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Dark social: the website traffic data that we never see

With a recent editorial on web traffic analysis, tech writers around the globe are taking a second look at what is being called “dark social.”

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dark social

What is dark social?

You’ve heard of dark matter, unseen matter making up most of the universe, which doesn’t interact with light or other electromagnetic radiation, therefore cannot be seen directly, rather is detected by its gravitational effects. In the spirit of the unseen dark matter populating the universe, Alexis Madrigal, Senior Editor at The Atlantic opines that there is unseen matter in all of our website traffic data analysis called “dark social,” which is the direct traffic that is invisible to analytics programs.

Madrigal noted that over half of all traffic to the magazine was direct traffic, and he observed that since no one manually types out “https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/10/dark-social-we-have-the-whole-history-of-the-web-wrong/263523/,” yet people were coming from somewhere, he suggests this traffic comes primarily from email, and IM, or in the dark rather than in public on social networks like Facebook or Twitter.

A fascinating theory: history is wrong

One of the most fascinating positions Madrigal put forth is that the history of the web is wrong. “The social sites that arrived in the 2000s did not create the social web,” Madrigal writes, “but they did structure it. This is really, really significant. In large part, they made sharing on the Internet an act of publishing (!), with all the attendant changes that come with that switch.”

Madrigal continued, “Publishing social interactions makes them more visible, searchable, and adds a lot of metadata to your simple link or photo post. There are some great things about this, but social networks also give a novel, permanent identity to your online persona. Your taste can be monetized, by you or (much more likely) the service itself.”

So what about all this direct traffic talk?

So, if social networks really are a public documentation of sharing activities that have gone on for decades, where are all of the links that are shared privately over email or G-Chat or the like? Madrigal says they’re showing up on our analytics dashboard as simply “direct traffic,” which is an often overlooked metric. Below is what The Atlantic’s traffic when they account for dark social… it’s simply stunning.

darksocial

Maybe it’s deeper than “dark social”

Tech writer Matt Buchanan at Buzzfeed counters Madrigal, stating, “It might be more accurate to call the universe of direct traffic the noumenal web— a big, messy bowl of stuff that we know is there but whose composition we can’t actually probe with any of our traditional senses (in this case, web analytics, or our nose).”

Buchanan adds, “So the question is how much this noumenal web is secretly social, and how much of this dark social is just, well, dark. BuzzFeed’s data scientists have gathered data from the BuzzFeed Network — a set of sites like TMZ and The Daily Mail that collectively have over 300 million users — that sheds more light on dark social and direct traffic,” concluding that “the more social a piece of content is, the less direct traffic it gets. And that direct traffic tends to skew toward coming from older, non-urban, less tech savvy people.”

Buchanan asserts that “dark social” is too broad of a term for all direct traffic, a form of traffic that we would add most analytics dashboards fail to help businesses to understand.

The tremendous, mysterious traffic source

Regardless of whether it is called “dark social” or the “noumenal web,” Madrigal and Buchanan’s theories unveil that although social media is a great traffic source, direct traffic (representing private link sharing through email, G-Chat, and the like) is a tremendous, mysterious, and often overlooked traffic source. All website owners should spend more efforts focusing on the “dark social,” the content not shared out in the open, and do more than simply ask for a Facebook Like.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. kenbrand

    October 22, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    Is this like digital Crop Circles?  I mean, we don’t know what we don’t know, right?

  2. L8enough

    October 23, 2012 at 9:27 am

    @rvabusiness I tell people all the time that word of mouth and email is the best way to support my blog. Dark social FTW

  3. Pingback: The rise of dark social: All science, no seduction - The American Genius

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Social Media

Social media is being used for hiring, and no, we’re not talking just LinkedIn

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Social media has evolved from being only community-oriented to career-oriented. See how users are getting jobs by being creative.

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social media, like tiktok, is being used for hiring. here are some examples of tiktok resumes.

Gen Z and Millennials are no doubt the heaviest users of social media, and perhaps the internet in general. But it’s no longer just about catching up with friends and family, posting memes, and hailing yourself as hashtag king – they are using it to get jobs in creative ways.

Kahlil Greene was a student at Yale University hell-bent on educating others about African American social movements and culture. Known as “The Gen Z Historian” on Instagram, TikTok, and LinkedIn, he got to posting about the lesser-known facts and stories of history, amounting to 1.3 million views very quickly, catching the attention of employers. Now with over 500,000 followers across all major platforms, Greene is heading to work in consulting focusing on public education.

“I think that’s the thing that people don’t realize that social media is everywhere, and it’s congruent with every lifestyle you want,” says Greene.

Another TikToker, Emily Zugay, has over 2 million followers on the platform from hilariously redesigning brand logos. Her personality of shooting down brand choices with such a dry delivery is sure to make you giggle. She’s appeared on Ellen, and many brands changed their logos to her suggestions, including McDonald’s, the NFL, Tinder, Doritos, and Nascar. Just announced, Panera Bread is realizing limited holiday cups by Emily Zugay, taking a stab at Starbucks who typically creates the mad rush for holiday cups. Though she hasn’t publicly spoken about taking on a new role due to her wacky design endeavors, she has been approached for many partnership collaborations and markets herself as a content creator on the platform in order to rack in the dough.

Having the perfect one-page resume and perhaps, an inkling of personalization in the cover letter (which no one enjoys writing and barely anyone reads), is no longer the secret to landing jobs. 92% of companies use social media to hire.

