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What Is Dark Social and Why Does It Matter?

Dark social refers to posts that aren’t shared through social media, but direct linking.

If you’re a business owner or marketer and you’ve ever checked your website’s traffic analytics, you may be wondering what the “direct” traffic listed is. In 2012, an article by The Atlantic coined a term for this and dubbed it “dark social.” Dark social is when web content is shared not through social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram, but instead through direct messages, texts, and emails. Marketers have realized the increasing importance of dark social and we’re here to tell you why.

How Does It Work?

Referral traffic is typically identified by tags that are attached to the URL whenever a post is shared. This sends a signal to your analytics telling you where that post was shared from, whether it was Facebook or through another blog post or whatever platforms you may have. When someone copies and pastes a post directly to their friends, family members, and coworkers, it doesn’t have that tag anymore. This will indicate it as “direct traffic” when you check to see where your website’s referrals are coming from.

What Does It Mean For You?

Dark social is incredibly important because of the specific demographics it reaches. Marketing company RadiumOne’s research shows that a whopping 46% of consumers 55 and older share only dark media, and even in younger brackets a significant 19% still do so. It’s especially prevalent in certain industries as well, like food and travel. Most importantly, the existence and importance of dark social seems to imply that quality content truly matters when driving numbers. If you want more referrals to your website, creating interesting content is still necessary.

How Do You Take Advantage of Dark Social?

Okay, so you’ve got the great content part down and you’re still wondering how you can improve traffic to your site via dark social. There are a few things you can do. Shorter URLs, like those generated through ow.ly or Google’s URL shortener. Make social sharing easy by having clear, functional share buttons on your website. Above all though, be sure your content is informative and original!

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