How to: Dark Social

At the latest, since Facebook in its impenetrable algorithm massively downgraded the importance of pages, it is obvious: The organic traffic is going back massively.

In addition, there is another obvious trend: The idea that every post, every discussion should remain visible and findable, loses its approval. In the age of Hatespeech, fake news and trolls no wonder. People are moving more and more into a kind of semi-public space, for which the term “dark social” has meanwhile become established.

Dark Social refers to a part of the network in which the distribution and use of content can hardly be captured anymore.

Incidentally, the inventor of this term, Alexis C. Madrigal, has an interesting thesis: The importance of public social networks such as Facebook or Twitter is massively overestimated. Instead, the majority of shared links are sent via non-visible services such as e-mail and messenger.

This thesis can not be dismissed out of hand. But if that is so, then journalists, PR managers and marketers would at least have to adjust to a new event – namely, that one must increasingly move into such circles. On Facebook, that would mean pages, newsfeeds, and groups.


Also interesting: How to: Social Media Management

Where does Dark Social come from?

The main channels and applications are:

  • Messaging Apps – like WhatsApp, WeChat and Facebook Messenger
  • e-mail – no privacy information is shared to protect privacy
  • Own mobile apps – Facebook, Instagram
  • Safe browsing – when clicking HTTPS on HTTP, the referrer address is not forwarded

With experts attributing about 85 percent of all digitally shared content to these channels, it’s easy to imagine why it could be both a challenge and a potential goldmine.

In addition, two aspects are particularly interesting:

FirstAlthough many Marketeers are always fixated on young audiences, older people (myself included) should not be underestimated or forgotten. People over 50 share their content almost exclusively via “Dark Social”. It is idle to speculate about the reasons, but the crucial thing is: neglecting these channels, one loses almost a complete age group.

Secondly: There are target groups and topics that almost exclusively take place under exclusion of the public network. These include primarily private financial planning, travel, food and drink or job placement. Simply put, all topics that are more private. That’s understandable: you do not post an important job in the Facebook timeline.

How can I distribute my content via Dark Social?

The good news is that some options that also work in classic social media environments apply here as well. The bad news: You clearly have to do more work. But one after anonther …

Sharing must be easy: Sounds so banal, but it is not. It is sometimes amazed how difficult it is for some providers to persuade the user to forward content. If the share buttons are located somewhere difficult to see at the bottom of the page, you should not be surprised that they are not used often. Many buttons are not recognizable at first glance: Is this a button for sharing or following? So important is a clear labeling and a good placement.

Use your own tools for Dark Social: Unfortunately, there is not much choice, but at least a few tools make it easier to deal with this topic. One of them is Among other things, this can capture traffic that is generated via “Dark Social”. That is worth a lot for the sole reason that you finally know what you are talking about. After all, pure assumptions are not a good basis for a content strategy.

Shorten links: Link shorteners like or are plenty. Your advantage: You can also track where something was clicked. If you pair something like that with a service like the Hootsuite, you can get a good overview.

Also interesting: How to: Social Media Analysis

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