What is ‘Dark Social’?

by Figaro Digital

You may not realise it, but you’re probably already using dark social quite innocently.


But, What Exactly is Dark Social?

‘Dark social’ is a term used to describe any social interactions not on the major social platforms like Facebook and Twitter. So when you send a snap to a bezzie mate or a message on Kik, you’re technically using dark social.

First coined in 2012 by Editor of The Atlantic, Alexis C. Madrigal, it refers to web traffic that can’t be tracked through traditional web analytics tools. Hence the ‘dark’ bit. As links shared here don’t have referral identifiers, when analysing your traffic analytics insights, they go unseen – you’re in the dark on their use.


So, Why Are Brands Turning to the Dark Side?

Well, this is where the cool kids hang out. No, not millennials, but the over 55s. A recent study by RadiumOne found that around 46% of people aged 55 or older only use dark social to share content, links etc. Whereas just 19% of 16 to 34 year olds do.

And although it does not come with all the tracking and analytical tools that many of the big boys offer, it is wielding results for many. The same study found that around 92% of people who share online use dark social channels. Further to this, visible sharing accounts for 31%, whereas dark is used 69% of the time worldwide.

adidasAdidas has recently given dark social a go in a bid to further its image as ‘the most personal brand’. The sports brand has been trialling the use of WhatsApp to build hyperlocal communities or ‘squads’ as it’s calling them. The first squads to be launched were in Berlin, London, Stockholm, Milan and Paris. However, representatives have made the point that they are not doing this for a hard sell, but to build and maintain relationships, creating brand awareness.

Florian Alt. Adidas Senior Director of Global Brand Communications, has said:

“These are the guys who will push out your stories and content. They give it longevity and authenticity, because they are talking in a private messaging environment. If it comes as a referral from your mate, you’re much more likely to pick it up than if it comes from a brand.”

If you’d prefer to keep your visitors on traceable platforms, there are a few things you can do to encourage this:

• Place social buttons at both the top and bottom of your page to avoid the need to search for these options.
• Clearly show if a social button leads to a connection or a share, as this can annoy and discourage users.
• Shorten your links. RadiumOne’s research reveals short links are more likely to be shared.