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Dark Social

Think about this for a moment.

When you’re browsing through your Twitter feed, you’ll likely see a ton of links. How many do you click? Maybe one or two out of hundreds, right?

Now, think about emails you receive from friends and associates. These aren’t marketing emails. Not emails you receive because you subscribed to a list. But emails a friend took time to send you.

If a friend emails you a link, how likely are you to click it?

My guess is that you’re pretty much certain to click.

Am I right?

Then maybe it’s time you joined the dark side…

What is Dark Social?

Let’s say you’re a typical website or blog.

If that’s the case, then a serious chunk of your traffic comes because people like something they’ve seen or read on your site, and they share it with their pals.

That’s social sharing. It’s what this blog is all about.

A lot of social sharing happens on Twitter, Facebook and other social media websites. When people find your blog or website through social media, you can track where they came from. As such, you can see how much traffic Twitter and Facebook send your way.

But social sharing is only the tip of the iceberg.

The majority of sharing is dark social sharing.

Dark social happens whenever you share a link with a friend via email, or using an instant messaging service such as Skype or Google Talk.

This kind of sharing is difficult to track. Yet by some estimates, it accounts for 72% of social shares.

What does all this mean for your social strategy?

How to Make the Most of Dark Social

Dark social sharing is actually older than social sharing. Sharing happened via email and instant messaging before any social networks were even conceived. It’s a practice that’s here to stay, so it’s vital that you incorporate it into your social media strategy.

According to the digital intelligence department at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, only about 10% of brands are paying attention to dark social at the moment. So by jumping on board now, you’re ahead of the game.

Here are our top tips to make the most of dark social.

Add “Share via Email” to Your Sharing Options

People are using email to share, so encourage it! Make it as easy as possible for readers to share your content.

WordPress plugins such as AddToAny can be installed to your site with just a few clicks, and at no cost. These plug-ins add email sharing on all your blog posts and pages.

Create Freaking Awesome Content

Yes, we’ve been preaching this sermon for years now. There is no way to “game” social media. There are no special secrets.

The best way to encouraging sharing is to create freaking awesome content that people can’t wait to share with their friends.

Alexis Madrigal, the deputy editor of The Atlantic who coined the phrase “dark social” put it this way:

The only real way to optimize for social spread is in the nature of the content itself. There’s no way to game email or people’s instant messages. There’s no power users you can contact. There’s no algorithms to understand. This is pure social, uncut.

(We disagree on the power users part, but more on that in a moment).

On the flip-side, if your content sucks, then whatever social strategy you employ to promote it will fail.

Of course, none of us can create a viral hit every day. But you can pour your heart and soul into everything you create.

Get Smart With Your Tracking

Dark social doesn’t have to remain dark – at least not to you.

There are tools you can use to shine a light on dark social, to give you a better picture of where your traffic is coming from.

Some dark social traffic is a result of people using third party apps, such as TweetDeck, to click social media links. You can configure Google Analytics to pick up this traffic for you. They’ve created a handy tutorial on how to do so over at Social Media Examiner.

You can also get a picture of how much traffic is coming through dark social by looking at direct traffic as a referral source.

When people click a link they’ve received via email, they’re likely to get bundled in with direct traffic. Any long URLs in direct traffic are likely to be the result of dark social sharing – because it’s unlikely that people actually typed those links into an address bar.

As Ginny Soskey of Hubspot explains:

If you see long, complicated URLs […] in your direct traffic that is most likely dark social.

Start Sharing via Email (Especially with Influencers)

When you create content that you want to go viral, be bold and share it via email. In particular, target influencers who you know would be interested in what you’ve created.

Why do this? Because dark social sharing works. As we’ve established, you’re much more likely to take an interest in a link you receive via email than in something that pops up in your Twitter feed.

When something’s in your inbox, you have to deal with it. When it’s in your Twitter feed, you can just wait for it to pass by.

Want to find out who the influencers are in your field? Then check out our Google Ripples tutorial.

