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BizReport : Social Marketing : July 30, 2014

How dark social can impact brand

There is a new buzz phrase out there - dark social, and it refers to the sharing of digital content outside the usual social places. For example, Consumer A sharing a link with Friend B through Skype or IM rather than within Facebook or Pinterest. According to some experts nearly one-third of shares could be through dark social trends.

by Kristina Knight

Kristina: Can you give us an example of a dark social share?

Rebecca Watson, Vice President of Business Development, RadiumOne: [Dark social] includes copying and pasting a URL or portion of text into an email, text message or IM. This activity is one of the most unintentionally overlooked - yet highly valuable - by digital media executives.
For example, say a user on a retailer's website finds a product that she thinks a friend might like and decides to copy and paste the URL from the address bar into an email to her friend. If the friend clicks on this link to see the product, almost all web analytics providers will bucket this new user into the "direct" traffic category, when in reality it should be attributed to social acquisition.

Kristina: Why is dark social important for brands?

Rebecca: As brand marketers and website developers have moved beyond looking at page view volume as the sole indication of a webpage's value, they've recognized the need to track social ROI. This explains why you see most pages with Facebook, Twitter and other social network sharing buttons near the title or primary content (it is also intended to make it quick and easy for users to share). The reality is that fewer users are choosing to share through these buttons (approximately 28% of all digital shares of content) than those using Dark Social methods (overwhelmingly 72%).
One such company that implemented a Dark Social tracking tool was able to identify and attribute 38,000 new visitors that were sourced from 59,000 shares of text over 30 days. These click backs were measured from the "Read more here..." link - enabled via RadiumOne's Dark Social tool - that appeared under the shared text. Prior to having this functionality in place, these new socially-sourced visitors were incorrectly labeled as "direct" traffic in the company's web analytics dashboard. What's more, without the original link included with the portions of text, the company missed out on free user acquisition.

Kristina: How can retailers better harness dark social data?

Rebecca: First, brands can use their social analytics data to recognize which types of content are best resonating with their audience. By bucketing their content into types (pictures, videos, long articles, short pieces, "top 5" type lists, informational, news, evergreen, etc.) marketers can see what content is resulting in the most click backs. Second, they can identify which social sharing channels and devices are used most for consuming and sharing their content, making sure to target and reach their audience on these platforms.

More from Rebecca and RadiumOne, including her top 3 tips to harness dark social data, later this week.

Image via Shutterstock

Tags: dark social marketing, RadiumOne, social marketing, social network trends, social sharing

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