In digital marketing, precision drives results. However, a challenge looms for all of us: Dark Social. As interactions extend beyond traditional browsers and emails, Dark Social represents a segment with untapped but very important metrics. This lesser-known domain is reshaping our approach to online strategies. Let’s explore its significance.
B2B in the Age of Social Media
Social media platforms have dramatically transformed the way businesses connect with their target audience, partners and even competitors. B2B marketing is no longer limited to cold emails, network events and formal meetings. Instead, platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram have become vital tools in a company’s marketing arsenal.
However, while these platforms have opened new frontiers for outreach and engagement, they’ve also introduced a more cryptic source of traffic: Dark Social.
What is Dark Social?
At its core, dark social refers to the sharing of content that occurs outside of what can be measured by web analytics tools. This could be a shared link in a private message, a recommendation in a WhatsApp group or even a direct referral during a podcast.
The list of dark social sources is expansive:
- LinkedIn posts that get shared privately.
- Twitter DMs containing a shared article.
- Instagram stories with swipe-up links.
- Conversations on social messenger apps.
- Podcast mentions without direct links.
- Personal recommendations or word-of-mouth.
- YouTube video descriptions or pinned comments.
The inherent nature of these channels makes it challenging to track and quantify their impact directly. Traditional metrics falter and businesses often find themselves questioning the real ROI of their efforts.
Recognizing Dark Social’s Impact
While the ROI from dark social might not be directly measurable, its influence is undeniable. The informal, personal nature of dark social sharing often means that the shared content comes with a higher level of trust and credibility. If a potential lead hears about your brand from a trusted colleague via a private message, the likelihood of them taking action is significantly higher than if they had stumbled upon an ad.
How to Showcase the Impact of Dark Social to Stakeholders
- Surveys and Feedback: One of the most straightforward methods is to ask your audience directly. Surveys or feedback forms can include questions about how they heard of your brand or a specific piece of content.
- Use UTM Parameters: While this doesn’t cover every aspect of dark social, adding UTM parameters to your shared links can give you a better understanding from where your traffic is coming.
- Look at Direct Traffic: A sudden spike in direct traffic after launching a specific campaign or piece of content might be an indicator of dark social sharing.
- Engage and Ask: Encourage users to mention where they found out about you during sign-ups, purchases or other conversion actions.
- Educate Your Team: Ensure that your marketing and sales teams understand the concept of dark social, so they can actively listen for cues when engaging with potential clients or partners.
Law firms, like any other businesses, need to adapt their strategies to account for the impact of Dark Social on their digital marketing and client outreach efforts. Here are several steps law firms can take to successfully navigate Dark Social:
- Educate and Raise Awareness: Inform partners, associates and marketing teams about the concept of Dark Social. Awareness is the first step in adapting strategies to accommodate this hidden aspect of digital interaction.
- Use Trackable Links: When sharing content, whether it’s case studies, blog posts or any promotional material, use trackable links. Services like Bitly or UTM parameters can help identify from where the traffic is coming, even if the exact source remains hidden.
- Enhance Client Engagement in Private Channels: Recognize that many clients or potential clients might want to communicate through private channels. Offer consultations or initial interactions through messaging apps like WhatsApp.
- Encourage Sharing: At the end of blog posts or newsletters, include a call-to-action encouraging readers to share the content. By tracking the spikes in ‘direct’ traffic after such prompts, you can infer some of the dark social interactions.
- Use Polls and Direct Feedback: Engage with your audience on social media or newsletters by running polls or seeking feedback. Ask questions like, “How did you hear about this article?” or “Where did you come across our webinar link?” to gain insights.
- Adopt Social Listening Tools: These tools can help monitor mentions of your firm or specific lawyers, even if the content shared isn’t directly linking back to your site.
- Focus on Content Quality: High-quality, shareable content is more likely to be shared across dark social channels. By providing value, your content naturally reaches more people.
- Incorporate Dark Social into Client Journeys: Understand that the client journey may start or progress in channels you can’t see. Adjust your expectations and strategies, focusing on the touchpoints you can measure while being aware of the existence of those you can’t.
- Host Private Webinars and Chats: Use platforms like Zoom or Microsoft Teams to engage clients or potential clients in a more private setting. These sessions can be more personalized and might cater to those who prefer dark social channels.
- Regularly Review Analytics: While you might not see the exact source of Dark Social traffic, sudden spikes in direct traffic after specific campaigns can give you hints. Regularly review and adjust your strategy based on this inferred data.
By being proactive and integrating Dark Social into their overall digital strategy, law firms can stay ahead of the curve and ensure they are effectively reaching and engaging with their target audience.
In conclusion, while dark social may not offer the straightforward measurability we’ve grown accustomed to in the digital age, its impact is undeniable. Embracing its presence and learning to navigate its murky waters will be crucial for businesses hoping to harness the full power of online marketing.