How to Measure Dark Social

Dark social sounds very ominous. Dark social can be scary, but once you understand its meaning and how it can affect your marketing efforts, it will not seem so.

Dark social can actually be very beneficial for marketing. As long as you know how it works and how to measure the results. hbspt.forms.create({ region: “na1”, portalId: “8477337”, formId: “d7171337-f180-4afb-9fdf-8c08a374f0cc”>

Are you ready to discover the dark side of social media? Learn what dark social is and how to analyze it. Then, see how you can incorporate it into your marketing.

What is Dark Social?

Source, impact, and dark social meanings

Dark social is a type of sharing that occurs via private channels and doesn’t produce tracking data. Because the referrer can’t be identified, the source is either “dark” (or invisible).

An article in The Atlantic magazine published the term “darksocial” in 2012. Although tracking and attribution technology has improved over the last decade, dark social continues to drive significant traffic to many brands’ websites.

Radium One estimates that 84% of consumers consider their shares to be dark social, rather than public social. These private shares are common and it is important to understand their effects on your brand.

From where does dark social originate?

Dark social shares are when someone copies a link without tracking code from your website or marketing channels, and then pastes it into their private channel.

Dark social media would include, for example, sharing a blog post via WhatsApp and a Zoom landing page. Pasting a link in an email or text message would be considered dark social media.

These links are not linked through referral data so you cannot tell where it came from. It is impossible to attribute the click to any particular social media post or marketing campaign.

Link shares via social media channels of your brand or your website’s share buttons do not fit the dark social definition. These shares can be tracked and are publicly available.

For example, if you share a link on Facebook, the social media network adds tracking information (known as a Facebook Click Identifier (FBCLID),) to the URL.

Website analytics tools can quickly identify the source of traffic because these links include tracking IDs as well as referral information. Google Analytics, for example, automatically assigns link clicks from Facebook posts as social media networks.

Why is dark social important?

You spend a lot of time as a social media marketer reviewing analytics, reporting on insights, making decisions based upon the data you have gathered from owned channels.

Your data might not contain the right information. Dark social, as the above statistic suggests, can be a powerful driver of conversations about brands.

You might not have the right data to make informed decisions about your brand’s social media marketing if you don’t monitor dark social metrics or attempt to track them.

What is dark social and how does it compare to word-of mouth marketing?

Dark social can be compared to word-of mouth marketing in some ways. Word of mouth marketing is a form of dark social, even though it’s not trackable.

If your brand is mentioned on dark social media or through word of mouth, it means that people are talking about you, your product, and/or service. This means that your efforts to increase awareness are likely to be successful.

It sounds like a win. It is.

It’s difficult to track which clicks or conversions are coming from where, so it can be hard to determine what is driving all the buzz and what is really working in your marketing. We’ll be looking at dark social analysis and amplifying.

What does the dark social mean? Is it the same thing as the dark web?

Although the terms sound similar, darksocial is not related to dark web or going dark with social media. Here are the facts:

The dark web is an area of the internet intended for anonymity. The dark web is not accessible by standard internet browsers so most users will never come across it.

Social media “going dark” refers to a pause in regularly scheduled activity. This is often done due to major news events or ahead of a launch. Your team will know when to stop social media channels in order to avoid larger crises.

What are the metrics for dark social media?

Google Analytics is the easiest and most cost-effective tool to measure dark social. It automatically places the majority of dark social traffic into the direct channel.

Unfortunately, the direct channel can be a bit too broad. It also includes URLs from dark social networks, which can be typed directly into the browser.

You can filter to remove non-dark social media traffic from the direct channel. However, this will not eliminate all of them.

How to filter direct traffic in Google Analytics

Open your Google Analytics Universal dashboard and click on the Acquisition Overview report to filter out any traffic not related to the direct channel. Select Direct from the list.

To access additional filtering options, click the advanced link. You can change the dropdown menus from Exclude to Exactly matching. Next, select all pages that you wish to filter out.

Google Analytics - dark social filters

It is best to remove your homepage and any other landing pages visitors can type from memory into their browsers. You may also wish to exclude your About and Contact pages.

To start filtering, click Apply. You can now focus on traffic that is most likely to have been generated from dark social media shares.

Google Analytics - dark social metrics

Not all dark social traffic will be removed by this filtering process. It will allow you to analyze dark social without having to invest in complicated software.

Google Analytics: Where else can you check for dark social traffic?

The workflow below allows you to focus on dark social media that comes from sources that aren’t trackable, such as personal emails, SMS messages and selected messaging apps.

In many cases, however, social media messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, Instagram Direct and Twitter automatically include tracking data in the link. Instagram and Facebook both add data to the URL. Twitter uses the URL shorterener.

Google Analytics automatically places the traffic under the appropriate social network and categories it. This means that Google Analytics’ social channels can include both dark and public social.

Google Analytics - social network metrics

It can be difficult to zero in on dark social, again. URL tracking is a great way to filter out social media. (See below).

You can then easily subtract your owned traffic from social traffic and you can assume that the majority of traffic remaining in social channels is dark.

Where can I find dark social metrics?

You can view basic dark social metrics using Google Analytics’ Acquisition reports.

The number of page visitors, also known as the number New users or users who have never visited your site before. Session duration or how long people spend on the page.

You can view more information about dark social traffic if you have set goals or ecommerce in your Google Analytics account.

Universal Analytics reveals:

Transactions or goal completionsGoal/ecommerce conversion rateGoal amount or ecommerce value

How do you analyze dark social media?

