The Power of the Dark Side: What is Dark Social Media & Why Does it Matter? #66 #cong15

By Ruairi Kavanagh.

Ruairi Kavanagh The Power of the Dark Side

What is 'Dark' Social Media? 

(Brief summary of Prezi file, embedded below or view online)

The term Dark Social was coined by Alexis C.Madrigal, tech editor at, in 2012,

to refer to web traffic that comes from outside sources that web analytics are not able to track.

Some facts about 'Dark' Social....

Dark Social is when someone shares content or a link by copying and pasting into communications such as emails, instant messages and forum posts. 

Most consumers share content online. 84% of people share content online globally.

A large percentage of consumers only share content via Dark Social. Globally, 32% of people who share content online will only share via Dark Social.

The parents of today's social media, applications like:

  • ICQ
  • AOL Messenger
  • Windows Messenger

The web has been social for a lot longer than today's social media giants would have us think....

'Dark' Social = 'direct or 'typed/bookmarked' traffic

This very rarely means that someone went to the trouble of typing, frequently long, URL's into browsers.

No, the root is far more often a link that was shared by  chat room, or via forum or email....old school social media.

So, if your social media 'optimisation' is purely for the traditional SM channels such as Twitter and Facebook, Pinterest etc....

There's a large 'black hole' of direct or dark traffic in your analytics.

How do you shed light on the dark?

Shortened and branded URL Sharing, which offers audience analytics on clickbacks.

Clickback=Someone clicking on a shared link  

When done properly, with the right product (Bitly and for example),this can lead to very strong segmentation and activation, dependent on the sector. Branded URL's particularly strong in sport and fashion and tech for example.

Best ways to use/incorporate shortened URL's include:

  • Blog posts
  • Embedded in youtube/vimeo content
  • QR Codes
  • SMS
  • Email signatures
  • Email campaigns

Is 'Dark' Social the most social of social media?

It requires more effort to share, and is likely shared with a more directly relevant audience. 

We have always shared content. FB, Twitter etc have just allowed us to personalise it and 'brand it!

Two quotes from the originator of the phrase ‘Dark’ Social:

"I think there are some philosophical changes that we should consider in light of this  data. While it's true that sharing came to the web's technical infrastructure in the 2000s, the behaviors that we're now all familiar with on the large social networks was present long before they existed, and persists despite Facebook's eight years (in 2012)on the web. The history of the web, as we generally conceive it, needs to consider technologies that were outside the technical envelope of "webness." People layered communication technologies easily and built functioning social networks with most of the capabilities of the web 2.0 sites in semi-private and without the structure of the current sites." Alex Madrigal, Atlantic Contributing Editor

"If what I'm saying is true, then the tradeoffs we make on social networks is not the one that we're told we're making. We're not giving our personal data in exchange for the ability to share links with friends. Massive numbers of people -- a larger set than exists on any social network -- already do that outside the social networks. Rather, we're exchanging our personal data in exchange for the ability to publish and archive a record of our sharing. That may be a transaction you want to make, but it might not be the one you've been told you made." Alex Madrigal, Contributing Editor, Atlantic


CongRegation © Eoin Kennedy 2017 eoin at congregation dot ie