The term ‘dark social’ sounds unnerving, right? Don’t worry. In truth, the real meaning for this term isn’t quite as scary.

Log into a social platform like Facebook or LinkedIn and you can instantly see how many likes and shares your posts have amassed. Drill deeper, and you can even see insights like page views, post engagements and reach. Conversely, the term dark social – which was coined in 2012 by Senior Editor at The Atlantic, Alexis C. Madrigal – describes all of the shared social content that we can’t monitor.

So for example, if somebody shared one of your tweets via an e-mail or relayed your new Reddit post by a private messaging app, how would you know? How would you measure it? This statistic is now part of dark social.

Most importantly, why should you care?

This type of untrackable sharing happens in the shade, away from the gaze of your analytic platforms. It’s a headache for business owners and marketing managers alike – especially when you’re trying to determine what is and isn’t working, and where you should and shouldn’t spend your marketing budget.

There are millions of dark social shares every day. But when the recipient clicks on the link and visits the source, the traffic merely shows as ‘direct’ traffic. Your social endeavours don’t get the credit, and this can be misleading and unfair. According to RadiumOne, 70% of content shared globally is via dark social, which is a huge proportion. And it hits the three-quarters mark here in the UK. The problem is so big that huge companies, such as Adidas, are trying to track dark social communications about their brand.

As you can see, dark social is a big deal, so what can you do about it? Nobody has a full-proof strategy yet, but here are a few suggestions that might shed some light on the problem…

  • Estimate: If you know how may visits you’re getting via social media, multiply this total by 3 and – based on RadiumOne’s research – you’ve got an estimated total of your visits via dark social. It’s a very crude calculation, and doesn’t tell us anything about where the traffic is from, but it’s a start.
  • Make Sharing Easy: Are the sharing buttons on your website visible? Could they be more prominent? Make sure as many people as possible share your content using your sharing buttons to increase the amount of trackable data.
  • Manually Adjust Analytics: Search the direct visits on your analytics platform and look for long URLs, like It’s doubtful anybody is going to manually type in a long unwieldy blog URL, so it’s likely to be from a dark social share.
  • Use Tools: With tools (such as ShareThis) you can add tracking codes to your address bar URLs, so you can tell exactly where clicks come from.

Go Social with Bing Digital

At Bing Digital, we steer social media with carefully crafted social strategies. If you need an effective social media marketing campaign that won’t leave your brand in the dark, get in touch today. For more information, get in touch with the team today on 020 8242 1954.

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