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You’re scrolling through your Facebook feed and notice a post labeled, “Is my house haunted?” and click the link. Facebook redirects you to the post’s destination URL and you engage with the content on the page. Finding the content amusing, you copy the URL and share it with your friends through email. Without intentionally knowing it, you have just joined the dark side of social sharing.

What is Dark Social?

Dark social is defined as the sharing of content through private channels like email, messaging apps, and instant messaging programs.

As a Realtor®, you probably have a website, social profiles on various networks, and spend countless hours a week creating website content to share socially. When you share the content on Facebook and a follower clicks the link, they are redirected to your website to view the content, telling your website where this visitor is visiting from: Facebook. When checking your website’s analytics (as you should), you can view the website’s referral traffic and see how many visitors visit your page from Facebook. The referral traffic shows you how many people are being directed by Facebook. This information is a great determinant of how well your content is doing and if you should spend more time creating content to share on this network.

Why is Dark Social Important?

When someone shares content through “dark social,” they bypass the website’s referral traffic tracking, leaving you wondering if the content you are sharing socially is even working. The referral traffic will track the visitor as ‘direct traffic,’ meaning that the visitor literally typed the entire URL into the search bar and landed directly on that page. How often does that actually happen?

According to RadiumOne, a marketing technology company, dark social accounts for an estimated 84% of shared content today compared to Facebook’s 11%. That is almost 8 times more content being shared via ‘dark’ methods than socially. Dark social is also linked to consumers age 55 or older with an estimated 46% only sharing content through ‘dark’ means.

How to Track Dark Social?

By now you can understand the need to track and measure dark social. However, you’re probably wondering how to do that. There are a few ways you can track and measure it.

Make sharing your content easier: Throughout your website you probably already have designated share buttons. Where are these buttons located? If hidden, visitors won’t be able to find them. If they’re at the footer of the page, visitors who don’t scroll all the way down may miss them. Place these buttons next to your content, closer to the top right or left side.

URL Shorteners: By using shortened URLs such as Bit.ly and Ow.ly (which offer free services), you can follow the trail of shared links. For instance, if you’re creating a regular post or paid ad on Facebook to share a blog you wrote, copy the URL and create a unique shortened URL for this post. Copy and paste the URL into your post. Now if this link is shared ‘dark,’ you will know its origin, allowing you to properly measure your content and its ROI.

Spikes in Social Traffic: If you are using the two methods mentioned above and still notice a large amount of direct traffic in your traffic report, then you can try locating its source by looking at a spike in traffic from social channels. If you noticed that on a certain day your referral traffic from Facebook is more than the average you see on a daily basis, then there’s probably a direct correlation in the direct traffic for that particular day in the report. By monitoring the location of your referral and direct traffic, you can start to spot where the visitors are coming from.

Even though dark social is hard to track and is throwing off your “true” social media ROI, you should still look at it in a positive light. This means that you’re creating content that followers want to see, engage with, and are sharing with friends. While you continue creating great social content, let Homes.com attract more buyers to your listings with our Featured Agent and Featured Office. We’ll put your listings one click away from Google in the city of your choice. Find out more at (888) 651-8956 or productinfo@homes.com.