Dark Social: The biggest missed opportunity in digital marketing

Journal article


Marjan, A., Graham, C., Bruce, M. and Mitchell, A. (2020). Dark Social: The biggest missed opportunity in digital marketing. Journal of Digital and Social Media Marketing.
AuthorsMarjan, A., Graham, C., Bruce, M. and Mitchell, A.
Abstract

Following widespread adoption of closed social media apps, marketers can no longer easily track outbound sharing of website links, or inbound traffic resulting from those shares – so-called Dark Social. This social traffic is misclassified in Google Analytics as Direct, and little is currently known about its volume or relative behaviour, and therefore how to manage it effectively. The aim of this study is to contextualise the typical contribution of the Direct channel to total website reach, identify the relative contribution of (true) Direct traffic and estimate the Dark Social volume. Traffic flows totalling over 3 million hits were observed over two years on five websites. We find that the Direct channel can contribute over a third of total traffic and estimate an inbound Dark Social component of almost a fifth. This is little understood at present, and we describe a future research agenda to develop theory in the area.

KeywordsDark Social, Web Traffic, Google Analytics, Direct Traffic, Social Media, e-WOM
Year2020
JournalJournal of Digital and Social Media Marketing
Web address (URL)https://www.henrystewartpublications.com/jdsm
Publication process dates
Accepted09 Mar 2020
Deposited20 Apr 2020
Accepted author manuscript
File description
Authors final draft
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