The Dark Social: see no evil, but learn to Trust and Measure It


You may or may not have heard of ‘dark social’, but I can guarantee if you use social media, you will have created ‘dark social’ visits. That is, if you have ever seen an interesting news story and grabbed the link and sent it to a friend on Facebook Messenger, or texted your mum asking if she still wants those tickets to see Mumford & Sons for her birthday and included a link to the venue’s website.

What Is Dark Social?

If you work for a social brand and have ever needed to dig into a traffic source report using your favorite web analytics tool, you may have noticed a giant bucket of ‘direct’ traffic and thought to yourself what is this?The phrase originally coined by Alexis Madrigal from the Atlantic, ‘Dark Social‘ simply means the sharing of content through channels other than social media, whether by email, private message or even SMS. By definition, dark social traffic can’t be attributed to a known source, as the referring source lacks the tags required by analytics software that provide information about the site it was seen on. Unlike other ‘direct traffic’ sources such as from social media, which comes from links shared, contains tags that tells your analytics software where the link was shared originally and how visitors have ended up on your website.

Times Have Changed

In the early days of the web, everything was link-based, so we either discovered something via search, via link, or we went to the site directly by typing it into the browser or via bookmark. So if a site visitor arrived at the site without a referrer s/he had to be a direct visitor. But this was in the time of a simpler, smaller web, and before the rise of mobile.Unlike those early days, there are now many ways a visitor can arrive at a site without going to the site directly. Here are a few:

  1. Native Mobile Apps. Mobile apps either fire up a browser instance in-app (like Facebook) or force safari/chrome to open a new browser window (like Instagram) with the URL in question in the browser. In both cases, the browser itself is going to directly to the site and thus it looks like direct traffic when viewed in GA.
  2. Email. Most email-providers like Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook don’t pass a referrer when a user clicks the link to protect privacy and security for that user.
  3. Chat. This can be in the form of chat-based native mobile apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat or web/desktop based chat like Google Hangouts, IRC, or Slack. Chat clients of all kinds do not pass referrers either!
  4. Secure browsing. If you’re browsing on a site using HTTPS and click a link to a site using HTTP a referrer won’t be passed.
  5. Organic search. In some browser configurations, google won’t actually pass a referrer when a user clicks a link from an organic search.

We only consider the first three of these to be dark social, but the point here is that most direct traffic is actually far from direct. If you’re measuring your web traffic using only standard web analytics, you’re missing key insights about how people are actually discovering your content and products

So, why do I care?

Dark Social is getting bigger and bigger. As you can see from the following pictures, a number of different researches from Radium One, ChartBeat, SmartInsights are estimating Dark Social to accounts for 70% of social sharing , up to 82% for mobile sharing!dark socialThink about that for a second. As a social marketer, social sharing is the lifeblood that sustains and amplifies your efforts, and it turns out you can’t even see that it’s happening in most cases. Imagine if the paid search didn’t know about 70% of their effective keywords!The dominant sharing paradigm of today isn’t actually posting articles to Facebook (though that’s obviously hugely important). The use cases for dark sharing are so plentiful:

  • A wife texting a husband about a concert she’d like to attend
  • A group of friends on a group email chain sharing content about their favorite sports team
  • A friend WhatsApp’ing a pair of shoes she’s going to buy
  • A colleague Slack messaging a recent industry announcement

There are so many places where it makes more sense to share 1:1 instead of 1:many, and many times when a private forum is more appropriate. That doesn’t mean this sharing isn’t social! It absolutely is and you need to be able to understand it to both prove and improve the total efficacy of your efforts.