Whatever You Do, DON’T Try to Block Email Sharing

One of the worst pieces of advice we’ve read online about dark social is to “try disabling” email sharing. The theory is that if you block email sharing, people will share through other channels.

How it would even be possible to block email sharing, we don’t know. But even so, it’s terrible advice. People who share via email want to share via email. So if you take away that option, they’ll just stop sharing.

Over to You

Do you have any other ideas for making the most of Dark Social? Let us know in the comments section, below.

Find Clients on Twitter

Anyone running a service business needs a constant stream of incoming leads.

Let’s look at how you can find clients on Twitter.

1. Remember: Relationships First

Twitter is not a sales tool. Start hawking your services in tweets, and you’ll scare off rather than attract clients.

What is Twitter about then?

It’s a tool for building relationships. When you’ve established a relationship with someone, then you can reach out and pitch your services. You’ll have built up trust. And you’ll know whether it’s worthwhile pitching them, because you’ll have found out whether they’re your target client.

Adopt the mindset of “relationships first”, and Twitter will start to make sense.

2. Fix Your Bio

Yes, Twitter is a space for relationships, so it’s a good idea to make your bio shine with personality and pizzazz.

But if all your bio does is tell people that you love dogs and coffee, then you won’t be picking up clients anytime soon.

Your bio should explain what you do and how you help people. Only after you’ve done that should you add in your personal interests.

For more great bio tips, check out our 9 essential posts on writing a Twitter bio (we’ve collected the top tips from Twitter’s big hitters and put them all in one place).

3. Connect with Influencers

We’re using the term “influencers” broadly here.

Basically, we mean you should reach out to the people who can help you achieve your business goals and connect with your clients. These could be:

  • Thought leaders in your industry (who can give you promotional clout)
  • Your ideal clients
  • People who can put you in touch with your ideal clients

Need an influencer targeting strategy? We’ve put together a handy guide on getting attention from Twitter influencers.

4. Run Searches for Gigs

We’ve said that Twitter isn’t a place for pitching clients.

That’s true, with one exception. This is the only exception.

You can pitch people on Twitter who have mentioned that they need your services. E.g. if someone has tweeted “I’m looking for a web designer”, and you’re a web designer, then pitch, pitch, pitch, baby!

How can you find the people who are looking for your services? Run an advanced search. Yup, we’ve got help at hand for that too. Check out our guide to finding gigs on Twitter.

Your Call

What do you do to find clients on Twitter? Let us know in the comments section, below.

Business Blogs

Information is money.

The more you know, the faster you can get ahead.

Problem? We’re drowning in information. It’s everywhere! So where you can find relevant and helpful information on running your business?

Here are our top 11 must-read business blogs (with a slight social twist). We hope you’ll love them as much as we do!

1. LinkedIn Pulse

What is it?: LinkedIn Pulse collects articles that are relevant to your industry and business interests. It’s the perfect way to start your working day (together with a mug of coffee).

Who writes it?: A LinkedIn Robot. It’s a collection of articles from across LinkedIn’s blog network, so the authors could be anyone in your industry.

Why we love it: It’s tailor-made just for you. And LinkedIn boasts some of the world’s best business writing.

Check it out: LinkedIn Pulse.

2. You’re the Boss

What is it?: A blog about running a small business, by small business owners published by The New York Times. On the blog you’ll find advice, case studies and analysis.

Who writes it?: You’re the Boss has over 15 contributors including Rebekah Campbell, founder of Posse, Colleen DeBaise, director of The Story Exchange (where women mean business), and Gene Marks, who runs a 10-person consultancy.

Why we love it: The best teacher is experience, and this is advice from the trenches. We also like that it’s targeted at small business owners.

Check it out: You’re the Boss.

3. Harvard Business Review

What is it?: A collection of articles from Harvard Business School’s flagship publication. It covers everything from marketing to workplace conflict to the future of capitalism.

