Social networking on the web did not necessarily begin with Friendster or Facebook. It has been there all along, just less organized, structured and quantifiable. Every time someone shares a link with someone else via email or instant messaging, that is a form of social networking that can’t be easily classified using web analytics programs. Alexis Madigral of The Atlantic calls this type of social traffic “Dark Social” (also known as direct social).
If a visitor reaches your site via Facebook or Twitter, there is referring data that lets you track that. However, visitors without referring data, generally labeled direct traffic, and can make up a significant amount of your web traffic. If these visitors come to your site via the basic homepage address (for
example, zephoria.com), it might be fair to consider that direct traffic. However, if they go straight to a deeper (and harder to type) address (for example, zephoria.com/insight/internet-marketing-lessons-olympics), it’s more likely that they were sent the link via email or IM from someone and followed that link.
The implications of this for online social marketing are interesting. Optimizing your Facebook page, Twitter feed and other social networking output is an important part of the equation. However, another way to optimize your offerings is through the content nature itself: only if it is relevant, unique, interesting– a host of intangibles – will a link be shared between people directly through email or instant message, driving direct social traffic to your site.
If you’d like help figuring out how much of your site traffic could be coming from “Dark Social” sources, contact us at Zephoria.
The Deep Dive: Read the full article from the Atlantic.