How to Use Dark Social In Your Marketing (and Why!)

Marketers are now worried about dark social, despite increased pressure to track spend and metrics. What is dark social? How can you use dark social in your marketing?

Let’s explore the dark world of dark social.

What is Dark Social?

Alexis Madrigal, an American journalist and author, coined the term “Dark Social” in 2012. He claimed that we don’t see the whole picture when it comes to social traffic.

He wrote:

There are situations, however, where there is no referrer information. We don’t know how you got to our door, so we are not able to identify the source of your social traffic. It’s what I call DARK SOCIAL.

Marketers have used the term “dark” social to describe difficult-to-track web traffic, comments and discussions since then. These are spaces where buyers are not influenced by your brand, but are nonetheless influenced.

84% of all outbound sharing by consumers takes place now in dark social media channels like email, instant messaging, and social networks. Marketers use terms such as dark funnel, dark traffic and dark social media, which all fall under the same category. Many marketers mistakenly confuse “dark social” with “dark internet,” but it’s not.

What are some dark social examples?

Buyers are using a completely new way to purchase. They use social media forums, Slack communities and podcasts to find the right product.

Marketers who don’t know how to navigate the social media space could be manipulating their data and metrics. All this is not good news for CMOs and CEOs who want to track marketing dollars.

Let’s first look at some spaces where there is dark social. This list may surprise you.

Facebook Ad Comments: Page admins will be notified about comments, likes and dislikes on their pages. However, this is not always the case for ads. Brands will often place Facebook ads without responding to dark social comments. This is because they don’t receive notifications in the usual places. This could allow commentators to hijack your ad’s comments section. Email: Most email providers won’t give out referral information to brands. This is unless you track URLs and the recipient clicks on them. Podcasts: Google and Apple podcasts can be considered dark social as they generate discussions and debates that cannot easily be tracked by brands. How would a brand know if 1000 people buy a candle because it was mentioned on a podcast without a trackable link? They wouldn’t. WhatsApp and Messenger: WhatsApp is ranked number one in 63 of 100 countries. Discussions and recommendations are confidential (and rightly so), and cannot be tracked. Messenger is 4th in the world with 1.3 billion active users. Messenger can show you ads and retarget you based upon your conversations. However, Messenger cannot attribute any website visited via a link shared.

There are many other messaging apps available, some of them exclusive to China and Asian countries. QQ and WeChat are growing in popularity.

Slack and Basecamp are key places where professionals can have discussions and make buying decisions. These transactions are difficult to track or attribute to the source.

Dark Social Example

This is an example of dark social under a Facebook ad. It’s from Earth 2. (Tragically, since I write about digital marketing I get all the metaverse ads!) ).

These comments are probably not known by the brand. The brand cannot respond with information or funny comments. It is not able to assess the sentiment in the comments section, nor can it learn from them.

It takes a lot time to find comments in Facebook Ads Manager. There is no way to organize or collect it all. Also, you don’t receive notifications about new comments so you can’t moderate dark social in real-time on your ads. A brand shouldn’t reply to a thread 5 weeks later.

How do you measure dark social?

It feels like I’m asking about how to measure a cloud or catch a rainbow. There are many ways to measure dark social.

How can you measure something you don’t see? These are just a few of the many ways that you can measure this mysterious space.

1. Follow your URLs

Although this is not a new concept for marketers, many of us don’t practice it consistently. (I’m guilty of sometimes skipping tracking. URL shorteners are a great way to measure dark social traffic.

To track outbound links, most marketers use’s shorter links are easier to find and use on platforms such as Twitter. is now a premium service that allows for 50 link shortenings per year.

It is easy to track URLs. Simply enter the URL and UTM metrics. Your analytics will be clearer if you’re more precise. allows you to create a QR code using your link, which is also very cool.

You can use your shortener URL in social media posts, ads, brochures, and business cards. The original URL is now This URL can be clicked and tracked.

2. Google Analytics Monitoring

Google Analytics lets you monitor traffic and convert. You can also create reports based upon behavior, location, and any other traffic attribute.