“Creating a personal brand doesn’t have to be scary, hard, or time-consuming. You just have to be yourself. Consistent posts, a few follows and some direct messaging can go a long way to open doors.”

TikTok launched a pilot program of applying to the short-form video powerhouse by well, making a TikTok on the platform. Within 48 hours, 800 videos were submitted with #TikTokResumes in their captions. Expanding from internal hiring to external hiring, the program allowed job seekers to apply with their videos to Chipotle, Target, Shopify, and more.

Want to get in on the action but don’t know where to start? Unfortunately, the TikTok submissions have now closed, but you can always follow these tips to start getting creative for your next career move: Embrace the tools on the platform, do your research about the company you’re applying to, make connections on the platform and within the company, show off achievements as you would in a typical resume, and be yourself!

For more cool resume ideas, check out this article on the most creative techie resumes.

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Reactions to Twitter Blue from real subscribers, p.s. its not worth it

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Twitter’s paid subscription service, Twitter Blue, gives more control over tweets and custom UI, but subscriber reception has been lukewarm.

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Twitter Blue Sign Up Page

Twitter Blue, a paid subscription service that gives users increased control over their tweets and the appearance of their interfaces, launched this summer. Subscriber reception has been lukewarm, foreshadowing some resistance to shifts away from advertising-based revenue models for social media platforms.

The allure of Twitter Blue isn’t immediately apparent; beyond a relatively low price tag and increased exclusivity on a platform that emphasizes individuality, the service doesn’t offer much to alter the Twitter experience. Twitter Blue’s main selling point – the ability to preview and alter tweets before sending them – may not be enough to convince users to shell out the requisite three dollars per month.

Other features include the option to change the theme color and icon appearances. Twitter Blue subscribers can also read some ad-supported news articles without having to view ads courtesy of Twitter’s acquisition of Scroll, a company that provides ad-free news browsing.

But even with this variety of small customization options and the promise of more to come, users are skeptical. Android Central’s Shruti Shekar is one such user, beginning her review with, “Right off the bat, this feature isn’t worth the money you’d be spending on it every month.”

Shekar posits that the majority of the features are wasted on long-term users. “I think a lot of my opinions come from a place of using Twitter for so long in a certain way that I’ve gotten used to it, and now I find it challenging to adapt to something that would theoretically make my life easier,” she explains.

One of those adaptations centers on Twitter Blue’s “Undo Tweet” feature – something that belies the notion of proofreading and using common sense before sending thoughts into the nether.

“For me, 95% of the time, I really do pay attention to my tweets before I send them out,” says Shekar.

Twitter Blue checking Tweets before sending.

Shekar does praise Twitter Blue’s “Reader Mode” feature that allows users to view threads as uninterrupted columns but argues that the feature would probably end up being underutilized despite being a cool concept.

The aforementioned color and theme customization was of little interest to Shekar. “I actually found it a bit challenging to get used to the other colors, not because they’re ugly, but again because I am just so used to the classic blue,” she says.

One problem here is that the options to change link and theme colors and put threads in reader mode seem more like accessibility features than premium content. Twitter might do well to make these available to all users, if for no other reason than to avoid criticism about locking quality of life updates behind a subscription paywall.

Shekar’s criticism hits on a crucial point for any social media company looking to emulate Twitter Blue’s subscription model: Even if the subscription price is low, companies have to be prepared to make actual meaningful changes to the user experience if they want satisfied subscribers. That includes building in options that don’t fundamentally alter the basic aspects (or appearance) of the platform.

For more on Twitter Blue, check out their blog post on it here.

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Instagram flaunts new features, including a decked out desktop experience  

(SOCIAL MEDIA) It’s been a time of exciting product and feature announcements for Instagram with additions of Collabs, fundraisers, and desktop posts on deck

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Instagram displayed on a desktop

It’s been a time of exciting product and feature announcements for Instagram on both mobile and desktop.

Collabs Feature

“Collabs” allows up to 2 accounts to co-author a post or Reel, both sharing joint ownership of what is ultimately published. The post or Reel will show up equally on both users’ feeds with the same amount of engagement numbers, but combined, including comments, view numbers, and like counts. This is initiated through the tagging screen and the invited account will have to accept the offer before the collab can be complete.

Examples of adding a co-author in Instagram Collabs feature

Fundraiser & Reel Features

Instagram was quick to jump on the short-form content trends taking the social media world by storm. With the rise of TikTok, the Insta platform that was originally focused on static photos added Reels, along the same wavelength of short 15, 30, or 60-second videos, though the competitor has now expanded with the option of 3 minutes. Even so, Instagram is taking the time to improve music-related features within the Reels section of the app, adding “Superbeat” and “Dynamic.” The first adds effects to the video matching the beat of the chosen song, while the latter offers unique and interesting ways to display the song’s lyrics on screen. In addition, they are beginning to test the option to run fundraisers on a post by clicking the + button in the top right corner of the interface.

Examples of Dynamic for Reels feature

 Desktop Feature

FINALLY! Instagram is now realizing just how many users truly enjoy the desktop experience. If one were to compare the platform on the mobile app vs. desktop, they would see the slew of differences between the two with the desktop interface looking like the 1st year Instagram was even introduced. Functionality is no comparison; they only just added the ability to DM on desktop last year. As one can see, there is an extremely limited experience on desktop, but Instagram is now rolling out the ability for users to post from their browsers. Catch us enjoying posts on the big screen!

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