Let’s Make It Clear With An Example

I have an ecommerce site selling ‘Pet Rocks’. I get 60% of my traffic from organic search, 10% from paid search, 25% from ‘direct’ and 5% from social media. My site has a 1% conversion rate (I sell 1 pet rock per 100 visitors) and on each pet rock I sell I make a £10 profit. I get 10,000 views a month, so that means I make £600 per month from people coming from organic, and only £50 per month from those coming from social media.example chart dark social If I currently spend £200 per month on outreach and £200 per month paying a freelance copywriter to write content for my sites blog, I can conclude that I’m making a tasty profit of £200 per month on my organic traffic (£600 revenue – £400 spending). However if I currently spend £100 per month on social media campaigns and only get £50 in revenue from social media then it looks like I’m wasting £50 per month on social media and it isn’t worth the money I’m spending on it. I’d better cut down by on my social media spending or wind it up entirely.Although the available data seems to back this up, I would actually be wrong to make this conclusion. If I analyse the traffic that comes to me direct, I find only 5% of it is going to my home page and the vast majority goes to various product pages and blog articles which have long URLs that people can’t possibly be typing in direct (unless it happens they have them bookmarked). It turns out these people have been coming to the site via ‘dark social’, and so I’d be wrong to write off my social media efforts.It turns out 4/5ths of the traffic that was being counted as ‘direct’ was actually ‘dark social’ and only 1/5th was people actually typing in the URL. This means if Dark Social is counted under the social section, social as a whole is making £250 in revenue from the 2,500 people it brings in, and thus my £100 social budget is more than justified. In fact, it might be worth trying out spending more to generate more buzz around buy pet rocks to generate further social traffic, both visible and dark.

Ok, This Is What You Can Do

The good news is that there are new tools that allow marketing professionals to correctly understand traffic origins and therefore study their behaviour and conversions. In this post, you’ll find 5 tools to help you track dark social sharing.Plus, as Chartbeat has identified, native mobile apps will pass an identifier in the UserAgent field even when they don’t pass a referrer. For example, Facebook passes FBIOS as a UserAgent string for a user accessing content from Facebook’s mobile app.Questions? Other way you know to track dark social?[Sources: Digiday, SmartInsights, Simply Measured, Huffington Post]

The new Digital Economy: Shared, Collaborative, On Demand

New Digital Economy banner

In recent years a number of online services have emerged that promise to reshape the way that Americans shop, eat, earn a living, go on vacation, get from place to place, and share goods, services and money with each other. Commercial juggernauts like the ride-hailing app Uber or the home-sharing platform Airbnb represent some of the most well-known examples of these new services, but they encompass the host of services, apps and online platforms of various sizes that are generally considered to be part of the shared, on-demand and collaborative economy. These new platforms serve a wide range of markets and objectives, but several characteristics help to define the landscape of this corner of the digital economy.

One characteristic of these services is that many maintain little (if any) inventory themselves. Instead, they often function as a platform for connecting excess goods or capacity – an old piece of furniture, space in the passenger seat of someone’s car, a room in someone’s home, a parking space, a designer dress or workers’ time and skills – with people who want to purchase or simply use those items or services for themselves.

These services also tend to rely on flexible forms of employment as a key element of their business model. Just as many of these services tend to maintain little in the way of real-world inventory, most directly employ a relatively small number of workers. Typically the people who actually interact with customers and other end users are so-called 1099 workers (a reference to the tax form that independent contractors receive each year) who are not employed by the service itself. This arrangement allows these workers to offer services on a flexible or part-time basis – but also means that they do not qualify for many of the government-mandated benefits available to traditional employees under law, such as employer-subsidized health insurance or the ability to get reimbursed for business expenses.

Finally, these services are often premised on removing the friction, hassle and inconvenience from users’ everyday lives – for a price. For services that offer physical products, this might mean offering same-day delivery of a variety of household items so that users are saved a trip to the grocery store after a long day at the office. For more task-oriented services, this might mean offering users the ability to instantly summon a driver or personal chef at a moment’s notice from a smartphone app.

As is the case with many of the services themselves, the way these services function is not necessarily new. People have been selling used or handmade items on peer-to-peer commerce platforms like eBay and Craigslist since the early days of the modern web; Amazon introduced its Prime expedited-shipping membership service in 2005; and the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s prominently featured a number of on-demand delivery services, ranging from the famously short-lived (which promised to deliver a variety of products to customers within one hour with no delivery charge) to the still-operational grocery delivery service Peapod.

But while these new shared and on-demand services are in some respects little different from others that came before them, they have presented a number of challenges to regulatory and policy structures that in many cases predate the internet era by decades. For instance, cities around the country have struggled with how to incorporate ride-hailing apps and home-sharing platforms into existing regulatory structures governing the for-hire vehicle and hotel markets. And the piecemeal, episodic nature of employment in the emerging “gig economy” has placed new challenges on workforce regulations and social safety net programs that were designed for an era when the distinction between workers and contractors was more clear-cut.

