The Drum Awards Festival - Official Deadline

-d -h -min -sec

Dark Social Technology

Dark social sharing means that you aren’t tracking 87% of content shares

By Kevin Gibbons, Kevin Gibbons is co-founder and CEO of Re:signal



The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

Find out more

September 4, 2017 | 5 min read

When reviewing content performance, especially social shares, marketers are finding there are many dark social channels which are much harder to track.

copy paste dark social

Dark social shares are more difficult to track.

For example, Slack, WhatsApp, read later apps, Facebook messenger, Twitter/LinkedIn direct messages and even email.

We thought it would be interesting to run an experiment to test a commonly forgotten, but very popular content sharing method, by tracking copy and paste of article URLs.

Our study showed that compared to social buttons, 87% of all shares are made through copy-and-paste direct from the address bar.

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been an easy way to track this data, until now.

When it comes to the overwhelming amount of content that is produced online, most brands would measure part of their performance on reader engagement.

But for businesses, it’s important to understand how people are sharing.

Traditional analytics relegate tracking shares via social methods, but the reality is that a large chunk of sharing is happening not on public forums like Facebook and Twitter, but privately via messaging, emails, or chat apps.

It can be easy to get obsessed by the number of social shares a piece of content receives. However, the problem is that people often judge the success of content by social vanity metrics, and not by real impact.

When I'm writing, I see it as a greater success if people are engaging with the content by sharing it around their teams internally over email, Slack etc – as then it's a strong indicator that it's resonating with your target audience. This often doesn't look as impressive publicly, but it does show much more quality towards hitting the type of content KPIs/goals that really matter.

Our experiment

I wanted to find out and measure the relevance of this type of sharing, which is so often overlooked. I used our own blog to test understanding the impact of address-bar tracking, filtering out our own internal IP addresses, and tracking the shareability of content with Amigo.

BlueGlass dark social sharing graphic

The results

  • Within our 3 month test (from 01/12/2016 to 14/03/2017), we found that 87% of our shares were coming from the address bar;
  • The next most popular sharing channel was Twitter with 6.38% of shares, with almost all other referral visits coming from Twitter shares;
  • The overall share rate was 3.4% – this was very high compared to our aggregate share rate across all the blog pages we are tracking (1.13%);
  • Our blog post, 25 things you need to know about local search continues to be the page with the highest share rate (shares/visitors) at 9.52%.​

Optimising your social sharing

The scale of data that contributed to dark sharing was a surprise for me, but for Amigo, these results were normal. Frederic Kalinke, managing director of Amigo, comments: “Across all of our campaigns, we consistently see between 70% and 90% of total shares coming from copying and pasting the URL in the browser address bar.

Despite the ubiquity of share buttons, most people distribute content with friends, family and colleagues in a point-to-point manner by pasting links into emails or messenger platforms, rather than broadcasting content across social media.

If marketers are not tracking address bar shares, it is an analytical blind spot as they have no idea how popular their content pieces are. Amigo tracks everything from the share right through to conversion and can shine a light into 'dark social'.“

Jasper Martens from PensionBee also ran a similar test: "We use Amigo to track address bar shares to understand what content triggers engagement and drives customer sign up. It has helped us to shape our content strategy and identify audiences that are most likely to engage with our content.

In terms of share button shares, I was surprised to find out that WhatsApp was the most frequently used channel for sharing blog content. Today, most of our content is aimed at reaching key audiences that will share PensionBee articles on their phones with their friends."

Now that we can prove that anywhere from 70%-90% of social sharing is dark, the next step is to track how much of that sharing leads to traffic and sales. Are you tapping into this opportunity to learn more about your audience and potential buyers? Do you track address bar shares?

A social button or public share offers a higher level of intent than simply a visit, but being able to analyse a private address-bar share allows brands to identify real content that is sparking interest, and the real influencers that are generating conversions.

Kevin Gibbons is co-founder and chief executive officer of BlueGlass

Dark Social Technology

Content by The Drum Network member:


Re:signal is an award-winning specialist SEO agency - driving organic growth for ambitious brands. We act as an extension to our clients digital teams, providing...

Find out more

More from Dark Social

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +