Dark Social: What is Dark Social and Why it Matters to Your Business


Heard of dark social and wondering how it affects you? In this article, we will explain what is dark social and why it matters to your business.

dark social
Image by geralt – , CC BY-SA 4.0

So what is dark social?

Dark social describes any web traffic that’s not attributed to a known source, such as a social network or a Google search.

In a nutshell, it refers to the sharing of content through private channels like email, messaging apps, and other closed networks. It can also include sharing content via direct URL or copy/pasting links into emails or messages.

When you look at the number of hits to your business website, you can find these visits to the site with no specific traceable path. These make up the ‘dark social’ visits to various sites and web pages.

When a web analytics program refers to a particular visit as a direct visit, it basically implies that the visitor appeared on that particular web page directly and not from any traceable source like a search engine or a social media platform.

What makes up for dark social traffic?

A dark visit count can happen in many ways.

It could happen when viewers of particular sites copy paste the link on to their browser directly without clicking on the link.

Also, a person sends a link through email or over chat when he/she does not want others in his social network to know what he/she is sharing with people.

In such cases, the receiver of the link accesses the page via the link and not through social media or a search engine. This makes tracing the user difficult.

Common dark social traffic channels

  1. Messaging apps: WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger
  2. Email: forwards and referrals
  3. Native mobile apps
  4. Secure browsing: This includes clicks from HTTPS to HTTP

An analytics program like Google Analytics will not be able to trace direct visits because of the lack of a path leading to the web page or web site.

Such visits are classified under direct visits and this forms quite a large percentage of views. This helps in curating and developing content based on the analytics.

It also helps optimize the content for search engines and social media.

If one were to eliminate the reasons for the prevalence of dark social media, then it would help define the large percentage of invisible users or visitors who form the large chunk of direct visitors.

It would subsequently help in better analytics for the individual web pages and websites.

Another way to look at dark social is how it actually benefits businesses. We’ll explore that side of dark social below.

What Dark Social Means for Your Business

Dark social is actually a powerful channel for businesses as it allows them to reach audiences that may not otherwise see their content.

Indirectly creating content that is sharable can help you increase engagement with existing customers as well as drive new leads and sales.

By providing content that resonates with individuals on a personal level, businesses can build loyalty and trust in their brand over time.

This is especially important for businesses that rely heavily on repeat customers or referrals from existing customers.

Here’s an interesting statistic about dark social:

According to RadiumOne, 46% of consumers age 55 and older share only via dark social and 19% of those in the age group 16-34 only share via dark social.

Dark social can reach unique demographics that can be hard to reach via other channels.

Dark Social Tips for Business Owners

  • Create content people would like to share
  • Use trackable shortened URLs
  • Optimize your content for mobile sharing
  • Make sure you include and test your social sharing buttons
  • Consider using dark social tools (some of them are listed below)

Dark Social Tools

Here are some tools you can use as a business:

Po.st (by RadiumOne)

Po.st allows users to share content and provides publishers with revenue opportunities and traffic analytics.


It enables people to share any piece of content on the web through e-mail, direct message, or text message. It helps measure the dark social results.


GetSocial helps to track dark social traffic – it has a WordPress plugin and a Shopify plugin too.