Accountants know the importance of social media marketing for generating leads and building brand awareness. But social media is so much more than posting content and getting clients today.
There’s a hidden side to social media that can bring clients to your firm over the long term. It’s called dark social, and it’s something that all accountants should care about.
Let’s shed some light on the world of dark social, why it’s important and how it can benefit accountants.
What is Dark Social?
No, dark social isn’t the dark side of social media, as the name may imply. It’s the things that happen in the dark – the things you can’t see – on social media. These activities are hard to track, like when you share a podcast with a friend and ask them their thoughts.
Behind the scenes, people are sharing and talking about your social content and accounting firm. You just can’t see it, nor can you track its impact.
To put it simply, dark social refers to private site referrals and shares that are extremely difficult to track across social media.
The term “dark social” was coined by Alex Madrigal in an article on The Atlantic.
Examples of Dark Social
Dark social is more prevalent than you think. It can go beyond the typical social platforms, like Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. It can also include:
- Groups and communities, like communities on Slack and Facebook
- Content platforms like Apple Podcasts and even YouTube
- Meetups and networking events (virtual or in-person)
- Word of mouth, like texting, in-person conversations, etc.
There’s a good chance you’ve seen examples of dark social in the wild, and you’ve likely engaged in the practice yourself.
Maybe you’ve shared a YouTube video with a team member and asked their thoughts on implementing the idea at your firm. This is a classic example of dark social.
Maybe you’ve seen Tweets recommending or discussing a product or service in conversation. The brand wasn’t tagged and no link was shared. This is another example of dark social.
Why Dark Social Matters to Accountants
If you can’t track these activities happening behind the scenes and on private channels, why do they matter? Why should accountants and business owners care about dark social?
Because dark social isn’t something to ignore. It’s everywhere, and these are the channels where your clients and prospective clients are very active. It’s estimated that 84% of shares are happening on dark social networks.
Dark social can:
- Help you focus on the channels where your clients are most active
- Give you more insight into your clients – their needs, values, etc.
- Develop more content your audience wants to see
With so many shares happening on dark social, accountants must learn how to incorporate dark social campaigns into their marketing strategies.
How Your Firm Can Benefit from Dark Social Campaigns
Dark social campaigns can benefit accountants in many ways:
Reach New Demographics
Dark social can open your eyes to new demographics that may have previously been invisible to you. Once you become aware of this demographic that may be interested in your services, you can start:
- Creating more content that’s relevant or interesting to them.
- Start building and nurturing relationships with them.
Simply put, dark social can help you expand your reach as an accountant.
Create Better Content
Tracking dark social traffic can be tricky, but let’s say that you create a really informative post and share it on your social account. Over the coming days, you notice a spike in traffic. This may be an indication of dark social traffic.
It’s also a clue that the content is something that’s relevant and valuable to your audience.
In this way, dark social can help you create better content that performs well and drives visitors to your website.
Get More Traffic to Your Doorstep
Dark social is essentially the “word of mouth” of the Internet, and it can send more traffic to your doorstep – whether it’s your website or your firm’s office.
Measuring Dark Social WIth Google Analytics
If dark social is happening behind the scenes and in private channels that can’t be tracked, how can you possibly measure it?
While imprecise, you can use Google Analytics to start measuring your dark social traffic. The goal is to create an advanced segment that separates your direct traffic from your overall visitors and excludes certain pages on your site.
Most dark social traffic comes in the form of direct traffic. But direct visitors can also be people who type in your URL directly or use bookmarks to visit your site. For this reason, we use filters to exclude some of a site’s standard URLs that may be typed in directly.
Here’s how to create an advanced segment to start tracking dark social traffic:
- Head to Google Analytics and navigate to Audience.
- Choose Overview.
- Click “+ Add Segment” and then “+ New Segment.”
- Give your segment a name.
- Head to the Advanced settings on the left column.
- Here’s where you’ll exclude URLs that may be typed or bookmarked, such as your blog or contact page. You will need to determine which URLs would fit into this category for your firm.
- Additionally, you’ll want to exclude returning visitors under User Type.
You may have additional parameters that you want to include, but this is a great place to start.
Ask, “How Did You Hear About Us?”
Along with tracking dark social through Google Analytics, you can also get more direct and accurate information about where your visitors are coming from by simply asking them.
For example, when prospective clients fill out a form to schedule a call or meeting, you can add a “How Did You Hear About Us?” field.
This field can be a text field (they type out their referral source), or you can incorporate a drop-down menu with a list of options. I don’t recommend a drop down option because, while it may be easier, people will often pick the first option as the easy way out.
Dark social is everywhere, and accountants must be aware of it to maximize their reach and lead generation online. While challenging, you can track dark social using Google Analytics or other measures. It helps to work with an experienced team who understands the ins and outs of dark social.
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