What is dark social, and what does it mean for your digital marketing strategy? Dark social is the traffic that gets lumped into direct traffic in your analytics platform but actually comes from untraceable sources.
Any website visit from a link shared on Whatsapp, email, Facebook, etc. is counted as a visit, but the analytics programs can’t attribute it to a particular source. As a result, these visits become invisible, instead of being counted as referral traffic.
Online content can be shared in two ways: a visitor can either use a share button provided or paste a link to their content onto their social media platform. There are three types of social sharing, open social, closed social and dark social. In analytics programs, open social and dark social appear as ‘clear traffic’, whereas dark social does not. Dark social is the hidden world of sharing we aren’t able to access.
Dark social traffic occurs when someone copies a link and pastes it into a closed social channel like Whatsapp or email. During this, the metadata within the link is lost and when the next person clicks the link, it will look direct traffic in analytic programs.
Dark social traffic is proliferating and now comprises a majority of all social traffic. According to one study, it constitutes 84% of all social sharing activity.
The below channels are responsible for Dark Social Traffic:
1: Messaging Apps: Whatsapp, Facebook, etc.
2: Emails in order to protect privacy of users, the referrers aren’t passed.
3: Secure browsing: if you click from https to http, the referrers aren’t passed.
4: Native mobile apps: Instagram, Facebook, etc.
Millions of people create such dark social traffic every day, sending lots of traffic to publishers. But these links shared lack referral tags, hence when the recipient clicks on it their visit will show up ad ‘direct traffic’.
Dark social traffic matters because we cannot measure the success of campaigns if we don’t know which channels performed the best. This type of traffic raises direct traffic because the actual sources can’t be tracked.
Such enormous chunk of referral traffic is extremely difficult to track accurately, and you might end up wasting your time and energy on optimizing the wrong things.