging platforms are turning the spotlight on dark social.

Analytic platforms such as GetSocial and AddThis are on the cutting edge of dark social tracking, amongst others. 

While these methods can certainly provide greater success in the b2b marketing space by shining a light where light has never been before, there is still so much to learn about dark social, and we’re sure that this year, there will be many more tricks uncovered to maximise dark social for your business. 

Are you ready to unlock the potential of dark social?

Brand chemistry is a b2b marketing agency winning your customers' hearts and minds through inbound, brand, content, lead generation and digital strategy. Our marketing specialists achieve stellar results with the latest lead generation techniques. Our marketing specialists achieve stellar results with the latest lead generation techniques.

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