Who writes it?: The top writers and thinkers in the world of business are invited to contribute. Contributors are typically business owners or academic researchers who have written a business book.

Why we love it: It makes our brains light up! It’s the place to go for thought-provoking articles and advice on business.

Check it out: Harvard Business Review.

4. Lifehacker

What is it?: A blog about getting things done. That’s right, it’s productivity central. Perfect for procrastinators and people who need to get things done.

Who writes it?: Editor-in-chief is Whitson Gordon. Regular contributors include Eric Ravenscraft and Mihir Patkar. Plus there are a ton of guest writers.

Why we love it: Because if you run a business, you need to get stuff done. And Lifehacker provides all the cutting-edge advice on how to make that happen.

Check it out: Lifehacker.

5. Social Media Examiner

What is it? The world-leading blog on the subject of social media marketing. It covers everything social media related, from using social media as a PR tool to advice on creating a social media strategy.

Who writes it?: Cindy King is director of editorial and a regular contributor. There are also a wide range of guest authors.

Why we love it: It’s all about social media, our favorite thing!

Check it out: Social Media Examiner.

6. Seth’s Blog

What is it?: The musings and philosophy of marketing raconteur and maverick, Seth Godin. Most of the posts can be read in less than a minute.

Who writes it?: The clue’s in the name. Seth Godin is the only author here.

Why we love it: Every post Seth writes helps us see the world in a new way. It really is that good. Also, Seth writes and publishes a new blog post (sometimes two new blog posts) pretty much every day, so there’s always plenty of brain candy to go around.

Check it out: Seth’s Blog.

7. BufferSocial

What is it?: The official blog of the social media scheduling tool, Buffer App. On Buffer’s blog you’ll find articles on social media strategy, consumer psychology, productivity and content marketing.

Who writes it? Buffer’s leader writers are Nicole Miller and Kevan Lee.

Why we love it: We’d probably love anything created by BufferApp, considering that it’s our favorite scheduling tool. Even so, Buffer’s blog is amazing. Every article is in-depth and well researched.

Check it out: BufferSocial.

8. Derek Sivers

What is it?: The thoughts and ideas of entrepreneur, programmer and intrepid traveler Derek Sivers. On his blog you’ll find reflections on creativity, business, life and travel.

Who writes it?: Most of the posts are written by Derek himself, with occasional contributions from guest writers.

Why we love it: Derek Sivers has walked the walk. He founded CD Baby, which went on to be the largest online seller of independent music. He’s a deep thinker, so if you’re into pondering the meaning of life (or just wondering about how to offer good customer service), then this is the blog for you.

Check it out: Derek Sivers.

9. QuickSprout

What is it?: QuickSprout is the online home of Neil Patel, who’s the co-founder of Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics. On QuickSprout you’ll find articles on SEO, copywriter, consumer psychology and growth hacking.

Who writes it?: Investor, advisor and entrepreneur Neil Patel.

Why we love it: What we love most about QuickSprout is Neil’s focus on metrics and optimization. The internet allows pretty much everything to be tracked and measured, and Neil shows you how to make the most of all this information.

Check it out: QuickSprout.

10. HubSpot

What is it?: HubSpot creates and sells internet marketing software to help businesses better engage with their online customers. Their blog covers everything from social selling to must-read business books.

Who writes it?: HubSpot has a huge team of quality writers.

Why we love it: HubSpot tests everything and they’re not afraid to share the results of their experiments. Every article on the blog is pack full with value.

Check it out: HubSpot Blog.

11. Practical eCommerce

What is it?: A blog that’s all about selling stuff online. If it’s related to eCommerce, it’s covered here.

who writes it?: Regular contributors include Sig Ueland, Jill Kocher and Armando Roggio.

Why we love it: Okay, we confess, this one’s at the dry end of the blogging spectrum. There’s not much scintillating writing here. What you will find is solid advice and analysis. And that’s just what you need when you’re running a business, right?

Over to You

What are your must-read business blogs? Let us know in the comments section, below.