Let’s Talk About Dark Social Media

By Jessanna Huddleston, March 8, 2017 // Social Media

[About a 2 MIN read]


We’re well into the new year, which means you’ve probably come across a multitude of social media trends to look out for this year. You’ve likely heard the term “dark social”. To some it may sound ominous, but to others it is a strong opportunity to embrace the way that social media users are sharing content. It can be a bit overwhelming to face new trends and not necessarily know the best way to implement them, but we’re here to help by offering our opinion on the best way to leverage dark social.

What is it?

Dark social sharing is loosely defined as the sharing of content (via emails and texts) from social media channels that cannot easily be tracked, and is hidden from the light of analytic tools. Globally, 93% of us share this way, and more sharing happens in dark social than all other sharing channels combined.

What should you do?

Develop tactics to capitalize on this form of 1:1 engagement:

  • Embrace dark social sharing by making the sharing of content through email, text or direct message (WeChat or WhatsApp) a more prominent option.
    • Track this content using shortened URLs that can more easily measure clickbacks.
  • Incorporate a larger digital picture.
    • Implement UTM codes, which are a portion of text added to the end of a URL that enables tracking. This tells Google Analytics where website visitors are coming from by registering visits as non-direct.
  • Build personas for your audience to understand who is using dark social the most, then target them specifically with shortened URLs. (Gen Z is much more cognizant of privacy, and 46% of 55+ share only via dark social.)
  • Reconsider ROI: Take your current engagement rate, and increase it by a large percentage to account for dark social sharing and truly form the full picture. While dark social is a segment that is less certain, the shares are more personal and valuable.
How do you succeed?

Private sharing on social media is human nature. Whether we want to shoot a recipe to our significant other as a subtle hint for the dinner menu, or text the most recent viral video to our close friends, we all do it.

When it comes to measuring social media ROI, this means shifting away from vanity metrics such as engagement rates and likes. Instead, consider that overall brand awareness and loyalty can be attributed to the effort that is invested into social media.

And in 2017, more than ever, brands need to recognize that the best way to adapt to dark social is to put forth content that is guaranteed to be shared because it is informative, compelling, and tells a story.

How will you account for and react to the sharing habits of your audience? Let us help.


Jessanna Huddleston
Jessanna Huddleston

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