Dark social sounds scary, and I suppose if you’re trying to truly measure traffic to your website, it can be. Alexis Madrigal, then over at The Atlantic, defined the term as any traffic that can’t be tracked, because users are copying and pasting links in instant messages, emails, and the like.
RadiumOne released a white paper called “The Light and Dark of Social Sharing” this week based on a survey of over 9,027 consumers from five regions including North America, the U.K., France, Australia and Europe. RadiumOne CMO Eric Bader told SocialTimes via email that the research, conducted by third-party provider TPoll, revealed that:
59 percent of all online sharing activity in the U.S. takes place via “Dark Social” channels, compared to just 31 percent via Facebook and 10 percent on all other social channels combined. Additionally, 36 percent of “Dark Social” sharing globally occurs via mobile devices, illustrating their increasingly pivotal role in consumers’ daily shopping and sharing habits.
RadiumOne has created software to help brands and publishers track all of this sharing via a link shortner called Po.st. Using shortlinks is just one way to harness dark social. But so far, it’s the most useful, because you’re tracking that copy and paste action. Bader elaborates:
We can detect which keywords and phrases are being copied and shared in addition to automatically adding a short URL linking back to the original web page at the end of the copied text. Anytime a user engages with this short URL, or any other short URLs generated by Po.st, we can measure this activity and identify these engaged, interested users. For URLs copied straight from the address bar, we add a special bit of code to the links to distinguish and track them separately as they are shared and clicked upon around the Web. Wherever there is an opportunity to add a hyperlink, you can track engagement if you take the proper action.
RadiumOne has worked with brands like Ghirardelli, UMG and WesternJournalism, says Bader, and they have seen results. WesternJournalism, for example, saw their website traffic “increase by 38,000 new viewers as a result of 59,000 copy/paste shares of text over 30 days.”