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What is Dark Social and How Is It Affecting Your Brand

Chuks Wesley on Tue, 01 Feb 2022

Dark Social is hiding over 60% of your website traffic from your business. See what Dark Social is all about and discover your hidden prospects.

What is Dark Social.

What is Dark Social.

Businesses run Google ads, Facebook ads, Instagram and YouTube ads to get leads to their website. These leads are converted to customers.

Social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Instagram remain the most widely used social media platforms in the World. Google is undoubtedly the most popular search engine.

About 58.6% of the world population now uses social media, and the average time spent on this platform is 2 hours 27 minutes. 

Now, these stats show that your customers are actively on these platforms. But you'll be shocked to know that the ads you run on these platforms only reach 20-40% of your audience.

Where is the remaining 60-80% audience found?

The rest of your traffic is hiding in a dark space called "dark social." Dark social is the major traffic source of every business, but the sad thing is, you can't access it as a brand. 

The reason why dark social takes up almost 60% of your audience is that they are messaging apps. Humans rely on messaging apps more than social media.

Imagine how effective your ads, sales letters and content marketing would be if you had access to the main traffic source of your business?

This article reveals why dark social affects businesses and shows you proven strategies to take advantage of dark social.

Welcome to the Dark Social Network 

The term "dark social" isn't as spooky as you Imagined. In fact, it's something you and I do almost every day without knowing. 

For instance, your Chief Marketer discovered a helpful blog post from Bloom digital media and decided to "copy and paste" the link to the marketing group chat—located on her mobile WhatsApp. Now, whenever any member clicks the shared link, Bloom media won't be able to trace the source of the traffic. This is what dark social is all about. 

Originally, a business can determine the traffic on their site through Google analytics, but dark social networks are an exception.

Dark socials are private social platforms like Facebook messenger, WhatsApp, Emails, Hangout, Discord, Podcasts, and other IM. They restrict businesses from tracing the traffic on their app for privacy and security purposes.

They aren't social media per se, links coming from social media channels like Facebook—not the messenger—and Twitter are traceable.

This article reveals the effects of dark social and how to take advantage of it.

What is Dark Social?

Dark social is a term used to describe untraceable link referrals coming into your business pages anonymously. Whenever your customers share your brand links amongst their peers on a private messaging app, you won't be able to trace the source of this traffic because analytic tools have a blind spot for this data, due to encryption.

Dark social was coined by an Atlantic writer, Alex C. Madrigal in 2012. Alex noticed that all websites were getting traffic from a complex page other than the home page and landing page, yet, no analytic tool could identify the source of this traffic.

Why Do Businesses Trace Their Traffic Source?

Traffic source is where people discovered your webpage. Analytic tools like Google Analytics, track the origin of the hit for you.  These traffic sources for each site visit are compiled to detect where customers are interacting with your links the most.

This is for targeting the right audience, discovering their intent and creating valuable content and offers for them. 

How is Dark Social Affecting Your Business—Revealed

Research shows that the traffic data revealed by Google analytics to businesses is only about 30-40% of your total traffic source. The rest is lost to the anonymous dark social.

Dark social make up a minimum of 80% of your traffic source, while social platforms like Facebook settles for 15%, the remaining per cent are settled amongst other social platforms.

The downside of Dark Social to your business 

First, businesses have no choice but to build a marketing strategy around the traffic sources revealed by analytics. But this data only makes up an insignificant amount of the total traffic of your website. 

Second, you might be focusing on the wrong traffic sources since you only have access to a small quarter of your traffic data—the rest hidden from you in the dark social. 

Third, people are comfortable amongst peers compared to the outwards social place. The dark social holds genuine reviews of your business. Since you're not allowed to pry into private discussions of customers, you won't be able to accurately suit their needs.

How to Use Dark Social to Your Advantage 

We don't intend to reveal the dark, without sharing brightening ideas too. we've decided to show you how to maximize the dark social to your advantage.

This is an opportunity to scale up your business and get amazing results from amplifying your marketing strategy on dark social.

How to Take Advantage of Dark Social 

  • Use Link Shorteners for your page: Link shorteners, like Bitly, are not only used to reduce the URL of a link, they also allow UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) codes for tracking links across platforms. Link Shorteners provide analytic data of all the click-through and shares of your website links.
  • Create an HDYHAU (How Did You Hear About Us) page on your website: Since the traffic coming from dark social is untrackable, you can persuade your web visitors to share the traffic source that brought them to your website.  How Did You Hear About Us questions will easily help you trace the source of direct traffic coming to your site and make you amplify your strategy on that source.
  • Build Personal Relationships with Your Audience: Private Messaging apps—dark social—remain encrypted from businesses. Building strong relationships with customers creates trust. If people trust your business, they'll share your links to their small circle. 
  • People trust the business recommended by family, friends and colleagues. Ask them to suggest new contents they care about, go for relevance and cut out the fluffs. Avoid irrelevant content and offers that your audience doesn't care about. When you consistently create helpful content, you build trust in the minds of your customers and most importantly, you earn referrals into the dark social space freely. 
  • Add More Share Buttons To Your Contents: Encourage your audience to share your content with the different social media share icons, which is another way to track traffic sources.


Dark social is a term used to describe social networks, mainly private messaging apps, that don't Come with tracking codes. Messaging apps like Facebook messenger, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, hangout, Emails, podcasts, discord server, clubhouse are considered as dark social.

Typically, dark social media can't be stopped; it keeps increasing every day with the continuous adoption of WhatsApp, Messenger, and other IM.

But at the same time, it shouldn't be ignored by businesses because dark social contains a gold mine of data that will make brands undoubtedly discover the main traffic source of their website.

Numerous businesses aren't aware of dark social, now you do, take advantage of it and increase your business leads.

Chuks Wesley

Chuks Wesley is a Website Content/Copywriter that has been fascinated with marketing and SEO since 2018, he spends most of his waking hours consuming marketing reports, blog posts and books on these topics. He is also a certified SEO expert.

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