84% of shares happen via dark social – Did you check your metrics in 2020?


Saffron Edge


Jun 29, 2020


5 min read


Among all the major trends that have emerged in the past 12–18 months on the online platform, the dark social media tops the list. When you hear the word dark social for the first time, it sounds like some illegal activity on the digital platform but in reality, it is a golden opportunity for all the online marketers out there since many people are not aware of the details of dark social media, they are not able to capitalize on it.

With dark social giving multiple opportunities for digital marketers and with 84% of outbound share happening through dark social media, you should never overlook it and make it work in favour of your company.

What is Dark Social?

In layman language, dark social is the entire sharing that can never be tracked or we can say the stuff that web analytics platforms fail to pick. For example, you saw a post on a social media site with the title ‘Gain 10 kgs in just three weeks’ and you thought that it will be useful for your friend Daniel. You will then share the link of the article through Whatsapp and then Daniel will share the same link in his family group. Well, all the people involved in this type of sharing are unknowingly participating in the dark social media practice.

The Use Of Dark Social Is Increasing

Millions of people are practising the same type of sharing activity on an everyday basis and that’s why it is only going to grow in the future. If you will include all the top five messaging apps then they will account for almost 5 billion active users and that too, every month. This type of gigantic number has provided practices like dark social to thrive in the best possible way. This number will become more enticing for dark social media when you consider the fact that around 63% of the consumers from all around the world prefer sharing information through private messaging platforms.

The numbers will become more interesting when you will look at the drop in the interactions of Facebook as they went down from 30 billion during the 1st quarter of 2017 to below 13 billion dollars during the 2nd quarter of 2018. And there is no doubt where the missing interaction is going as the portion of dark share in the overall sharing is increasing.

But since this type of sharing is completely private, it becomes hard for any type of web analytics platform to track it. This is the main reason why no social media platform knows how big the dark social media coverage is in the overall social media sharing.

What’s the reason behind people making a shift to dark social?

There is no simple answer to this question but when we will go through the recent trends then the shift of people to dark social and its rise will start making sense.

The presidential election incident of 2016

One of the biggest reasons is people in 2020 trust social sharing less in comparison to dark social. The presidential election of the US in the year 2016 witnessed an influx of ‘fake news’ and because of this, people started losing trust on social networks.

There was also an article published on BBC with the title ‘Fake news becomes the news’ during the US presidential election 2016. From US elections being rigged to Vox calling Facebook for taking responsibility for the fake news, there were many incidents that made people lose trust on social networks.

A $5 billion lawsuit for tracking users in incognito by Google

Just when people thought that incognito mode is the safest mode to browse information, Google was accused of tracking users’ data in the incognito mode of Chrome and a lawsuit of $5 billion was filed on June 11, 2020. According to the reports of the New York Times, Google tracked the browsing history of its users even when they turned incognito in Chrome. Even this incident will lead to the shift of people from social networking sharing to dark social.

Cambridge Analytica Case

The Cambridge Analytica data leak case was among one of the biggest unauthorized data sharing by Facebook and it shook the whole world in the year 2018. In this incident, the private information of millions of users was compromised and this led to several changes in the privacy policy of all the websites out there on the online platform.

All these incidents combined will start making sense for the increase in dark social media and people turning to dark social marketing. There is nothing in saying that private is the new trend when it comes to sharing information in the digital world.

Dark social is omnipresent

From the past 1.5 years, a large chunk of response to dark social shares is coming from smartphones only. This shows that dark social is not limited to only one or two devices, rather, it can be considered omnipresent on all the devices. The rise in the response to dark social media from mobile phones can be estimated from the data published by RadiumOne. It shows that the click backs coming from mobile devices have increased from 53 percent in August 2014 to 62 percent in February 2016. And the remaining 38 percent of click backs are coming from desktops.

What does it mean for marketers?

By using the easy process of deduction, digital marketers practicing social media marketing can track campaigns as dark social. By spending time and effort on Google Analytics, you will need to consider the total direct traffic and then you will have to take the deduction. By going to the bottom of your overall data, you will get the real opportunity created by dark social. And by making the deductions, you will be able to see whether your most valuable content is being shared through dark social media or not, and then you can work accordingly. 

If you will have proper knowledge of which type of content is being shared on dark social then you will be able to optimize your content strategy accordingly and get expected results from your efforts. But you will need to make sure that this strategy is properly incorporated in both your dark social marketing and overall social media marketing strategy.

With private becoming the new trend while sharing and with incidents making people lose trust in social networks, the current conditions are perfect for the proliferation of dark social networks. Instead of being surprised because of people flocking to dark social, you should better be prepared for it and make things work in favour of your overall marketing strategy.

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