These services have also touched off a wide-ranging debate about their impact on the economy and on society as a whole. Many laud these services for the convenience and efficiency they bring into users’ day-to-day lives. But others worry about the vast quantities of cardboard and other waste that are the byproduct of this convenience, or express concern that these services are simply helping the already-fortunate to lead more comfortable lives – with little long-term benefit to the broader population who cannot afford to use these services, or to the workers who ultimately make them possible.

No matter what work you do, you have most likely taken part in the new digital economy. Well, at least 72% of Americans did…

New Digital Economy

Wanna know more? Pew Research examined Americans’ use of – and attitudes toward – the shared, collaborative and on-demand digital economy. The following chapters offer an in-depth examination of three archetypal examples of the most recent wave of digital innovation.

  • Chapter 2 examines the nature and impact of on-demand services in the context of ride-hailing apps.
  • Chapter 3 uses the example of home-sharing services to examine issues related to the sharing economy more broadly.
  • Chapter 4 uses a series of questions about crowdfunding platforms to examine the scope and impact of collaborative platforms.
  • Chapter 5 discusses usage data for a number of other digital economy services.

Define your Online Video Strategy: Facebook Vs. YouTube

Video Strategy Title

If it were five years in the future, would you be reading this article or would you be watching it? As online video continues its inimitable rise, it’s an interesting question to ponder.

Just take a moment to read these statements:

With online video quickly becoming a key means for people to satisfy their information and entertainment needs, businesses that fail to include it in their digital strategies will do so at their peril.

So here comes the tricky questions, where should you publish your video?

Well, let’s start from the end, the viewers. You want viewers, right? And a lot of viewers make a lot of views… Well, the problem is that when it comes to define a view, there’s no consistency across online platforms.

Here’s a rundown:

Views Table

Ok ok, I’m here to suggest solutions, not to create confusion. While I was developing this chart, I thought that a quick POV about online video strategy could be of interest for a lot of you guys.

But, I have neither the time nor the inclination to write a whitepaper or record a video (pardon my english humor). So I thought “An infographic should be easy and fast to consume!”.

And here we are: there’s no discussion that the main players for videos are Facebook and YouTube, that’s why  I structured my visual as a comparison between the two platforms… eventually providing my recommended approach for your online videos!

As always… shoot me your feedback and comments. See you soon, I have to work on my Xmas video!😉

Online Video Strategy

Online Video Strategy – Facebook vs YouTube

[Additional Source: The Guardian]

Why do people uninstall apps?


Why Do People Uninstall Apps? Well according to ITR, a company that specialises in translation and localization services for software applications, the most overwhelming reason for uninstalling apps is that they take up too much space!

The infographic covers:

  • how long we keep apps for
  • why apps are being uninstalled
  • the 8 most common design mistakes
  • the difference between the Apple store and Google Play

[Source: ITR International Translation Resources]

How much should you spend on Sales and Marketing?

The Corporate Marketing and Sales Spend Landscape is an infographic about publicly traded companies and how much revenue they spend on sales & marketing. The general rule of thumb, based off of a 2014 Gartner Research study, is that a company should invest 10% of their revenue into marketing. However, a 2014 CMO survey, published by the American Marketing Association and Duke University, came to find that the 10% rule isn’t true for all types of companies.


Parents and Social Media: How Mum and Dad use Facebook and Twitter


Parents use a variety of social network sites, with Facebook being the most popular. Usage rates for social media are similar to those of non-parents.

Fully 91% of parents1 in this survey use the internet. This is significantly higher than rates seen in the general adult population 2and among those adults who are not parents.

Parents Use a Range of Social Media Platforms; Facebook Tops the ListAmong these internet-using parents, social media use across a variety of platforms is common, with 83% of parents using social media.3 The most popular platform among parents (and non-parents) is Facebook. Almost three-quarters of online parents (74%) use Facebook, a proportion similar to the 70% of non-parents who use the platform. Online mothers are more likely than online fathers to use Facebook – 81% vs. 66%. This reflects broader trends in social media use. While men and women are equally likely to say they use social networking sites4, women are more likely to be users of specific platforms5 like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Mothers and fathers differ in their use of Instagram and Pinterest.

