Dark Social: What It Is and How To Leverage It In B2B

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Dark social is a significant force in digital marketing, influencing consumer behavior, shaping demand, and impacting how social media affects SEO and a brand's overall online visibility. In this article, we talk about what dark social is, what it means for B2B companies, and how to use it to your advantage.

What is dark social?

The term dark social was coined by Alexis C. Madrigal in a 2012 article for The Atlantic. It sounds ominous and scary, but in reality, it simply refers to the “invisible” — and also untrackable — shares that naturally happen between consumers. In other words, this is a whole side of social sharing that goes unnoticed, somehow, because companies can’t directly track it. 

You’re probably very familiar with this phenomenon, but let me explain it in a more transparent way. Have you ever copied a link and shared it in your group chat? That’s dark social. Has a friend of yours ever asked for a restaurant recommendation? And have you shared a link with them? Dark social.

These interactions are, in most cases, hidden. However, they represent a significant portion of how information is shared online. This is why, for B2B companies, understanding and leveraging dark social can greatly impact their marketing and brand awareness strategies.

Understanding dark social

As I mentioned, dark social refers to the sharing of content through private channels. These include, for example, emails, direct messaging apps, and private social media groups. 

Unlike public social media posts, these interactions are not easily tracked through traditional analytics tools. That’s why when someone shares an interesting article or a product link via WhatsApp or Slack, we call this a form of ‘dark social.’

Imagine a scenario where one of your employees finds a whitepaper they think would be interesting for their team. Instead of sharing it on LinkedIn, they email it directly to their colleagues. Similarly, you could share a cool product from Amazon with a friend on WhatsApp, etc. 

These interactions are immensely and intrinsically valuable because of the power of personal recommendations, but they are also hidden from standard tracking mechanisms companies use.

The Impact of Dark Social on B2B Marketing

Traditional social media interactions are public and measurable: likes, shares, and comments on platforms like LinkedIn, X, Instagram, and Facebook generate visible metrics that companies regularly track. 

Contrarily, dark social shares occur in private, making them difficult to measure and analyze. Which is a little bit ironic, given how precious those insights would be for those companies.

3 common challenges of dark social 

  • Visibility Issues. One of the main challenges of dark social media is its impact on visibility. Marketers can see spikes in website traffic or leads but often struggle to identify the source. Spikes could be caused by different situations, but the lack of visibility connected to dark social definitely complicates the attribution of marketing efforts and also makes it more complicated to understand the different customer journeys.

  • Influence on Decision Making. Dark social can have a profound influence on B2B purchasing decisions: private recommendations and shared content among colleagues are a lot more powerful than a company’s own efforts via social media accounts. Recognizing this influence is crucial for marketers aiming to capture decision-makers' attention.

  • Data gap. Traditional analytics tools are not equipped to track dark social interactions as they take place via private channels. That’s why marketers may sometimes and inadvertently overlook significant traffic and engagement originating from these sources, which can lead to incomplete data.

How to leverage dark social to your own benefit

Optimize your content creation processes

Creating highly shareable content is essential. Shareable content is highly subjective, that’s true, but think about the formats you choose and the value you deliver. Envision your ideal buyer persona and think of what could appeal to them specifically. 

Everything from there counts: ensure you deliver actionable, spot-on, and valuable content. This includes crafting whitepapers, engaging case studies, and compelling and entertaining videos that employees and clients are likely to share privately. Content should be easily accessible and valuable to encourage organic sharing.

Encourage advocacy

Encourage your employees to share content through private channels with their own audience and make it easy for them to do so. Employee advocacy is the perfect way to expand your reach through their networks, and you’ll also indirectly encourage them to share your content in a very personal way—namely, dark social. 

Additionally, fostering a culture of sharing within your organization through an employee advocacy program can impact many more areas of your business, such as employer branding, lead generation, thought leadership, etc.

You could even take this to the next level and build a private community with your brand fans — customers, ambassadors, and enthusiasts. By establishing private groups or communities, you can encourage targeted engagement and cultivate loyalty in a space where only your most trusted and devoted customers get to share experiences and offer feedback. You’d have a lot more control over what is being shared and what is working well with your audience, thus keeping an eye on performance and tracking results.

Adapt your tracking techniques

While tracking dark social is not easy, given its private circulation channels, some techniques can help keep it on your radar. For example, via UTM parameters, you would be able to track clicks from specific links shared in emails or messages and attribute them to running campaigns. 

Be smart about it: tag all of your links appropriately, and make sure you do that for all of your marketing campaigns. Developing a system like this will allow you to skirt the problem and gain a lot more valuable insights into your audience’s behaviors. 

Retarget dark social visitors

When you’ve appropriately UTM-tagged the links in your campaigns and gained insights into visitors and active sharers, you can easily use that information to your advantage and build on the existing leads.

One way of doing so is by retargeting dark social visitors directly on social media apps on their mobile devices, even increasing the likelihood that they will engage in more link sharing.


Dark social is a significant force in the digital landscape, influencing consumer behavior, shaping demand, and impacting how social media affects SEO and a brand's overall online visibility. 

This phenomenon requires marketers to be smart about how they handle leads and use their audience's behavior to their advantage. Despite its renowned ‘untrackability’, dark social can be managed with a few smart tricks that allow brands to gain insights into their visitors’ sharing behaviors.

So, instead of letting these dark social shares remain hidden, take steps to make them work for you. By tapping into dark social, you can better understand your audience, optimize your content, product, or service, and consistently win over your leads.

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