You create content to be shared in order to achieve specific, and measurable results; often directing people back to your website. Understanding which of your pieces of content is shared and by whom helps you create more valuable work. But how do you track people who hyperlink a URL to your blog post, for example, onto a spreadsheet? Or into a text message?

If this question has kept you up at night because you don’t have an answer, keep reading as we shed some light on what is called Dark Social.

What is Dark Social?

Dark Social is essentially any web traffic that is generated by some unknown source. Think about cutting and pasting a blog post URL into an email, for example. That URL doesn’t have a tracking tag the same way it would if that same page was shared on Twitter, for example. Without this tag, the traffic that email generates is simply captured as “direct” traffic in your weekly web analytics report, which includes a variety of reference traffic include SMS text messages, hyperlinks in PowerPoints, etc.

It’s estimated that as much as 70% of all sharing activity is happening in the dark, which is a big chunk of sharing behaviors and referrals traffic to not understand and leave to chance. Especially when you consider how much effort you put in to your content marketing and how much you rely on analytics to justify your marketing spend allocation and budget.

How Do You Capture and Measure Dark Social?

While tracking engagement of Dark Social is problematic, it’s not impossible. Luckily, we live in a more modern time than even a year ago and today’s best social sharing tools, like AddNow by Gravity4 simplify the process of capturing and measuring Dark Social.

You can also shorten URLs for outbound links to get a deeper analysis of your Dark Social sharing. And when analyzing your web referral traffic, you can also pull some insights, although not perfect, from UTMs. These are easy enough to spot since they are the long, complicated URLs. Measuring these from your “referral traffic” will help you quantify how many of your visitors are being directed from Dark Social.

While understanding how people are getting to your website so you can create more shareable blog posts and videos, it’s no replacement to starting with the most important part in content marketing, and that’s with good content.

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