Messaging apps like Whatsapp have witnessed incredible growth in a huge variety of countries throughout the world. This has led to communication like never before, and with all forms of communication, there is a lot of information that is freely shared. In our digital age, this is often in the form of links, shares and referrals. This has led to the term “dark social” first coined in 2012 to refer to referral traffic through channels such as email or WhatsApp.
In order to get a better understand of the murky world of dark social, GetSocial, a company that specializes in solutions for tracking this “dark” data, recently conducted a study, using some of their largest accounts, which include Adobe, MTV and Sky Media. Incredibly, they found that 78% of shares made on social media are on dark social, with 10% of Direct traffic coming from Dark Social and a further 6% of “power users” who generate 17% of all traffic. To get a clearer idea of what all this means we spoke with Agna Poznanska, Marketing Director at GetSocial.io.
By effectively tracking dark social, what could this mean for brands better understanding their audiences?
In the last years, with the rise of social media and available social data, brands got used to measuring their digital success through a set of KPIs like reach, social interactions and more. However, in the same period, a relevant rise happened in the use of private messaging apps, both in personal (whatsapp, messenger) and professional (slack) contexts.
Failing to track effectively dark social is failing to listen to those conversation. It’s failing to understand how audiences and consumers are reacting to brands’ products or content. It’s failing to understand a fundamental part of their marketing mix and digital strategies.
Is the ability to analyse dark social likely to be affected by the rise of encryption apps such as Telegram?
There’s a difference between knowing that a link is shared through telegram and knowing what people say in Telegram. The former we do for millions of users every month, the latter is reserved for more totalitarian approaches for social media.
As for in any private messaging platform, GetSocial tracks how many shares and clicks go to and come from each platform, nothing else.
In light of the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal, what are you concerns regarding the idea that users might be defensive surrounding the idea of their activity being tracked or analysed?
I think the platforms are (now) doing a great job in protecting users data by challenging developers even more towards transparency of how data is used. But for the case of dark social tracking I wouldn’t consider it in the same concern space. The “competitor” for this tracking is its older sibling, the UTM parameter (that you see in every campaign) and that people got used to see (and some, erase) in their digital experiences.
What was the main motivator to solve this problem (to be able to analyse dark social), for example did it arise from a personal experience or something you recognized others having issues with?
Customer feedback. Before spending much of our time doing this, we were providing share tools (like AddThis, ShareThis and others) to our customers. The bigger they got, the more interesting questions they’d send our way. A few of those seemed to question whether their 40%-50% direct traffic was really direct. That led us into questioning our own product and finding alternate solutions to attribute social sharing traffic.
What is the main focus for GetSocial over the next 6 months?
Last year was the first year of net profit for the company, while doubling our revenues. We’d like to keep our growth but expand into new markets and consolidate our biggest ones (US, UK & Scandinavia). Product-wise, we’d like to take the first steps into paid content promotion and to help marketers make the most out of their promotion budgets.