CEE Trendspotting: What is Dark Social?

September 20, 2022 by lmiller
Filed in: News Tag: MCE Trendspotting

Have you ever shared online content with a friend through a private conversation, such as a direct message or text? If so, you may be participating in dark social.

While the term “dark social” may sound negative or mysterious, it is simply referring to the ability, or inability, for marketers to track site traffic through this behavior.

Per NoGood, “Dark Social” is a term used to describe web traffic generated by social sharing channels that cannot be accurately tracked by traditional analytics platforms. These channels include social media, private messaging apps, and online communities. While the phrase was originally coined back in 2012, the concept continues to rise in the online space.

Donut chart of percentages for dark social vs public social sharing

How is dark social impacting marketing and brands?
Many brands rely on the power of social media to see first-hand what their consumers are talking about. Through social media monitoring and the countless tools out there to support this, brands can have insight into general sentiment, trending topics, who their top brand ambassadors are, and which channels are driving the most traffic and engagement.

However, as digital privacy continues to transform, so does user behavior. Users are being given more control over what data they share while web browsing and across device usage. Instead of posting publicly on channels, they are posting on more gated forums or sharing in one-to-one conversations, making it more difficult for brands to have insight into the conversations. It also leaves a gap in their analytics, unable to directly track which content or platform referrals are driving the most activity.

What can IEEE Conference Organizers do to navigate dark social?
The positive side of dark social is that although it is difficult to track, the content that is being shared is done so in a more organic way. Trust is a huge component of brand building, and if someone receives a message from a friend or a peer, it may resonate more than seeing a paid advertisement.

Due to the community-driven nature of this, IEEE conference organizers have an opportunity to thrive in this area. Find or create communities where your audiences are, whether it’s online forums like LinkedIn groups or Slack channels, and give them a place to discuss in a trusted environment. You can also have volunteers dedicated to lead these efforts, driving conversations around the technology and research, as well as the conference itself.

Interested in learning more? Here are some helpful resources on dark social and how you can adapt:

“The Rise of Dark Social & How It’s Affecting Your Brand”: https://nogood.io/2022/03/10/dark-social/

“Three Tips For Dark Social Strategy In 2022”: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinessdevelopmentcouncil/2022/01/28/three-tips-for-dark-social-strategy-in-2022/?sh=7e1a44e42303

“Pumpkin spice latte and the mystery of the missing consumer conversations”: https://martech.org/pumpkin-spice-latte-and-the-mystery-of-the-missing-consumer-conversations/

Headshot photo of Lea Provost from 2022

This article was written by:
Lea Provost
Sr. Program Manager, Audience Development Strategy Services
IEEE Meetings, Conferences & Events