Dark Social refers to social media sharing of content (Posts, Videos, Image, etc) that happens outside of what can be measured and tracked by analytical platforms (Google Ads, Facebook Pixels). The term Dark Social was coined by Alex C. Madrigal, he works as a senior editor at the Atlantic.
The Dark Social phenomenon didn’t start with Alexis’ article. It is as old as the internet, as old as content and link sharing go. But in a digital world, where mobile experiences are now a default, the behavior has exploded.
A good traffic source that is growing
Dark Social is sui generis, as higher shares don’t necessarily mean higher traffic. Contrary to public sharing, using a private messaging app or email to share content normally means one-to-one or one-to-few communication.
The traffic potential is limited, only scaling through many smaller interactions, different to the broadcast approach that Facebook is able to provide.
However, we still see an uprise in Dark Social Referrals (traffic coming from identifiable shares with no referral data):
Dark Social is timely and it’s relevant. Expect it to grow even further as concerns with privacy and general distrust in social media arise. As a brand, a marketer or a digital media professional, it’s important to know the basics of it and understand how to track it.