These metrics can provide a lot of insight into dark social traffic, especially if you use Landing Page for the primary dimension.

Engagement insights and impressions

You can see how many people visit each page and post via dark social using Google Analytics’ impression-and engagement metrics.

What landing pages generate the most dark social media traffic? Are they landing pages for special offers, blog posts, or other types?

Is it possible to make an educated guess as to why these blog posts are driving so much traffic. Are the blog posts new? Are they covering hot topics? Are they getting traction from influencers or other third-party sources?

These metrics can help you determine how engaged your visitors are with your website. Are some pages more popular than others? These metrics could indicate deeper interest and higher engagement in certain topics.

Conversion insights

Google Analytics’ conversion metrics are also able to help you determine intent signals from dark social media shares. To see the movement of dark social users through your funnel, you can use the dropdown menu.

Are there many dark social users who have become leads or made purchases? Which landing pages had the highest conversion rate or transactions?

These conversion rates are comparable to the results of your organic or paid social media marketing campaigns. Do any of the most converting landing pages have a match between dark social and public?

Google Analytics automatically tracks channels such as paid search, social media and organic search so you can easily compare dark social results with other channels. How does dark social measure up?

Direct customer insights

Google Analytics can provide a lot of information about your website traffic but it isn’t intended to give dark social attribution. It can even miss dark social sources.

Instead of relying on Google Analytics alone, you can ask customers directly. Include a question like “Where did your hear about us?” in your subscription or onboarding forms. This will give you a deeper understanding of how people found your site.

Do you need to include dark social media in your marketing?

Dark social is a great way to reach customers and gain more insight into your prospects.

What’s the best way for dark social media to work for your brand? You have many options as a social media marketer.

Dark social metrics can be used to enhance campaigns

Are your branded messages in line with what customers talk about? Are your organic and paid campaigns using completely different messaging and content?

Dark social metrics allow you to make better decisions about channels, content, and messaging for your own campaigns.

Dark social analytics can be used to determine which landing pages and content are driving the most traffic, sales, and transactions on your website. These assets can be integrated into your marketing campaigns to increase results.

Start dark social conversations or join them

Asking customers to tell you where they heard about you brand will help you uncover the darkest sources of social traffic.

You might be eligible to join these channels as your brand and you may even be able participate in them. You can join relevant Slack channels or WhatsApp groups to listen in and even join conversations.

In private messaging apps, you can also have conversations with customers. Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp are all great places to send messages and links that feel more personal, as well as your website’s chatbot.

Measure dark social more easily

You can track more traffic using another method than Google Analytics filters and customer queries.

You can get people to share your content with the right tools and make it trackable. This will allow you to track dark social channels and collect data much more easily.

Add sharing buttons to your website to track links. These buttons allow visitors to share to their preferred channel with one click. This may decrease the number of dark social sharing.

You might have seen the Agorapulse sharing buttons. These buttons make it easy to share articles that resonate with you on social media and in an email.

Agorapulse - link sharing tool

A campaign tracking tool is also an excellent idea for sharing links via social media. This tool allows you to attribute specific campaigns’ results, even if someone shares your links in private channels.

How can Agorapulse help measure ROI?

Multiple tools are not required for campaign tracking or social media ROI measurement. Agorapulse can be used to improve social tracking, and measure ROI.

Track your campaigns

Are you looking to share a blog article, product page or landing page on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter?

Agorapulse offers campaign tracking, which allows you to attribute specific posts with website visitors, transactions and revenue.

It is easy to set up campaign tracking within your Agorapulse publishing schedule. Create a new post and add a link to your site. Next, click on the Untracked notification to set up campaign tracking.

Agorapulse - campaign tracking - UTM parameters

Agorapulse will track the source and medium of your links automatically. By entering custom text, you can attribute the results to a campaign.

The entire URL, including the UTM tracking codes, will be displayed when your post is published. You can choose to shorten your links if you prefer your links to look more pleasing.

Agorapulse - campaign tracking - link shortener

Agorapulse automatically uses as a link shortener. If you have a linked account, you can use instead.

Social ROI can be measured

You don’t need to go through Google Analytics and set up filters to measure social ROI. You can connect your Google Analytics account with Agorapulse to start tracking ROI results.

Agorapulse - social ROI - overview

Agorapulse’s ROI dashboard automatically tracks all visitors, transactions and revenue generated by social media activity, for any time period you choose. This includes both campaigns that you have chosen to track and those without campaign tracking.

Agorapulse - social ROI - social channels

Even if campaign tracking is disabled, this dashboard can provide valuable insights. You can find out which social channels drive the most revenue, and which landing pages lead you to the highest number of transactions.

You can get more useful ROI analytics if campaign tracking is enabled. You can view visitor, transaction, revenue, and content type data for social profiles and social media posts.

Agorapulse - social ROI - social profiles and content type

Are your top social channels and most profitable content meeting your expectations? Are you surprised at the results of your most profitable social media posts and campaigns?

This data can be used to make significant improvements in your social media marketing efforts. It will allow you to create more content that your audience likes and generates a better ROI. hbspt.forms.create({ region: “na1”, portalId: “8477337”, formId: “d7171337-f180-4afb-9fdf-8c08a374f0cc”>

Let’s recap what we learned about dark social meaning and its impacts

Dark social can drive traffic and generate conversation for your brand. It is therefore important to monitor and analyze it. These tactics will help you improve dark social tracking and measurement, allowing you to leverage these conversations and make better business decisions.

Book a free demo to learn more about Agorapulse’s ability to help you measure ROI.

Did you miss our previous article…