Parents and non-parents are equally embrace Pinterest and Instagram – among parents, 28% use Pinterest and 25% use Instagram. The greatest variation in use of the platforms is between moms and dads. Online mothers are more than twice as likely to use Pinterest than online fathers – some 40% of mothers do so compared with 15% of fathers. This echoes the popularity of Pinterest among online women more generally – they are three times as likely to use Pinterest as online men, 42% vs. 13%. A similar pattern emerges with Instagram. Mothers who use the internet are more likely than fathers to use Instagram, 30% vs. 19%. Again, this tracks with the broader trend that online women are more likely than men to use Instagram, 29% vs. 22%.

A quarter (27%) of online parents use LinkedIn, and 23% use Twitter. Again, these levels of use are consistent with the usage of non-parents. And, with these platforms, there is not a statistical difference in use of Twitter or LinkedIn between moms and dads.

There are few demographic differences among parents across platforms. Younger parents (those under 40) are more likely to use Instagram than are older parents, 33% vs. 18%. Parents of younger children also are more likely to be Instagram users. Among online parents who only have children ages 5 or under, 35% use Instagram. This is a significant difference when compared with the 22% of remaining parents with children over age 5 who use Instagram.

Parents — particularly moms and younger parents — are active users of Facebook.

Social-Media-Using Parents Use Facebook and LinkedIn More Often and Instagram Less Often Than Non-ParentsFacebook is not only the most popular social media site overall, it also has an especially engaged network of parents. Among parents who use Facebook, fully 75% log on daily, including 51% who do so several times a day. This proportion of daily users is significant compared with non-parents, 67% of whom log on daily, including 42% who use Facebook several times a day. Another 12% each of Facebook-using parents log on weekly and less often, respectively.

Moms who use Facebook are more likely to check the platform several times a day compared with dads (56% vs. 43%). Younger parents (those under age 40) also are more likely to use Facebook on a daily basis than are parents ages 40 and older. Some 82% of parents under age 40 log on daily, compared with 68% of older parents. Older parents are more likely to log on weekly; 18% use the site weekly vs. 7% of younger parents.

Instagram users also tend to log on frequently, although parents use the site less often when compared with non-parents. Some 39% of parents on Instagram use the platform daily, significantly less than the 54% of non-parents who do so.

Parents who are LinkedIn users are more likely than non-parents to use the site daily – 19% do so vs. 10% of non-parents. There are no statistically significant differences in how frequently parents and non-parents use Twitter or Pinterest.

  1. In this survey, parents are defined as those with at least one child under age 18.
  2. The percentage of U.S. adults who say they use the internet has fluctuated somewhat from survey to survey. This September 2014 survey found that 81% of adults use the internet at least occasionally, while 87% reported the same in a comparable omnibus fielded in January 2014.
  3. For more information on and detailed demographics of social media use among the general adult population, please see “Social Media Update 2014.”
  4. “.” Pew Research Center, January 2014.
  5. Duggan, et al. “.” Pew Research Center, Jan. 09, 2015.

[Source: Pew Research Center]

Image credit: FreePik

Top 6 Social Media Marketing Trends for 2015, Internal vs External

top 6 social media marketing trends

June 2014 Update: I figured out that a presentation might help to convey and spread this 6 topics even better. So take a look, download it if you like and don’t forget to let me know what you think! 


Social media is one of the newest and fastest changing elements of business. Let’s find out what are the most important trend for 2015…

Let’s start with internal organization and approach

As noted in the 2015 Guide to Enterprise Social Media Management Software, companies are slowly shifting their approach to social media, from an isolated marketing channel to an integrated part of the business. As companies increase their sophistication from a minimally viable social media presence to an integrated, strategic approach to leveraging social media across the organization, a few things tend to happen.

First, responsibility shifts from less than one FTE (typically in the marketing or communications department) to a small, dedicated team within one department to a team servicing multiple departments to a holistic approach, where many individuals in the company participate.

Second, organizations start to leverage social media in multiple ways, from reputation management to customer service to finding advocates to market research.

