The Analytics Nightmare: How Dark Social is Sabotaging Your Marketing Efforts

Unlock the mystery of vanishing traffic: Discover how Dark Social is stealthily undermining your marketing efforts and what you can do to shine a light on it.

by Chris Latham

the analytics nightmare how dark social is sabotaging your marketing efforts - burger gelato media

Dark Social is content shared on social media that generates traffic. This traffic isn’t trackable by web analytic tools.

What is Dark Social?

Dark social is sharing content or mentioning brands on private social media channels, including through direct messaging, email, private groups, and more. Dark social media, or dark traffic, isn’t easily tracked by traditional analytics tools.

Content shared on:

  • Messaging apps (WhatsApp, Discord, Slack)
  • Social Media
  • Emails
  • Private groups/communities
  • Encrypted channels

Sometimes shows up as Direct Traffic in analytics tools

a view of direct traffic in google analytics 4

Negative Impacts

  • We can’t accurately track engagement via shares, source of traffic, or user engagement.
  • We’ll underestimate the performance of organic & social reach.
  • We’ll misattribute traffic sources, impacting campaign analysis.
  • Measuring the ROI of promoted content becomes a challenge. Being unable to fully connect conversions.

Blind Spot Examples

A study done by Rand Fishkin shows that in 2024:

  • 100% of TikTok profile clicks. (Yikes!)
  • 100% of clicks from private messaging apps (Slack, Discord, WhatsApp, Mastodon) but somehow only 75% of clicks from Facebook Messenger.
  • A mixed bag elsewhere, with Instagram passing through accurate attribution data only 30% of the time, LinkedIn 14%, and Pinterest 12%.
direct traffic on major social networks image from sparktoro
Image from Sparktoro

What Can We Do?

Most important thing is even though measuring impact is challenging we need to keep showing up across social channels. This has a positive impact on brand search & brand marketing.

Get comfortable with looking at analytics within each social media channel for the most accurate.

Action Items

  • Implement UTM tracking to all links shared on all social media channels.

Video Explanation

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