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Dark Social 101: What You Need to Know and What You Should Do

In social analytics, what you cannot see matters.


It is a high time for marketers to be aware of the Dark Social. It is traffic generated from private channels such as messaging apps and emails, and it is dominating 84% of content shares.

Being able to measure traffic from dark social channels generate deeper insights into the performance of your content. But there’s one major problem: Dark Social data is difficult to track.

What can we do about that then?

You cannot ignore Dark Social.

Dark Social refers to traffic generated via private channels. The most common sources include:

  • instant Messaging Apps (WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger)
  • Native Mobile Apps (Facebook, Instagram)
  • Email

Because the message is shared via private channels, dark social is difficult to track as compared to content shared on public platforms like Facebook and Twitter. This is the main reason why marketers underestimate its importance.

But why is it so important to track dark social traffic for marketers? As reported by Business Insider, messaging apps have more active users than social networking apps. This will largely affect your social media marketing strategy.

How to measure Dark Social on Google Analytics?

Though it is difficult to track Dark Social data, you can start with configuring Google Analytics to dig them out:

Step 1: Go to Audience Overview on Google Analytics, click on +Add Segment.

Add Segment - Google Analytics


Step 2: Select Direct Traffic. Click Apply.

Direct Traffic - Google Analytics


Step 3: Hover over to Behavior -> Site Content -> All Pages. A list of all the pages on your site accessed via direct traffic will be displayed.

Dark Social - Google Analytics

Step 4: Click the Advanced link on the right to create a new filter.


Dark Social Analytics

From the drop-down list, change Include to Exclude and select Page as the dimension.

Then in the field at the end of the row, type in the directory of one of your easy-to-remember URLs (for example, “/blog/”, “/contact/”, “/about/”). Add as many webpages as you can.


Dark Social - Analytics

Once you apply the filter, you should see a list of URLs which aren’t so easy to remember, and quite possibly, carry no referral data with them. These URLs are most likely the results of dark social traffic to your website.

Whether it is easy or difficult to track, social media data is widely analysed by brands to optimise digital marketing campaign. Contact us for customized analytics report for your digital campaign!

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