What is Dark Social Sharing and how is it affecting your brand?

March 7, 2019

Content creation is an effective form of marketing as it has the ability to be ahead by many people across multiple platforms. However, with content creation comes dark social sharing.

This may sound scary, but in reality, it is very simple and very important for your brand to understand as part of developing an effective ongoing marketing strategy.

So, what is Dark Social Sharing?

The term, coined by The Atlantic’s former deputy editor, Alex Madrigal, refers to social sharing of content via private channels that your website’s analytics tools cannot track.

This is incredibly important to understand as a brand as your website will tell you that a large number of views come from a “direct source”. However, it is highly unlikely that new customers are simply typing your web domain name into Google. The majority of these views is more likely to come from Dark Social Sharing links.


Dark Social Sharing comes in 4 forms;

1) Via email referral

2) Through messaging apps like Whatsapp, Twitter, Instagram, Messenger etc.

3) Secure or Incognito browsing

4) Through mobile apps like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

We, as internet and app users often use Dark Social Sharing without even knowing about it. How many times have you shared a link to an article in an email or messaged your friends with a webpage link?

So, although common it is hard to track and analyse as a marketer and could potentially account for 84% of your traffic sources!

So, How Do We Utilise Dark Sharing to Our Advantage?

1) Offer sharing buttons on your page

Leave share buttons at the bottom of your post. This way your audience is more likely to share the article AND you can track the shares!


2) Shorten links in your social media posts

If someone copies the link directly from the search bar the share cannot be tracked. Therefore offer shorter UTM links that are unique URLs for your posts. This way you can see where your traction is coming from.


3) Use tracking apps

Use apps like Get Social.io and Po.st to track your audience’s sharing habits. Therefore, you can better understand how your posts are shared and create content that suits this type of sharing and audience.


Overall, Dark Social Sharing is not as scary as it sounds. Monitoring and understanding Dark Social Sharing can be advantageous for businesses and can provide a great insight into how your content is shared. Understanding things like the difficulty of getting pure direct source traffic and understanding that it may be more likely that traffic is from social links helps your business better understand what content to create and how to distribute it.

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