Firstly, what is Dark Social and why should it concern your dealership or brand?

Don’t jump ahead and think Dark Web and all the evil internet sites you could imagine…..  Dark social refers to activity that occurs in private messages, emails and apps that you, as well as most marketing agencies, struggle to account for when it comes to reporting and analytics.

Whilst social media platforms like Facebook give us useful insight in to the audience looking and engaging with our posts and content, other platforms and chat bots like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber and even email do not let us know who is chatting about what, and is it positive or negative about your brand? Our analytics tools such as Google Analytics usually confirm where the website visitor has come from via the links tags, that is why in the reports you can identify those coming from social links, ads or organic.

Its a growing concern as chat apps are growing in use especially in terms of ecommerce and booking sites, along with the personal interactions between friends and family.

As referrals to the dealership can sometimes be negative as well as positive, dealership staff often try to keep on top of all feedback including comments and reviews on sites like Facebook and Google Business pages. When it comes to Dark Social media, dealership staff can be ‘in the dark’ and not be aware of what is being said.

It also combats our digital advertising which feeds off data and demographics to build stronger and more person-specific ad content delivery.


If you are like most dealer principals or managers, you will love your stats and reports on sales figures and demographics.

In terms of digital marketing, there are a couple of ways we can try to combat and control Dark Social Media.

Firstly, try to promote sharing of your content by giving simple options. For example, on websites, utilise share now buttons with a myriad of options including Messenger and email. Basically if content is shared using these buttons, the ID tags are added to the URLs which will allow your analytics program of choice to identify where this link came from. The problems arise when users copy or cut your link and paste it into an email or message.

Secondly, we can try to isolate the so called ‘Dark Social Traffic’ in our analytics program. This is not a bullet-proof solution but it may help you get around the issue.

In your analytics program, go to the ‘direct traffic’ section. Now we need to isolate the difficult to remember URLs. These are the ones that aren’t simple like homepage, services, about us, etc. Once we have removed the simple URLs, we are left with what should be the audience that came through from an ‘unknown link’ or Dark Social Media.

Dark Social Media will be a growing issue for a lot of brands and marketing agencies as these platforms grow and evolve. Just recently, Facebook Messenger has now announced that it  will take payments using the PayPal gateway integrated into Messenger, as well as having a chat plugin for websites to utilise Messenger chat.


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