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It’s all change online…

How to get a realistic feel for what return you get from your social media marketing activity is hard. Many make mistakes because they consider the number of views, shares or likes as the measure of success. In actual fact return on investment can only be measured in cash terms. So ultimately, to assess success in social media you need to measure successful transactions.

How we understand website transactions

An online transaction, of course, may not be cash there and then – money might come a lot later in the relationship.

If this is the case in your business, you still sell even though you don’t accept payments online. For instance, you may want to add someone to a email list in exchange for a downloadable pdf. You might want meet them face-to-face. Or your goal might be to get them to pick up the phone or send you an email. You might even want them to apply for a job.

Whatever the non-financial transactions are, they should eventually convert to cash in the bank which is your return on investment.

In other words, it doesn’t matter whether the transaction is financial or non-financial. You want people to do certain things once they arrive at your site. This is called ‘site conversion’ and it’s a huge topic in itself so we’ll leave it for another day. For now, I want to focus on current trends in how you bring traffic or leads to your website in the first place and how everything is changing.

Most smart marketers put in considerable effort to track where these ‘leads’ come from. To help us, all the social platforms and search engines provide great data. Add in your web site analytics and you will have a good insight into what’s going on.

That said, there will always be uncertainty and this is caused by a phenomenon that marketers call ‘dark social’.

The rise of dark social

If you have Google analytics on your site, you will be able to see ‘referrer’ data which tells you that the visit started from within, say, LinkedIn or from a search or a paid ad.

You will also see visits listed under the broad source of ‘direct traffic’. This describes traffic primarily from three sources:

  • They typed the URL into the address bar of the browser – maybe they know you or there is an offline ad…
  • There is a saved bookmark in their browser that they clicked – they visited before and thought, I need to come back here…
  • Or they arrived from dark social sources. It sounds so sinister doesn’t it! Don’t worry, we all do dark social…
    It refers to links shared in private message (Text, WhatsApp, email, Slack, Google Chat, Facebook or Instagram messenger or whatever other private chat app you use).

Why this is probably good news 🤗

Typically, marketers get their knickers in a twist over this as knowledge is power and uncertainty unsettles them. And whilst I get all that and accept 100% that the shift away from large open conversations presents significant challenges for many, it also presents opportunities for others.

Maybe those among us that still value direct interaction with people should celebrate the fact that someone has sent one of our links to a friend. It tells us that we’re being talked about. People are are happy to suggest to their closest contacts (those with whom they have private messages) that they take a look at our content.


I’m in no way an expert on this, but common sense tells me that this return to conversational marketing is a good thing. And this is especially true for owner managed businesses where personal relationships and trust are often the key differentiator.

Big companies will find this really hard, whilst us small guys get a chance to build something special.

I’ve included two links below for you to check out. They will really help you get ahead of the curve. Or, maybe, if you are so far behind that catching up seems impossible, you’ve got a chance to catch it second time round…

In particular, take a listen to the recent interview with Jay Baer, in the Social Media Marketing Podcast (I’ve embedded the player below or you can get it in your chosen podcast player).

Thanks as ever for taking the time to read and enjoy the rest of your day.

Find out more: The article at the other end of this link was first published in 2017: https://blog.dlvrit.com/what-is-dark-social/

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