Is it any surprise that search engines and social networks develop the core of social sharing? Most website traffic originates from direct clicks from search engines like Google or Bing, as well as from social media networks like Facebook or Twitter. Another way that traffic flows on the world wide web is through relevant backend links. Social sharing, however, also takes place outside realm of measurable web analytics. There are numerous instances where people share links directly with each other. These can be blogs, articles, gifs, or videos. What is significant is how these links are being shared privately via personal messaging applications like Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber, iMessage and so on. This also includes all the links being sent directly via email or sms. Such links are without referral tags so they are logged as “direct” links. Companies, and their employees, have no way of knowing where the traffic is coming from and are left ‘in the dark’ – hence the name, dark social.
When marketing analysts are unable to pinpoint the exact online source, they label such referrals as “lost”. Marketers also face considerable challenges while coming up with new targets for content creation, and digital marketing purposes. According to a RadiumOne study, nearly 70% of all social shares come originate from dark social. However, all hope is not lost. It is possible to keep a track of some of the dark social traffic or to at least redirect it to more trackable links.
STEP OUT OF THE DARK
Are you looking for more clarity about who is visiting your company’s website and how they got there? It is now time to get the website support team involved. Newer links with tracking codes can indicate how much of the existing website traffic is from dark social. These modified links should be readily accessible on the business’s website, such as on the masthead, on the sidebar or in the footer bar. Your website gurus should first determine which links on the website or social media page are being used to direct dark social traffic. Next, they must replace them with tracking code-enabled links for better traceability. Your team has now significantly reduced the likelihood of dark social links.
LESS PRIVATE SHARES, MORE OPEN CONVERSATIONS
One possible solution involves incorporating live chat software on to the business website. In case a visitor is unsure about where to click next, a pop-up chat window can lead them in the right direction. Hosting live chat services provides businesses not only with leads but traceable leads. By knowing which visitor inquired about what, businesses can correlate that information to the traffic coming in from the dark social. Live chat solutions are generally known for providing superior, on-the-spot customer support and retaining existing customers.
TEST OUT THIRD-PARTY APPS
There is a variety of apps which help trace your dark social traffic, all of which can be useful in figuring out which segment of the audience to market to and when. Sometimes there are articles or posts written about topics which visitors will not be comfortable sharing publicly on their social media accounts. This may be why they share such links privately with their close friends and family members.
There are certain third-party apps, once integrated on to a company’s website that can help a business establish where their dark social traffic is originating from. After using these apps, users can find out about a possible hidden target market or even about a very enthusiastic fan! This fresh information can then be used to retune all existing digital marketing and advertising collateral to better serve this newly-discovered demographic. While there is a limit to the information these third-party apps can glean, there will be sufficient data to pinpoint the dark social origins.
Some, if not all, of the techniques discussed above can help retrieve your business out of the ‘dark’, at least when it comes to website traffic. Once you have the dark social data sorted, the following step should be to determine and identify the mysterious traffic referrers. It is only when both the direct and dark social traffic numbers are combined that a true picture of website and website traffic performance is created.