top of page

Illuminating Dark Social: Unleash the Hidden Potential of Private Conversations

Welcome to the captivating world of Dark Social, where your content sharing takes place in the shadows, beyond traditional tracking methods. Imagine a realm of private messaging apps, confidential emails, and intimate conversations among friends.

Types of Social Channels

But fear not, Dark Social isn't as sinister as it sounds; it's not about secret societies or shady dealings on the dark web. Instead, it offers you a whole new dimension of engagement and marketing opportunities for your business.

Did you know that a staggering 80% of social sharing of content occurs through dark social channels?

This revelation, as reported by RadiumOne and WNIP, is a testament to the growing influence of dark social in today's digital landscape. For businesses, especially small to medium-sized ones, understanding and leveraging dark social can be a game-changer.

Steps of Dark Social Sharing

What is Dark Social?

Hidden deep within your Google Analytics data lies a phenomenon known as dark social. Unlike its ominous name, Dark Social refers to the sharing of online content through private channels that escape the watchful eyes of analytics programs. It's like a secret recipe whispered among friends, where genuine recommendations and trust reign supreme. In this hidden landscape, your conversations are driven by authenticity, making Dark Social a treasure trove for you to foster real connections and enhance your credibility.

Imagine this scenario: You come across an intriguing article and decide to share it with a friend via WhatsApp. Your friend clicks on the link, reads the article, and perhaps even makes a purchase based on that recommendation. This entire interaction, from the moment you shared the link to your friend's subsequent actions, remains invisible to traditional analytics tools. The traffic generated from this private share is statistically attributed to "direct traffic," leaving the creator in the dark about the true source of their visitor.

The Rise of Private Conversations

Woman's hand holding a cell phone

The shift towards private sharing isn't new. In fact, the term "dark social" was coined by US journalist Alexis Madrigal back in 2012. Since then, the trend has only grown, driven by concerns about privacy and the evolution of online behavior.

People haven't stopped sharing; they've simply changed how they share. Instead of public retweets or Facebook shares, they're turning to private channels like WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, and even traditional methods like email or text messaging.

To grasp the sheer magnitude of dark social, consider these statistics:

  • 63% of users prefer receiving content and recommendations via dark social channels, according to a study by The Drum.

  • Messaging apps boast 20% more active users monthly compared to social networks, as reported by Business Insider.

The Challenge for Businesses

For businesses, especially those reliant on data-driven strategies, dark social presents a conundrum. It skews website traffic data, making it challenging to make informed marketing decisions. When a person shares information or links via private channels, that traffic is mislabeled as "direct,” so it looks like a larger number of people are typing your URL directly into their browser. That can make it difficult to gauge the effectiveness of specific marketing tactics driving traffic to your site.

However, it's not all gloom and doom. Dark social also offers a silver lining.

Sharon Glenn, 6 Degrees Media CCO
"Dark Social allows you to break free from the noise of public platforms and engage deeply with your audience. It's an opportunity to create meaningful conversations and foster genuine relationships."

-- Sharon Glenn, CCO of 6 Degrees Media

Opportunity Lies Within the Shadows

While dark social might obscure certain data, it also reveals valuable insights about user behavior and preferences. The very fact that users are sharing content privately indicates trust and genuine interest. These private referrals and recommendations, though hard to trace, are happening more frequently than businesses might realize. And for marketers, this means that their campaigns are resonating, even if it's happening behind closed doors.

With Dark Social, you can embrace the power of personal recommendations, creating authentic connections with your audience. It also allows you to build trust and credibility, forging stronger relationships and loyalty.

To tap into the potential of dark social:

  • Adjust Your Content Strategy: Create content that encourages private sharing. Think of it as leveraging "micro-influencers" - individuals who have a significant influence within their personal networks. Content shared by trusted sources, be it friends or family, is more likely to engage and convert.

  • Start Dark Social Listening: Brands like Starbucks are already diving into dark social listening. By engaging with brand ambassadors in private groups or channels, businesses can gain authentic consumer insights that complement traditional market research.

  • Utilize Custom Tracking Codes: While not a perfect solution, UTM codes can help improve traffic attribution for your campaigns.

In the vast digital landscape, it's often challenging for small and medium-sized businesses to be heard over the noise generated by larger competitors. Dark Social levels provide the unique opportunity for you to be noticed and make meaningful connections without a hefty marketing budget.

LaNell Angerstein, CEO of 6 Degrees Media
"Small and medium-sized businesses often face challenges in competing with larger corporations. Dark Social levels the playing field, offering a unique space where creativity and compelling content can help you stand out and capture attention."

-- LaNell Angerstein, CEO of 6 Degrees Media

Navigating the Cons

Dark Social does pose some tracking and attribution difficulties due to its elusive nature. However, fear not, new innovative tools and methods are emerging to shed light on the metrics and help you gauge the impact of your Dark Social efforts.

While Dark Social grants intimacy and privacy, it's crucial for you to find the delicate balance between promoting your brand and respecting personal boundaries. Authenticity is key; focus on providing value and nurturing genuine conversations.

Dark Social is Here to Stay

Instead of fearing the unknown, businesses should embrace the challenge and seek ways to illuminate the shadows. Embrace the opportunities it presents, knowing that this hidden realm holds the potential to foster authenticity, engagement, and growth for your business. By understanding the nuances of dark social and adjusting strategies accordingly, businesses can harness the hidden potential of private conversations and drive engagement.


6degrees logo

About 6° Media If you want to create a digital culture for your company that wins over customers' hearts, 6° Media is here to help. Our skilled marketing experts can foster your business's continuous growth at scale and on budget.


bottom of page