Finally, companies engage the help of more sophisticated technology to manage, measure, and analyze social media activities. This shift has been underway for a few years, so Simply Measured, a social analytics solution, commissioned TrustRadius to survey the state of social media marketing today.

Specifically, where do companies sit on the social media maturity spectrum? What are their main goals, and what are the biggest challenges they face? Do they have access to and are they using the right metrics to understand whether they are meeting those goals? Are they satisfied with the technology they use to support their social media activities?

Nearly 600 social media practitioners – from consultants to CMOs to community managers – took the survey in February/March 2015, responding to questions about the status, goals, and challenges of their social media programs.

These are the main findings:

1. Demonstrating the value of social programs is the number one challenge.

Companies of all sizes and maturity levels are struggling to prove the value of their social programs. Social media activities can be difficult to quantify, and marketers are trapped between readily available “vanity metrics” such as likes and followers and difficult-to-measure objectives such as brand awareness.



“Measuring ROI” was the most commonly cited challenge; 60% of respondents included it as one of the top three most challenging aspects of their social media program. It’s followed by “Tying social activities to business outcomes” (a similar challenge) and “Developing our social media strategy”.

Altimeter’s A Framework for Social Analytics report states that “ROI is just one metric in the social business toolkit. Rather than focusing on social media as a monolithic entity, businesses should evaluate it based on its contribution to a range of business goals.”
“Tying social activities to business outcomes” – the second most common challenge among survey respondents – could be a more mature method to evaluate the impact of social on the overall business, and allow marketers to use social media in the most effective way, rather than forcing it to fit into a specific ROI model measured directly in sales.

Another indication of the fact that marketers are struggling to measure and communicate the impact of social is the fact that they are still largely focused on easy-to-access vanity metrics such as likes, shares, followers and fans to evaluate success on social media.
“Engagement” (such as likes, shares, etc.) is considered the most important metric for evaluating success; 80% of respondents identified it as one of the top three metrics. Audience size and website traffic are also important, with 61% and 56% choosing them as one of the top three. Notably, all three of these metrics are easy to track. However, they don’t always tie directly to business goals such as revenue or customer retention. Metrics that are more difficult to track (yet tie more directly to broader business goals), such as revenue and customer satisfaction, are among the top three most important metrics for less than a quarter of respondents.


The focus on engagement is understandable though possibly misplaced and has the potential to lead to ineffective social strategies. According to this Scribd article discussing engagement on Facebook, online engagement metrics are not always an indication of the persuasiveness or effectiveness of content. Engagement metrics alone are not an effective indication of campaign success; it’s also necessary to measure real business outcomes attributable to social campaigns, such as customer loyalty or sales.

2. Social media is largely not yet integrated into the overall business.

Social media goals are not wholly aligned with overall business goals. Furthermore, while marketers largely feel they effectively leverage social media data and analytics to optimize their marketing strategies, they don’t feel social media data impacts their company’s overall business strategy.

The focus of social media efforts is overwhelmingly on top-of-the-funnel activities. Overall, brand awareness is by far the most common goal; 71% of respondents identified it as one of the top three goals of their social programs. It’s followed by driving website traffic and audience reach / share of voice – also top-of-the-funnel measures.


As mentioned above, the most common goals of social media programs are both top-of-the-funnel and, with the potential exception of website traffic, difficult to tie back to real business outcomes. Overall business goals are more likely to also include goals tied directly to revenue, such as increase conversions, tap into a new market, reduce churn, etc. In terms of both strategy and measurement, most companies have not been able to align social media efforts with the broader business objectives. It is still a channel that companies know they need a presence, but aren’t always sure how to leverage it.

Marketers do generally feel they effectively use social media data to inform their social media marketing strategy and to optimize their social campaigns. However, agreement declines significantly when we asked whether social media data and analytics impact the company’s overall business strategy. Marketers feel they are able to effectively leverage social data within their campaigns, but businesses aren’t leveraging this data beyond the silo of social media marketing. While broad potential uses of social data have been much discussed in the industry (informing product development decisions, discovering new customer markets, testing messaging strategies, surfacing issues such as outages or product failures, etc.), these approaches are still not widespread.


