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Shedding Light on Dark Social

A rarely discussed trend in social media sharing and tracking, Dark Social, has recently received some spotlight attention. Dark Social may sound ominous but it is actually very valuable to marketers. It refers to web traffic that, up until recently, hasn’t been able to be tracked by traditional web analytics software – this includes– links sent over email, messaging apps and some mobile applications.

Wondering how this could affect your marketing efforts? For starters, dark social is larger, about three times larger by volume, than ordinary social media traffic. But it’s the quality, not necessarily the quantity, of dark social traffic that has everyone intrigued.

By using dark social, advertisers can target ads much more effectively. For example, a friend sends you a link in an email recommending a new coffee machine. You check out the link but you don’t end up buying the machine. Normally, you would just be retargeted like everyone else. But, if the makers of the coffee machine could identify you as someone who came to the site via a recommendation from friend, you would be a more valuable lead.

But how do you track something that has never been tracked before? Some vendors are adding tracking codes to URLs that are copied and pasted into a message. Instant messaging services are keen to come up with a solution since these messages are seen as the most intimate form of digital sharing. Some instant message platforms such as WhatsApp have included share buttons and have already seen a major impact.

The future of dark social looks bright.

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