What is dark social and how can you track it?

Dark social.

Sounds like something from a 1990's hacker movie, right? Thankfully it isn't. In fact, dark social is one of the most important trends in social media, despite being one of the least discussed.

The term "dark social" was coined by Atlantic editor Alexis C. Madrigal in 2012. In short, dark social means any type of social sharing that happens privately. Oftentimes this means sharing links to Tweets, YouTube videos, or other social content via direct message, text, or email.

Another type of dark social is unpublished Facebook posts. These are posts that don't appear publicly on a brand's timeline, but are rather posted to a targeted group of people using ads or advanced targeting features. 

Dark social is no small trend either. A 2016 study from RadiumOne shows that a whopping 84% of all on-site social shares come from dark social. The other 16% come from public shares on Facebook or other public networks.

Crazy, right!?

Since dark social is such a widespread and important trend, you're probably wondering: how do I track dark social shares? Good thing you asked—in this article, we'll show you how to use Social Report to track your dark social shares as well as how to increase dark social sharing of your content.

Tracking your dark social shares with Social Report

Use the Social Report link shortener to track dark social shares

The best way to track dark social shares is using Social Report's built-in link shortener. When you share links with Social Report, we automatically add our in-house link shortener to the link so we can track clicks and display them in the Social Report dashboard.

View your dark social clicks in Social Report

The Social Report link shortener is turned on by default, so there's no extra work required on your part. You can see the number of clicks on your Social Report calendar (Publishing > View Calendar) by hovering over any one of your shares. When a user shares a Social Report shortened link privately, the clicks will still be recorded so long as the shortened link is intact.

Tracking dark social shares with UTM codes (and increasing your shares)

Use social share buttons to increase dark social shares

The best way to increase your dark social shares is to add direct share buttons to your blog or other published content. For example, you can add Facebook messenger, Slack, and SMS share icons to your blog posts. Attach a unique UTM code to each of the buttons so you can track clicks from each share and import said UTM code to Social Report.

There are a number of Wordpress plugins and web apps you can use to add direct share buttons to your blog. Some of these include AddThis, GetSocial.io, and ShareThis. Take a look through these apps and find which best fits your needs.

Once you're setup, view your on-site dark social shares by searching for your dark social UTM code in the campaigns section of the Google Analytics channel report in Social Report (Reports > Channels > Google Analytics > Campaigns).

Keep on tracking!

In this article you've learned what dark social is, how to track dark social shares, and how to increase dark social shares from your website. Know a social media marketer that isn't taking dark social seriously? Use the share buttons to the left to share it with them directly.

Start tracking your dark social shares. Try Social Report free for 30 days.

Try Social Report free for 30 days