Social media professionals are in a panic over their newest enemy: dark social. It’s even named dark just to add an extra element of fear. Essentially, dark social includes the shares or referral sources that you can’t account for in your weekly or monthly reporting meetings. You might be calling it direct traffic.
The problem is, dark social is accounting for more than 70% of referrals. Social media teams are putting in hours and hours of work and can’t claim the credit for the post’s virality or how it may have helped sales numbers.
And if social can’t account for the work that they’re doing, the hysteria follows, their jobs will become obsolete and then they’ve got to find something else to do with their Communications degree (I’m projecting, of course).
Here’s the thing, dark social isn’t a problem. There’s no need to worry.
Tracking numbers at the individual level is a relatively new phenomenon in the advertising world. Before Google gave us analytics, we all just did great work we knew would resonate with people. It was experience, strategy and talent. The best work won and worked.
Numbers and reports help get to the correct answer, the most optimized ad, much faster, but they don’t account for everything. Even if we knew exactly where everything came from, there’s still a human element that can’t be explained by Google.
And that’s where the fun is anyway, right?
The problem with the fear that grips all digital professionals is it puts the audience and the numbers first. Not the brand.
Steve Jobs has that famous quote, “People don’t know what they want until you show them.” And that’s the point of marketing and advertising. You are the expert. You know the story of your brand intimately, how are the masses going to know the best way to share it?
As a business or marketing team, your responsibility is to concern yourself with why people find you, not how.
Because the percentage of dark social will only grow as ad blockers are used more frequently. And people are turning more towards private messaging apps to share articles in order to preserve the gallery-like quality of their social media profiles.
The “problem” of dark social isn’t going to get easier. So you’ve got to turn it into an opportunity to become excellent at what you can know. Get the best strategists you can and make them create a plan for exposing audience members to your message. Then pass it to creatives who can make the content worth sharing.
Meticulously focus on what you do know, optimize that until you’ve reached the most effective advertisement and then leave what you don’t know as the fun part of your job. The part where you get to experiment, get to use the instincts you’ve honed throughout your career. You get to play around a little bit.