Come to the Dark Side: What is "Dark Social Traffic?”

BLOG POST BY SARAH MALCOLM, CHIEF DIGITAL STRATEGIST AT THE NEWS FUNNEL

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Something new is stirring in the content marketing world, and it's not live video or messaging apps. Welcome to dark social traffic. While it sounds ominous, dark social traffic is actually a good thing for content marketers. In this case, you want to join the dark side and apply dark social to improve quality engagement with your brand.

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What is dark traffic?

Simply put, dark social traffic is when web visitors share content via a private messaging form. This can be direct messaging or sharing links via email by copying and pasting instead of clicking a website’s share this button. One report claims dark social activity is responsible for 84% of our outbound sharing.

Why should you care about dark social traffic?

Messaging apps are becoming increasingly popular. Sharing content via a direct message is a more personal and targeted interaction with your brand.  In many ways, it's more effective than a public review or reshare. Someone saw the content, found it had value, and thought somebody else would enjoy it. That makes that direct message recipient more likely to click through to the content than if that same person saw a link on a public news feed.

Businesses can use dark social activity to engage one-on-one with customers. The real estate industry is starting to apply chatbots and messaging applications as a method of customer service and engagement. These create dark social traffic, as does texting a link on a commercial property to a client.

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Tracking dark social media

Understanding the role dark social media plays in attracting and keeping potential clients is presenting some challenges. Content marketers have become very skilled at using metrics to optimize content down to the colors used for a call-to-action button. Gathering metrics depends on the metadata attached to content links. When a visitor copies and pastes a link into a private message or email, that trackable data vanishes. As a content marketer looking at visitor source, it appears the visitor randomly landed on the page.

What can we do to track dark social traffic? For starters, adding messaging applications like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp into our “share” options helps pinpoint sources. Another method is to directly ask users how they found our content via a survey or form before a download. Social Media Examiner has an approach to using Google Analytics to track dark social.

Now is the time to start learning how dark social plays a role in lead generation and nurturing. Check your visitor metrics and see if you can pinpoint your potential dark traffic. Remember messaging apps will play an increasing role in the real estate industry as we move forward. Ask how can your business strategically integrate them into your existing content marketing plan as a way to leverage this dark social phenomena.