From Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp to private Stories on Instagram and Snapchat, the presence of “dark” social activity, or social activity that cannot be tracked or measured by traditional analytic tools, is growing rapidly. In fact, it’s estimated that over 70% of all social sharing now occurs on dark social channels.
Messaging apps have become the primary channels to communicate and share information about brands. However, for real estate agents that rely heavily on social networking to share their listings and get in front of potential clients, it can seem impossible to monitor conversations once they move from the public feed to these private channels.
While it’s impossible to track all dark social activity, there are a few strategies and tools that can help. Here’s what realtors need to know about the rise of dark social and how they can track more of it in order to improve their digital marketing campaigns.
Understanding where dark social activity occurs
Direct messaging apps – such as Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Instagram Direct, and iMessage – are where the majority of dark social interactions take place. For instance, imagine a realtor shares three new listings on Facebook. Though it’s possible to track how many likes or shares each post receives as well as referral visits from each post, once a follower copies the post link and shares it via private message with a friend, it’s impossible to know what happened next. Did the friend also share the post with other people? Did the friend click the link and view the property on the website? Unfortunately, once these conversations go private, agents miss a valuable opportunity to engage with that person.
Messaging apps aren’t the only channels where dark social activity occurs. Email is another primary marketing channel for real estate agents and one where engagements can quickly go dark. For instance, perhaps someone wants to share a home listing with a friend, so they send the link via email. In this case, they are now participating in dark social sharing because the realtor cannot see the email, let alone track any traffic from it.
Many realtors also send out weekly newsletters containing new listings, local events, and helpful home buying or selling tips. When someone forwards an email newsletter, or a link within an email newsletter, to someone else, those shares are also impossible to track. Thankfully, more and more email management platforms have added the ability to integrate share buttons within email newsletters. Share buttons on websites that include an email option are also a good way to keep track of email shares on individual website pages or blog posts.
Determining the size of a dark social audience
Google Analytics is a valuable tool for any real estate agent to track social traffic and leads to his or her website. The powerful analytics tool can also be used to estimate just how much of a website’s traffic is dark social traffic.
While Google Analytics doesn’t exactly have a dark social traffic ‘filter,’ dark social traffic can be found within a website’s ‘direct’ traffic numbers. To isolate dark social traffic from other direct traffic, agents can filter out ‘return visitors,’ or people who may have bookmarked their website or visitors who entered the website URL directly. Additionally, they can filter out pages that make sense for direct traffic, such as the homepage, but keep traffic that is likely to come from social sharing, such as individual blog post links. More information about direct traffic on Google Analytics is available here.
The goal of analyzing and filtering direct traffic results on Google Analytics is to paint a better picture of what people are sharing with each other directly. Though it won’t be 100% accurate, agents can still uncover valuable information about which pieces of content or which listings are driving the most engagement.
More ways to track dark social activity
While tools such as Google Analytics, BuzzSumo, and PropertySimple can help analyze public social shares and traffic, new tools are emerging to track and monitor dark social activity. For example, Po.st, ShareThis, and GetSocial.io are all tools that provide social sharing buttons for dark social networks as well as helpful dark social analytic tools.
Creating unique UTM links for every piece of content or property listing is another good way agents can catch more dark social traffic. UTM links are shorter and therefore easier to copy and share on mobile devices. Even if someone shares the link privately, the UTM link will reveal where the visitor originated. More information about how to use UTM links is available here.
While dark social activity may be easy to overlook because it’s largely out of sight, realtors shouldn’t ignore its existence. Using the tactics above, it’s possible for realtors to understand how big of an audience they might actually have on private channels. What’s more, they can make it easier for their followers to share their content privately and in a way that is traceable, improving their marketing efforts overall.