Share buttons are out, Dark social is in

by | May 17, 2018 | Learn Content Marketing


In this article, we look at the new content-sharing behaviours, what dark sharing is, and how to report on it. 

You sit in bed late one night, peering into a small dimly lit screen. The title of the blog article is “These Kittens Love Tomato Soup”, and you reconcile with yourself if this is, in fact, the cutest thing you’ve ever seen. A quick check to see if the internet did break, before you share this treasure with your cat-loving friends. Posting this on your Facebook wall might see you ridiculed by dog-lovers; so you copy the URL and share it via Messenger to your feline friendly friends.

You just went to the dark side!

What is dark social?

Dark social is sharing done in a non-public way. If you have ever emailed a webpage link to someone, or shared a URL to a friend through a chat app, like Facebook Messenger or WeChat, then you’ve partaken in dark social.

The term ‘dark social’ was coined because it’s private; hidden from public and marketers alike. This traffic has no referral details attached to it which makes it difficult to report on. Below, we list a couple of ways you can track dark sharing.

Various sources are reporting between 70% – 84% of content sharing is now done via “dark social”. People are not broadcast sharing anymore. They are sharing to niches, groups, and individuals.

dark social

Adapting to dark social

Most brands have not adjusted to the new sharing behaviour. You’ll notice the standard Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn icons on most websites, desperate for some click love.

According to only 4% of marketers considered dark social as one of their top three challenges.

Dark social stats


Brands need to adapt and encourage dark sharing. If that’s what the people want, then let’s make it easy for them.

It’s time to replace the standard share buttons with; share via Messenger, WeChat, What’s App, Email etc.

Brands can also converse with users directly via chat apps. Taking conversations private like this also falls under dark social.

Implementing dark social share options is easier said than done. A lot of the website templates and share button plugins are missing these dark sharing options. However, I have found that includes the most popular choices. The basic version is free, easy to install, and it’s pretty flexible.

How to report on dark social traffic

AddThis does have a dashboard which gives you some good stats on what share buttons have been used. But sharing a page’s URL straight out of the browser is still a predominant way people share. So how can we account for that? Let’s look at how we can do this in Google Analytics.

There is no ‘Dark Sharing Report’ in Google Analytics, yet. Who knows if it will come. But we can set up some rules to filter what we can assume to be dark sharing traffic.

First off, you want to filter your Audience to only Direct Traffic. You can do this by creating a new segment within Audience > Overview.

Tracking dark social traffic


Now go to Behaviour > Site Content> All Pages; and start filtering out pages that wouldn’t be shared.

reporting on dark soialAdd as many of the simple URLs as you can. You want to filter it down to just the hard-to-remember URLs that are most likely not just typed into the browser. This traffic carries no referral data and is most likely the result of dark social sharing.

Dark social traffic is hard to track, but this report will give you some insights into the majority of your dark traffic.

Dark social matters

You can not ignore dark social. It’s a thing.

To adapt to this user behaviour is merely a natural progression in this ever-changing world of content marketing.

*Source: RadiumOne social analytics data, February 1-29, 2016 – see pdf

[/vc_column_text][templatera id=”622″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Content Marketing Tools

Increasing Your Website Traffic (Cheat Sheet)

Increase your website traffic with our free cheat sheet. This step-by-step guide makes it easy.

seo optimize articles


Optimize your articles to drive more search traffic.

content placement app


Pay for article placement on top media and blogs.