You may have heard of the phenomenon called ‘dark social’. It’s a term originally coined back in 2012 by Alexis Madrigal, whom whilst with The Atlantic; noted that despite having the ability to track and measure every detail of user traffic, there was a rather big portion that actually couldn’t be identified. Back then, Madrigal found through analytical tools that more than 50% of the website’s social traffic was coming from other sources other than Facebook and Twitter. What he couldn’t do however, was pin down where.
Initially this traffic was put down to “direct” or from typed-in links, but Madrigal thought that much of it was actually coming through via chat or instant messaging apps. Chartbeat began to analyze its data across other websites and found that sometimes, as much as 65% of all website traffic could be put down to this ‘dark social’. This being the case, Madrigal argued that this meant Facebook couldn’t be as prominent as many media companies had believed.
If you didn’t know before, it should be even more clear now: Facebook owns web media distribution. If you’re a media company, you are almost certainly underestimating your Facebook traffic. The only question is how much Facebook traffic you’re not counting.
Madrigal describes how he doesn’t believe his initial theory was wrong, but how the Internet landscape has been changing. People use their phones differently from their computers, and that has made Facebook more dominant.
How are you optimising your content to be shared via Facebook? It seems it’s even more important than originally thought.