Is 2019 the Year of Dark Social?

Posted at Dec 22, 2018 9:00:00 AM by THAT Agency | Share

Dark social… sounds ominous! It’s not. In fact, it can be a rich avenue for your brand to explore as you ramp up your marketing efforts for the new year. What is it - and how do you leverage these social interactions to hit your goals for 2019?

Dark Social

What is Dark Social?

If you’re thinking dark web, relax. There’s nothing “dark” or spooky about these social interactions. It is a term that refers to the communications and content sent through private channels, like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, email, Instagram, and secure browsing.

Now, it’s easy to track content shared on Facebook, Twitter, and other public platforms. That shared on these “dark” channels, though, presents more of a challenge because the links do not have referrer data. For example, when you share a message via text, it doesn’t automatically attach tracking tags.

According to recent estimates, about 73% of social sharing occurs on dark social channels. They have surpassed traditional social media in terms of daily referrals. A key reason is that people use these social channels to communicate with those they trust. If a friend sends a link, we open it. If Mom sends one, we open it. If we send one back, they open it.

The bottom line: people are talking about brands and sharing content on these private platforms. If you can access these conversations, you can help guide them - and you can see business-building, profit-boosting results.

Shining a Light on Dark Social

How can you infiltrate the world of dark social? Some strategies to employ:

  • Shorten URLs. This enables you to more easily - and deeply - analyze engagement rates. A tool like Hootsuite’s ow.ly, for example, allows you to upload images, track clicks in real time, and, of course, post to social networks.

  • Make it easy. Integrate visible, easy to find social sharing buttons on your website.

  • Get dark. You can now access tools, such as Po.st, ShareThis, and GetSocial.io, that are designed for dark social to help you do everything from share content to leverage analytics features to track dark social shares.

  • Create communities. Adidas got a headstart on dark social. It created “Tango Squads,” or communities of connected die-hard football fans across 15 major cities. These are the influencers: Adidas provides them with exclusive content and even shares new products with them before official launches. The influencers take it from there, pushing content to their own networks and dark social platforms.

  • Find your own influencers. Use tools like Grin to find micro influencers. Like Adidas, your brand can keep its touch light (no sales talk!) and leverage these influencers to increase shares and mentions on dark social.

  • Remember the purpose of dark social. It’s not to sell. It’s not to broadcast messages. It’s to start conversations. Your influencers, micro influencers, and communities will essentially do the rest. The goal is not reach; it’s deep engagement.


So, is 2019 the year of dark social? It could be for your brand. If you can access these more hidden corners of the digital world, you can realize exceptional results this year. Let’s get started.

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