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Piercing the Veil of Dark Social

What is dark social?

The term “dark social” is any sharing done peer to peer on the internet that websites cannot track.  Dark Social is any form of online communication that is private or hidden from being tracked by Facebook Insights, Google Analytic, etc. Dark Social is not on public social networks such as Twitter or Facebook.

Dark Social accounts for more than 70% of all online (Radium One) activity.  Simply said, dark social is data that does not identify its source or users.

The occurrence of dark social in the U.S. is less prevalent than it is globally. Americans are consumer crazy and are not as concerned about their privacy. Currently only 40% of all social referrals are tracked back to their sources. Europeans value their privacy to a greater, degree than Americans, in fact 75% of social referrals are dark in Europe. This makes it harder to determine where recommendations are coming from in Europe.

The nature of it being ‘dark’ makes it much harder for marketers to assess or measure visitors and where the traffic is coming from. Given that most of the traffic is dark, sentiment analysis is well suspect (the data is not reliable to summarize if sentiment is positive or negative).

People are much more likely to share on dark social channels compared to a shout-out on Twitter or Facebook where the crowd will mash, distort and disrupt the message. Dark Social channels are private and intimate conversations with like minded people.

  • Chatrooms: Text messaging apps like Whatsapp protects is user’s privacy and will not pass the info about links to the resulting website. Facebook Messenger will not report referral information as Facebook holds this for their own ad algorithms.
  • eMails: Most email-providers like Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook don’t pass a referrer when a user clicks the link to protect privacy and security for that user.
  • Https. Secure searching actually does what it advertises, and does not pass your information to the website. HTTPS cannot cover your IP address, so you are still an unique visitor to the website.

How is Dark Social Affecting Your Brand?

Dark Social users are more than happy to buy on Dark Social. In fact, among younger users, there is something of an expectation that they should be able to purchase (Frictionless.Social, 2016).

Dark Social is where your customers live, they are ready to buy and covet the privacy of not being tracked.  To learn more about dark social media or to discuss how HVPR can help your business contact us at 845.202.7087, visit our website or email us at