I was reading a very interesting article by the folk at Buffer yesterday about how messaging and messaging apps are going to revolutionise the way we use social media. The article used the phrase ‘dark social’ a relatively new term.
So, what is dark social?
The term was first used back in 2012 in an article by tech journalist Alexis Madrigal, where he used it to describe hits to your website where there is no referrer information even though the link was originally shared online in a social environment (rather than a direct hit from someone typing your website address into their browser).
What this essentially means is that internet users may be sharing your website address within closed or private environments such as email or messaging, rather than through more open social media channels like Facebook or Twitter. The result is a direct hit to your website rather than a referral from that specific channel.
Or put another way, when you look at your Google Analytics to see where hits to your site have come from (perhaps to measure success of your tweets or Facebook posts), hits that come from messaging apps won’t be separately listed like Facebook and Twitter are, they’re grouped in the ‘direct’ hits listing.
Why’s dark social important to understand?
There are some feelings that dark social can account for nearly 70% of shared web addresses, where the average for Facebook is around the 25% mark.
Now, you may be excused for thinking why does this matter to me, a hit to my site is a hit to my site regardless of where it’s come from? Whilst that is in fact true, everybody likes hits to their website, it’s actually an indication of a number of things:
- More and more people are using messaging to communicate with each other, which over time may mean they share less via traditional social media channels like Twitter and Facebook
- It’s going to become harder to measure the success of digital marketing campaigns
- There’s a new challenge ahead – how to you target these closed discussions to help market your business online?
So, what does dark social mean for digital marketing?
Whilst the naysayers may say the dark social is the end of social media marketing, I don’t think it’s quite at the doom and gloom stage yet – these private group/social conversations still need to hear about things that they’re sharing so via social media and other online means there’s still a need to market your products and services.
The real challenge though is how do businesses exploit the opportunities messaging services might offer them to help market their products?
We’re already seeing a lot of interest in how services like WhatsApp (owned by Facebook BTW) and Snapchat can be used as marketing tools and there’s a few interesting case studies in the Buffer article worth a look for some ideas about how big brands are using messaging in their online strategies.
What’s clear is messaging apps are on the rise and maybe it could become a case of adapt or die for online brands, particularly if the stats that are starting to pop up everywhere are to be believed that in terms of messaging numbers they far outnumber the usual social media suspects!
And, if you need anymore convincing of the rise of messaging then perhaps take note that WordPress have added WhatsApp, Telegram and Skype to their list of share buttons available on their wordpress.com platform, so they clearly see there is value in sharing via messaging…
So, if you have the capacity check out what you can do with some of the online messaging services for your business, here’s a couple of thoughts:
- Snapchat stories for your working day or from an event you’re attending
- Allow your customers to contact you and your staff for sales and/or support via WhatsApp (they just need to add your phone number to their contacts)
After all, as I’ve said before, customer service is about being where your customers are and where or how they want to communicate with you.
Happy messaging! And, by the way, you can find me on Snapchat as flavourfy and on WhatsApp via my mobile number (07833297193) – get in touch 🙂