August 05, 2015

Your Customers Are Sharing Your Articles. You Just Can't See It

It’s not uncommon to write an article where the amount of social shares it receives fails to measure up to its total number of clicks, or impressions. For instance, you may write an article that receives just 10 tweets, but generates well over 100 impressions.

When this happens, it can be incredibly frustrating to try to determine the root cause of what’s preventing the article from generating shares. You may wonder if the article is poorly written, or if it’s uninteresting.

The truth, however, is that the article may be performing just fine as there may be some hidden metrics at work that you’re not aware of. These hidden metrics comprise what is often referred to as “dark social.”

What exactly is dark social? Basically, it’s any channel that is used to share content other than a social network. Research shows, for instance, that just 28 percent of all sharing takes place over standard social networks. So 72 percent of content is transmitted using untraceable methods.

Here’s how this works:

A reader may check out your article and decide to blast it to his or her group of contacts by copying and pasting it into an email rather than by clicking the “email” button above the article. Or, a customer may send the article’s URL to a friend via text message. There are countless ways that people share content with each other, and you as a marketer will not be privy to tracking most of them.

There are, however, some ways of extracting data about who is accessing your content from your website itself. As Hootsuite recommends, for instance, you can try analyzing your user agent data (if you have access to it). Basically, this is a line of code that a user leaves on a website that will inform you about their browser and operating system. You can then use this information to find out the referring source.  It’s also important to pay attention to your Google Analytics, and look for clues about the network and location of each visitor.

By and large, however, the most important thing to focus your attention on is creating informative and engaging articles that speak to your customers. If you do this, your customers will access them and benefit from them. They will share articles with each other, even when it appears they are not doing so.   While we all want to produce articles that produce hundreds or thousands of shares, these metrics won’t always show up above the content and sit there like trophies.

So don’t dismay if your content appears to be falling flat in the social columns. Remember that you are only seeing part of the picture. 

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