Until a few years ago, businesses struggled to understand how effective their social media marketing efforts were because there was no way to measure and analyze data. Then came the analytics tools that helped them with it and companies began to rely heavily on these social media analytics tools to analyze customer behavior and base their marketing strategies on it.
However, businesses are still struggling to match their social media ROI with their social media analytics. Why? Because there is a gaping hole in the data they use for analyzing customer sharing behavior. The picture they have about their social media audience and their sharing habits is all wrong and consequently, their social media strategy is all wrong.
Here’s why – Reason #1: Focusing only on open social media platforms
For many people, social media means Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest and other such open platforms. But they are wrong. Social media is much more than that, much bigger and a huge part of sharing and engagement takes place there too. Since it is not openly visible, you tend to ignore it and you fail to get the true picture. This can adversely affect your analytics and social media strategy.
While measuring the performance, people don’t take into account the private social media platforms. These include the address bar sharing (or the copy/pasting URLs), emails, online chats and instant messaging. These channels are also quite popular for social sharing. In fact, it has been found that after Facebook, which is the most popular social sharing platform, it is the address bar sharing which is next most favored for sharing.
Today, most of the social activity takes place via mobiles and the trend continues to grow. Mobiles play a significant role in sharing activity. However, it is not only sharing, but how they share is also very important for a business to know. Sharing on mobiles is more through private channels like chatting, instant messaging or emailing. Here, the content sharing is done with a single person or a group of persons privately.
The volume of such kind of sharing is quite significant but is not being taken into account since it is private. The sharing here has more impact as it is from friends, family or people we know i.e. from a trusted source. Such content is highly targeted because in private channels, content is likely to be shared between persons having the same interests. So the probability of them clicking on the link is very high.
For example if you like a video commercial for a new car model and you share its link via messaging app with your friend who is also interested in cars, chances of him viewing your message and clicking on the link are very high. Besides, since this is a private communication channel, there is no other irrelevant clutter and your message will be noticed immediately. The reach, open and click-through rates of messages and links sent through private channels are almost 100%. In comparison, Facebook’s average organic reach is only about 8 to 10%.
It is observed that private sharing trend is on the rise, especially messaging, but all this is considered as direct traffic instead of social traffic in web analytics.
Reason #2: Dark social traffic remains unaccounted for
Well, we don’t like to share everything through open social networks. Many times we want to share things with, say a friend or a co-worker, through a private message. Now such kind of private sharing is messing up your website’s analytics.
When you visit a site by clicking a link received through an email, instant messenger or online chat, analytics treat it as direct traffic which is not correct. This is actually social traffic which the web analytics fail to trace. This is known as dark social which is the hidden part of social media sharing. Dark social accounts for over 60% of the total online social sharing activity and about 35% of it takes place through mobile devices.
If you think your website is getting a lot of direct traffic, it may be a wrong perception because it is sure to contain dark social traffic as well, which your web analytics have failed to distinguish.
Why is it so?
Because this traffic cannot be identified as coming from a known source such as some social network or Google search. This is private referral traffic which has no tracking tags attached to the link that show from where the traffic is coming from. Here, the referrer data is lost and links become untraceable and this is the reason why it messes up with your web analytics.
You do not get a clear picture about your real social media traffic as most of it is wrongly categorized into direct traffic. This undervalued social media traffic will mislead you into making bad marketing decisions which in turn will adversely affect your sales, profits and ROI.
Reason #3 Wrong interpretation of social media sharing
The social sharing that we see on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn etc. is just the tip of the iceberg and merely counting these shares gives you the wrong picture. In reality, social sharing is much more complex as so much of it happens behind the scenes which the traditional web analytics are unable to track. They only give you the number of shares you have got from these social sites and the number of visitors you have got from them.
If we analyze this properly, we will find that the whole process of social sharing is not that simple. It is a complex phenomenon where the sharing is interconnected across different open and private social media networks.
For example, a friend shares an article on Facebook. I find it interesting and share it with a group of friends on WhatsApp. Now from within the group, one friend shares the link on Twitter by copy-pasting, another sends it via email to his brother, a third one shares it with his co-workers through IM, a fourth one shares it on his Facebook account and so on. You can only see how many visitors come through Facebook or Twitter and dark social traffic will show as direct visitors. But you can’t see how the sharing is actually happening in the background. Traditional web analytics cannot accurately measure such a complex form of sharing and give you the wrong data.
In short, there are numerous social media channels both public and private and different people are sharing content differently using any one or more channels of their choice or convenience. Today’s web analytics cannot track the entire complex sharing process and your understanding of how your brand content is being shared is all wrong.
How will your social strategy look. Get in touch with us and let’s discuss!