Dark Social Clickbacks

Dark Social: The Un-tapped Mobile Internet

Braden Maccke Uncategorized Leave a Comment

The Whispers Louder Than Billboards Are On The Dark Social Web

Social media sharing can’t be beat for high visibility, but the shares and clicks with the most weight come from dark social.


The ironic misconception that a world in which peoples’ collective attention is monopolized by their phone screens is one in which we’re increasingly disconnected from each other may never die. Five of the top 10 most trafficked mobile are communications apps that connect people with each other, including the top 3: Facebook, Youtube and Messenger. As the web and mobile web continues to be a social machine, much of its traffic is becoming and remaining part of the difficult-to-track “dark social”.

In much the same way that personal, word-of-mouth referrals are more effective than even the best advertising, personal messaging grabs and retains our attention more effectively than public social sites. That’s hardly surprising when you consider it. A WhatsApp message sent directly to a user from a friend that they’ve added into their contacts and cares enough to check is bound to carry more relevance than the average post that travels by in the endless scroll of a news feed. This presents an ongoing problem for web analytics: how does one get a handle on the sharing in dark social? For publishers, the preferable solution might be to get inside dark social.

Hard To Track, But Heavily Backed

Publishers and advertisers interested in how readers arrived their site are familiar with a traffic breakdown that looks something like this pie chart.

dark social traffic graphic

“Direct Traffic” tracks links without known referrers. This is dark social. (Traffic Graphic Courtesy Moz.com)

“Direct” traffic is analytics speak for “we don’t know where this traffic came from.” Those visitors either pasted the url into their browser directly, or arrived from an app that didn’t pass on referral data, like Whatsapp, Signal, WeChat, QQ or MOMO.

Facebook, the undisputed heavyweight champ of social sharing, is seeing some of its strongest growth in the messaging space. Their broken out messenger application and their wholly owned WhattsApp property are ubiquitous on smartphones. The company bought WhatsApp for $19B in 2014, and analysts project it producing between $6B and $18B in revenue per year for WhatsApp and Messenger, each, once monetized. The path to monetization remains undefined, but that doesn’t seem to bother analysts or investors. Facebook recently changed the WhatsApp terms of service to allow the sharing of user data between WhatsApp and the Facebook group of companies, ostensibly allowing Facebook and its partners to see deeper into dark social.

According to Radium One – an ad platform with a much touted dark-social advertising strategy – 84% of outbound sharing happens through dark social, and 62% of dark social sharing is done through mobile. Likely due to the aforementioned personalized nature of dark social links, Radium One reports that 67% of mobile clickbacks (shared links that are clicked on) come from dark social sharing.

Dark social accounts for 84% of link sharing

Radium One counts dark social at 84% of web sharing.

Advertisers’ Eyes Are Adjusting To The Dark Social

Despite the weight and importance of more personalized dark social sharing, advertising budgets are are still mostly allocated to advertising on traditional social networks. Trackable budgets are easy to justify and adjust, nobody loses a job if it doesn’t work – the ad budget just gets shuffled. Since personal relationships can only be developed with other people. So ventures into advertising through dark social to date have amounted to hiring a bunch of sales reps to go and engage with consumers digitally. The Drum reports that:

Adidas is using WhatsApp to build hyper local communities in cities across the world, in what it dubs dedicated ‘squads’.

It’s a sort of modern throwback to the era of the personalized salesman.

Consumer journeys are complex, and businesses with have lasting, recurring customer bases earned them by understanding that journey and being available at the right moment. Hello Pal is proud to be an app whose environment fosters natural socialization. We think it’s the most effective way to learn languages and that it builds strong communities. As the Hello Pal app continues to grow and our users develop far-reaching friendships, their intentions and interests we hope to help our future partners and subsidiaries understand our growing user base’s diverse and unique interests.

More About Hello Pal’s Business: Read Our Investors Presentation

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