According to RadiumOne report, globally almost 70% of social shares are dark. For France, it's as high as 81%.
|% of Shares - Dark Social|
What is "Dark Social?
Dark social refers to the social sharing of content that occurs outside of what a web analytics program can measure or track & attribute it to social (or right channel).
Analytics will report this traffic as a 'Direct Traffic' ! So, if you're a social media lead for your organization then this is a definite cause of worry for you.
Why this happens?
If a certain type of web traffic fails to pass referral information on to your analytics programs (such as Google analytics), the analytics will not be able to report these visits as a referral from a particular website & hence these visits will be reported as "Direct visits" in analytics. It can happen because of following reasons:
a. Traffic from Native mobile apps (such as Facebook, Instagram etc.) opening an in-app browser of force mobile browsers to open the the URL clicked - in both cases the browser itself is going to directly to the site and thus it looks like direct traffic in Google analytics.
b. Traffic from Messaging apps such as Whatsapp, Facebook messenger etc. - these chats clients do not pass the referrer information (unless you tag the URLs)
c. Traffic from a secure to non-secure website: The referrer information is not passed to analytics when you click a HTTP link from a HTTPS link (please note - social channels use secure browsing).
d. Traffic from Email: We know traffic from emails are reported as direct unless you tag the URLs in your email marketing programs. This is typically mentioned under Dark social rather than calling it as 'Dark email'.
There're terms such as 'Dark Search' & 'Dark Mobile' as well however they're no different, it's just a segmentation of traffic that lacks any link in attribution into 3 categories viz. Dark Search, Dark Social & Dark Mobile. (Recommended read in this aspect is this Search Engline Land Post).
How do i Measure it?
See, it's very difficult for someone to remember a long URL of any website (unless you're Sherlock Holmes !), it's highly unlikely that someone is going to type a long link in the browser to open a page deep inside your website.
Also, not many people click on bookmarked links so, if we're able to find all direct visits after excluding home page & section fonts - we can make some estimation for 'Dark social' traffic coming to our website.
How to Reduce it?
Just use Google UTM URL while putting up your website's link in any of social & email channels. Use correct source so that Google identify the visit & attribute it to right source instead of direct.
Here's the link for Google UTM URL builder.
Let's move outside of Dark !