Dark social posts: step into the light

If you’re an avid user of Google Analytics like myself, then you may have noticed a growing proportion of direct traffic to your site. Whilst some of this traffic may well be from users that have accessed your site by typing the URL in or clicking on a bookmark, it’s more likely to be down to dark social.

What is dark social?

Don’t worry, it’s far less sinister then it sounds. Dark posts are URLs shared through sources that don’t have referrals attached to them. Examples of this would be mobile apps like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, as well as instances where an app has its own browser for links to click through, such as Facebook instant articles. URLs shared via email and SMS can also be classed in this way.

B2B marketers need to prove their efforts on social media, but you can’t paint a clear picture if you don’t know where your traffic is coming from.

Due to the proliferation of social media use, dark social is becoming a more prominent component in traffic reports. For B2B marketers who want to analyse how they’re performing on social and what their funnel is delivering, it’s vital to shed some light on dark social.

Can it be tracked?

Fortunately, this activity can be tracked in several ways. Firstly, you can apply clear social sharing buttons on your website, so that URLs can be tracked when they are shared. Another, less precise way of tracking dark social is by creating a segment in Google Analytics that excludes all your webpages that someone might directly type into an address bar, leaving you only with dark social visits.

Other paid tools also exist to help you track dark social, but for an overview of traffic to your site, using segments or UTM parameters is sufficient. Some social media apps now use identifiers to signal that a session isn’t dark social or direct traffic.

What are the consequences of not tracking it?

Well, the immediate consequences are that you’ll be unaware of where your traffic is coming from. For B2B Marketers, this is a huge problem. You need to prove that your efforts on social channels are worthwhile, but if you can’t paint an accurate picture, then you can’t prove anything.

There will also be uncertainty around future strategy and marketing spend. If a huge amount of traffic is coming from a social media channel and you can’t track it, you might deem the campaign to be a failure. By tracking dark social properly, you can paint an accurate portrait of your social media performance. Do you track all elements of social? Have you found that it has improved your marketing performance? I’d love to find out more. Feel free to get in touch with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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