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Why Dark Social Data Matters to the Content Marketer

Are you a social marketer, a content marketer, or both?

This question, no, debate, no, cage fight, has become a common one among marketers who create content and push it out into the universe, whether it is on social, blogs, websites, or all of the above. Some open questions that circle this debate include:

  • Who is in charge of strategizing which content (visual, video, ads, copy) should be released, and when, and where?
  • Who is in charge of planning and creating the content (visual, video, ads, copy) according to business objectives?
  • Who is taking orders from whom?
  • Do you need a bigger team so you can have folks who focus on the content itself and folks who focus on the delivery method, or is this one person’s job?
  • Is Medium a blogging platform, social network, or a blogging platform and social network? (My vote is the last.)

Here’s the thing: In the most effective marketing organizations, content and social teams work together very closely. Both content and social teams are paying attention to how well their campaigns did, and are trying to attribute that success to their hard work.

How to Increase Social Conversions

The best content and social team combinations are aware of each other’s goals, and the goals of the marketing organization generally, and they work together, always keeping those goals in mind.

So how does Dark Social fit into all this? 

If you read Dark Social: What Social Marketers Need to Know, you’ve heard about Dark Social.

Dark Social is website traffic that originates from a shared link, but does not pass a referrer and thus appears as “Direct” traffic in web analytics. It occurs as a result of consumers sharing URLs with one another through private social channels like Slack, email, Facebook message, and text. 

Dark Social adds a whole new layer to this conversation, but it’s largely discussed in relationship to social marketers. Dark Social can teach content marketers–who might be social marketers! And vice versa!–a lot about building better, more impactful content for their business.

Mapping Content to Business Purpose

People who share content via private message are more likely to be further along on the buyer’s journey and closer to the goal completion your brand wants, whether that is making a purchase, visiting a particular web page, or opting into an email list.

Screen Shot 2016-09-29 at 10.42.24 AM

Have you ever experienced an interaction like this in your personal life?

Screen Shot 2016-09-29 at 10.57.53 AMWe usually reach out to our close friends, colleagues, and significant others via private message. This typically happens during three different stages of the buyer’s journey:

  • Consideration: One person messages another person when they learn about a new purchase possibility, i.e., “Did you know that Lululemon releases a pair of new yoga pants that actually work out for you?? [INSERT LINK HERE]”
  • Decision: One person messages another person for advice about which product to buy, i.e., “Should I buy Lululemon’s work-out-for-you yoga pants or Prana’s work-out-for-you yoga pants? [INSERT LINKS HERE]”
  • Advocacy: One person messages another person asking for advice about a product or service, and the other person becomes an advocate for your brand: “OMG, you’re looking for new yoga pants?? You HAVE to buy these Lululemon pants! I just bought them and am IN LOVE. They work out FOR you: [INSERT LINK HERE]”

By using Dark Social data to understand which of your links are being shared via private message and actually converting, you can begin to make your content more “shareable” in a way that matters to your business.

Building a Better Content Calendar

You will have a more effective content calendar if you are paying attention to Dark Social data.

Social-Attribution-1 (2)By understanding how the content you create and push out (your owned content) performs via Dark Social, you’ll be able to identify which content works best for your brand at different times on different social channels. You will be able to see the correlation (or lack thereof) between what gets shared privately and what is shared publicly, and tweak your strategy accordingly. You will understand when you can re-purpose content for different social channels, and when that stops working.

Owned, Earned, Paid, and Dark Social: Definitions, and Where to Begin

You will also be able to justify (and get bigger budgets for) higher-cost pieces of content like video content, if you can prove that they’re driving the conversions your business is looking for. 

More Integrated Conversations

If both your social marketing and content marketing teams are paying attention to what is being shared on Dark Social, they’ll be able to have more constructive conversations about which content is working, and what needs to be tweaked.

ATTRIBUTION DARK CHARTUsing Dark Social data, content marketers can come to planning meetings as participatory partners to their social marketing counterparts. Content marketers can use data to explain their content calendars and creative decisions, show what they’re doing to improve business outcomes when content isn’t hitting quite right, and improve the digital landscape for brands overall.

Get everything you need to analyze the metrics that matter

How to Measure Dark Social and Attribute Revenue


Lucy Hitz

I’m the Head of Marketing Communications here at Simply Measured, where I'm responsible for our content program, social media marketing, PR, and comarketing ventures. I love yoga, The X-Files, peaty scotch, hiking, and poetry. If I were a social media channel, I’d want to be Instagram, but I think I’m Twitter.

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