Google Analytics does not completely eliminate the “darksocial” element. The place where the majority of dark social traffic is typically recorded is direct traffic. It’s also where people can bookmark pages or type URLs. Although there are many ways to exclude it and drill down to the details, it’s not always easy.

Contentworks Agency has 9.2% direct traffic, as you can see.

Google Analytics is great for seeing traffic but won’t show you the comments people made underneath your ads. Wait for it…

Gorapulse can help with dark social situations

Agorapulse is a social media platform that allows you to dig deep into the opinions of people on dark social about your brand. Agorapulse allows you to track conversations, hashtags and brand mentions. Agorapulse supports Facebook Ad comments. This allows you to easily track engagement and comment and then jump in with brand commentary. Of course, you can.

free demo for agorapulse social media management tool

Here are some:

Monitor mashtags and mentions

You won’t always be able to see your brand mentioned on social media. This can happen for a number of reasons. Because it can be annoying, you may have turned off notifications push messages from your smartphone. Your brand was not tagged by the user who mentioned you, but simply used your name or hashtag. You might also be a social media marketing agency that has hundreds of accounts, profiles, and pages. However, you don’t have access to all of them.

Agorapulse allows you to listen to brand mentions and tags in one place. Even if they didn’t tag you, you can find out who your top brand ambassadors were!

This is all without having to log into every social media platform or enable push notifications.

Dark social tip: If you are monitoring a campaign or brand tag in Agorapulse make sure you spell it correctly or add a handle similar to the one you are using so that you don’t get confused by misspellings. If you are looking to be proactive, you could also add keywords and competitor hashtags.

John Lewis & Partners is a great example. They have the best Christmas ads in the UK! John Lewis does not have @JohnLewis as a Twitter handle. They use @JohnLewisRetail. Instead, the handle belonged to John Lewis, a charming man.

John Lewis the man, and John Lewis store have a wonderful relationship on social media. John Lewis’ marketing team is 100% responsible for monitoring their social media accounts.

Get your dark social ad comments

Agorapulse gathers comments from your Facebook dark posts and collates them. This makes it easy to track engagement. You can automate replies, hide spam comments or delete them, as well as assign questions and feedback to other team members. Agorapulse’s connection with Facebook’s Marketing API & Graph API ensures that all comments are in sync, so you can reply in real-time!

Go to your Agorapulse settings and click on Social Profiles to start receiving ad comments. Select Ad Accounts from your Facebook page. Next, connect Ad Accounts. Inbox tab will now display dark post comments. YAY!

Save replies

Many times, the same complaints or questions will be repeated in dark social comments. It can save you time by having a list of saved responses ready to go. In sectors with complex or technical FAQs, saved replies can be very helpful.

You can save time by saving a reply and not having to search for the answer every time. You can create as many replies as you wish and add the user’s name to each one.

How Are Brands Utilizing Dark Social?

In an effort to save sales, commentators sometimes talk out of a sale or overlook important selling points. CreateStudio reached out to their customers in the comments section to provide helpful tips.

Monitor user-generated comments Brands are well aware that microinfluencers and user generated content can influence audiences more than brands. This is dark social, as comments under another user’s posts will not show up in your metrics if they aren’t tagged or partnered with you. They are still valuable for brands. You can monitor hashtags and comments to see posts that feature your products and then share them on your pages. Snag tights posts are authentic and show that real women are wearing them.

Ryanair is a master of the meme. They regularly capture brand mentions, trends and photos of their planes to turn them into tweets. Their social media team must be able to monitor their media channels!

To correct misinformation, I am a big supporter of free debate. I don’t like brands using social media to censor me. Beyond Meat and other brands that face a lot of opposition need to monitor their dark social. They might be tempted to correct the mistakes made by others and post a lot of criticism. I’m not aware if they deliberately chose to not intervene.

Campaign winners can be pulled We love social media competitions and you need to monitor dark social to see replies and campaign hashtags, even if users don’t tag directly you.


Due to an increasing number of Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, and WeChat users dark social is on the rise. Our growing love for forums such as Reddit and Quora, to name just a few, is another reason.

Are you ready to learn how Agorapulse could help your marketing? Register now to get a free trial!