What is Dark Social: Unleash the Power of Hidden Connections

what is dark social

In the rapidly evolving world of marketing, staying ahead of the curve is essential. As a result, one area that has gained significant attention in recent years is Dark Social. Let’s explore the question: what is Dark Social, its impact on SaaS marketing strategies, and how it can revolutionize your company’s approach to reaching and engaging with your target audience.


What is Dark Social in Marketing?

First used by Atlantic.com tech editor Alexis C. Madrigal in 2012, Dark Social in marketing refers to sharing content through private channels that cannot be easily tracked or measured using traditional analytics tools.

When individuals share links or content via email, instant messaging apps, or private messaging platforms, it falls under the realm of Dark Social. These interactions occur outside the public eye of social media platforms, making it challenging for marketers to understand the full extent of their reach and impact.


How Big is Dark Social?

Now we know what is Dark Social, let’s explore its size. Dark social is not just a small, inconsequential aspect of online sharing; it represents a significant portion. According to “The Light and Dark of Social Sharing,” a study conducted by RadiumOne, a leading digital marketing analytics company, Dark Social accounts for a staggering 69% of all sharing activity. 32% of people will share only via Dark Social.

Dark Social represents the majority of sharing in 19 consumer categories, including technology, personal finance, travel, and automotive. Ignoring Dark Social when you craft your social media strategy means missing out on the majority of online sharing and its potential benefits to your business.


What is an Example of Dark Social?

Let’s consider an example to understand the concept of Dark Social better. Imagine a scenario where a SaaS company releases a new project management tool.

A satisfied customer, eager to share their positive experience, sends a link to the tool’s landing page via a private message on a messaging app to a trusted friend or colleague. This sharing occurs privately, away from public social platforms, placing it in the realm of Dark Social. The friend or colleague, intrigued by the recommendation, clicks the link and explores the tool further.

From a marketing perspective, this interaction is hidden from traditional tracking methods but holds immense potential for brand awareness and potential conversions.


concept of what is dark social


What is Dark Social Traffic?

Dark Social traffic refers to visits to your website or landing pages that originate from those private Dark Social shares. Due to the nature of Dark Social, this traffic often appears as direct traffic in analytics reports, making it difficult to differentiate from other sources.

However, understanding Dark Social traffic is crucial for marketers as it provides insights into the effectiveness of their content and campaigns. By identifying and tracking Dark Social traffic, businesses can gain a more comprehensive understanding of their audience’s interests and preferences, helping them optimize their marketing efforts.


How to Track Dark Social?

Tracking Dark Social requires innovative approaches and tools to uncover its hidden potential. One effective method is URL shorteners or custom URLs with unique tracking parameters. By creating shortened or custom URLs specifically for Dark Social sharing, marketers can distinguish them from other traffic sources and gain insights into the reach and engagement of their Dark Social campaigns.

Implementing social sharing buttons across your website can encourage users to share content in a more trackable manner. These buttons can capture data on the specific social networks or messaging platforms used, providing valuable information about the nature of the sharing activity. By combining these tracking methods, businesses can gain a more comprehensive view of their Dark Social impact.


Leveraging Dark Social Analytics

Analytics play a pivotal role in unlocking the power of Dark Social. With the emergence of specialized analytics tools, marketers can now gain valuable insights into the performance of their Dark Social campaigns. These tools provide data on metrics such as shares, clicks, conversions, and audience demographics, enabling businesses to understand the impact and effectiveness of their Dark Social strategies.

Through Dark Social analytics, marketers can uncover hidden trends, preferences, and content resonance within private sharing circles. This data is valuable for refining content creation, product development, and overall marketing initiatives. By tailoring their SaaS marketing strategy to align with the preferences of their target audience, businesses can maximize the impact of their marketing campaigns and enhance customer engagement.


How to Use Dark Social Data?

Once Dark Social is successfully tracked and analyzed, the obtained data becomes a treasure trove of valuable insights. Marketers can refine their strategies to align better with their audience’s preferences by understanding the content and topics that resonate within private sharing circles. This data can inform content creation, product development, and overall marketing initiatives, leading to more effective campaigns and increased customer engagement.

Dark social data can help identify gaps in current marketing efforts and shed light on new opportunities. Businesses can tailor their messaging, optimize their marketing collateral, and enhance their overall customer experience by analyzing the content that generates the most interest and engagement within Dark Social channels.


How to Use Dark Social for Promotions?

Dark social presents unique opportunities for promotional activities. By incorporating trackable links or unique promo codes in Dark Social campaigns, businesses can attribute conversions and sales to specific sharing channels. This information allows marketers to optimize their promotional efforts, identify influential individuals within private sharing networks, and build stronger customer relationships.

Dark Social also enables businesses to tap into the power of word-of-mouth marketing. When individuals share content or recommendations within private circles, the personal and trusted nature of these interactions holds significant influence. Businesses can amplify their promotional efforts and drive organic growth by incentivizing and rewarding customers or advocates who generate Dark Social referrals.


Why Your SaaS Business Needs Dark Social?

Dark social is no longer a niche concept; it has become a vital aspect of modern marketing. Ignoring Dark Social means missing out on a significant portion of online sharing, valuable insights, and potential customers. In the SaaS industry, where personal recommendations and word-of-mouth play a crucial role in decision-making, harnessing Dark Social can be a game-changer.

By actively engaging with Dark Social, SaaS companies can deepen their understanding of customer behavior, expand their reach, and build stronger brand advocacy among key stakeholders. Dark social offers an opportunity to tap into authentic, personal connections, enabling businesses to establish trust, enhance their reputation, and foster long-term customer loyalty.



Dark social is a powerful force in the marketing landscape, representing a substantial portion of online sharing that is often overlooked. By embracing Dark Social, tracking it through innovative methods, leveraging Dark Social analytics, and implementing effective strategies, a SaaS marketing agency or any business in the SaaS industry can unlock new avenues for growth and success.

By understanding and adapting to the changing dynamics of consumer behavior, companies can stay ahead of the competition and build meaningful connections with their target audience.

As marketing expert Jay Baer once said, “Activate your fans, don’t just collect them like baseball cards.” This quote encapsulates the essence of Dark Social marketing. By activating audiences in the hidden realms of Dark Social, SaaS businesses can tap into the power of personal recommendations and create a ripple effect that propels their brand forward.

Do you need help harnessing the power of Dark Social? The experts at Bay Leaf Digital are ready to lend a hand.

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Author Profile
Terry Wolfisch
Terry Wolfisch Cole
Terry is a marketing content manager at Bay Leaf Digital. She holds degrees in writing from Binghamton University and New York University, and brings decades of sales and marketing experience to her work. Terry puts words to work for Bay Leaf Digital clients, generating long-form and short-form content across platforms. When she’s not at her desk creating awesome content, you can find her telling Moth-style true stories on stage or chasing her next Bruce Springsteen concert.