3. Companies don’t have the right set of tools to manage and measure social media activities.

Marketers are using multiple sources of data and multiple technology products to manage and measure social media activities. Though they largely trust the data they get, they still aren’t able to interpret the data to show value, and many aren’t satisfied with their set of tools.

Most companies are using one to two software products to manage social media activities. Many are using three or four. Larger companies tend to use more tools. In terms of measurement, companies are using an average of three different tools to report and analyze their social media activities. The most commonly used tools are the analytics offered natively in social media networks (64% of respondents), a social media management tool (62%), a web analytics tool (59%), and spreadsheets (46%).


Respondents largely trust the data they get from these multiple sources of analytics. The vast majority of respondents feel they understand their social media audience. Additionally, 26% agree and an additional 49% somewhat agree that “I trust the accuracy of my company’s social media data and reporting.” However, agreement declines when respondents were asked about their ability to optimize social media content and their level of satisfaction with the tools used for social analytics. Potentially, marketers trust the accuracy of the data, but feel analytics tools could do a better job of helping them interpret the data and use it to optimize their campaigns and strategies.


Many of these findings are true regardless of company size (from small businesses to large enterprise) and regardless of where companies fit on the social media maturity spectrum. All of these findings represent a prime opportunity to (a) educate their customers on building a social media strategy that is realistic, measurable, and supportive of overall business goals, and (b) help their customers take the leap from collecting data to surfacing insights. Once marketers are better equipped to define and demonstrate the value of social media to the business, other common challenges, like garnering enough internal resources, will be diminished.

The rest of this report explores these findings in greater detail and provides key survey results.


What about external trends that are ready to blow up?

Often times, during events and conferences you’ll be listening to the same old themes: “Be engaging!” “Pay attention to your audience!” “What’s going on with the millennials!?”. However, for 2015,  let’s put much bigger emphasis on, “What’s next?”.

Below are three trends really worth sharing:

1. 2D Video, Step Aside! 3D Is on the Way

Leading marketers have already conceptually, and even tactically, moved on from the traditional video format. A couple months ago, Jameson made headlines by going beyond the traditional confines of normal Facebook and Instagram ad spots.

Slide this shot of Jameson to your drinking buddy #LongLiveTheShot

A video posted by Jameson Whiskey (@jameson_us) on


This is something we can expect to see much more of, and then some. Jenny Hodgson, Lead Marketing Manager of Digital Innovation for AT&T, said that her team is keeping up with the pace of 3D’s evolving technology and are excited about the application of it in their social programs. Hodgson and her team are not the only ones. Word is that Volkwasgon has plans for next year’s Super Bowl campaign.  It’s only a matter of time people.

2. Social Listening is morphing into Visual Listening

As marketers, we understand that social listening is the process of monitoring keywords and conversations on social in real-time. We’re all keeping an eye on the conversations happening around our brand, our industry, etc. But now that visuals are the most-used content type across social networks, the conversation isn’t happening via text — it’s happening via images. We have to start listening to visuals.

Ditto is a tool that can scan images for brands’ logos. For example, if I were to Tweet “I LOVE ICE CREAM” and include a photo of my favorite kind of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream (Phish Food – duh), but not tag or mention Ben and Jerry’s, Ditto could still find the image if the logo was present. Ben and Jerry’s has 237,000 followers, and 123,725 people sharing B&J’s in photos, but only 26,625 mention “Ben” or “Jerry” in their text. That is a huge disparity and this type of visual analysis will become infinitely useful to marketers over the coming years.

3. The Social Media – Content Marketer Hybrid

For social media marketers like myself, this can be quite a scary concept. Our role is changing, but that couldn’t be more exciting, IMO. Doug Busk, the Global Director of Digital Communications and Social Media for the Coca-Cola Company, said it best, “Social networks are amplification networks. Amplification networks for the content we’re creating.” However, this “content” that no one can seem to say enough about is never one-size-fits-all. Each piece of content should be pivoted to be mindful of each channel’s strengths. Twitter is a news source, Facebook is a storytelling venue, LinkedIn is professional, Instagram is for high-quality visuals, etc… Making sure your content fits into each of those networks is of the utmost importance for a social media marketer. This emphasis is creating a niche for a new breed of role, a social-content hybrid marketer.

[Source: SimplyMeasured & TrustRadius and SimplyMeasured]