In the last week we’ve heard a lot of chatter about “dark social” after Alexis Madrigal posted his article “Dark Social: We have the whole history of the web wrong”.  Chartbeat identifies this type of traffic as “direct social” referring to content shared via IM, email and apps versus direct traffic from search.  And Buzzfeed took a look at their site traffic and produced a great post indicating “There’s less dark social than meets the eye”. 

The discussions around dark social this week are a clear indicator of the importance of customer lifetime value and the curation of great content. A consumer decides to share a link to an article or a product because it provides direct value to them or to someone in their network of friends. If we only rely on tracking the share itself we lose the inherent value of all the activity surrounding that piece of data. Use the power of data to build lasting relationships with people. While it important to know the amount of views or clicks a product page or email campaign generated, make sure you put that information to good use and generate relevant content for your individual customers so they stay engaged!

There are steps you can take right now to turn that “dark traffic” into shiny bright actionable data.

Tips for engaging your customers with dark social

1. Produce valuable quality content or products that people want to talk about. 

Seems like a no-brainer right? If you’re focusing your efforts on continually making your customers happy by providing them with value, they’re going to tell other people. It’s an age old rule and it’s still relevant.

2. When they arrive, make them welcome and encourage them to come back.

People that arrive at your site should be made welcome. Try not to bombard them immediately with pop ups, pop unders and for email subscriptions. Make it easy for them to come back or stay engaged. Offer a clear way for them to subscribe to an email newsletter. If you have a Facebook or Twitter account make it easy for users to ‘Like’ your page and follow you. 

Pop unders/overs for email subscriptions have proven to be highly effective at conversion but give your visitors some time to read the page. Trigger these calls-to-action when content has been read, or after about 20 seconds, to make it easy for readers to disable the pop out for a short period if they do not want to see it again.

3. Use personalization, make it relevant

If you have the tools to serve personalized data based on user interests, or previous visits do it. Not doing that already? *ahem*  We can help you, let’s chat. 😉 

The more relevant the content to an individual, the more likely they are to take a step to engage further by subscribing to a newsletter or following your social media presence.

4. Respect your customers

Seems like another no-brainer right? If an anonymous or “dark social” visit converts to a newsletter signup, don’t bombard the subscriber with too much, too soon. Respect their inbox, send timely relevant information. We can make that easy for you, but even if you’re not a customer there are still ways to segment your lists to do this…of course we think it’ll be much harder for you, but advice is advice.

5. Think lifetime value, not quick win

Quick wins can be good for numbers, but don’t forget to put significant effort on delighting your existing customers with great service and products, they are special.  Acquisition is harder and more costly than retention.

Dark social is an important subject, don’t ignore it, but don’t forget the most important thing. Serve your customers, respect your customers and provide them value every way you can.