Decode Dark Social using UTM Parameters


As a Digital Marketeer, you might have come across various incidents where you might have seen increase in traffic for your website. But, don’t know where it comes from, what are the sources.

In this article I will try to answer your questions related to unknown audience and help you understand where this audience found you.

Imagine this Scenario: You’re at work and it’s hitting 4 o’clock on the wall. To revive your spirits, you browse through Facebook and find huge discounts on the brand of denims you wanted to buy lately. You flip through their collection and find three pairs quite appealing but you are confused which one to buy. You quickly copy the URLs and send it on Skype to your colleague and ask him to choose one for you.

Congratulations, you have just entered into Dark Social act.


What is Dark Social or Dark Traffic?

We have all done this. We have shared articles, blogs, news, products on chat, messaging apps, IM and in email — outside the mainstays of the digital marketing ecosystem. Then, there are sites which do not collect any information on users, do not use their cookies.

Techopedia says,

Dark social is a term coined by Alexis C. Madrigal, a senior editor at The Atlantic (, to refer to the social sharing of content that occurs outside of what can be measured by Web analytics programs. This mostly occurs when a link is sent via online chat or email, rather than shared over a social media platform, from which referrals can be measured.

The prevalence of sharing through dark social suggests that social media marketing that fails to focus on the type and quality of content may be overlooking a huge portion of social sharing. –

Understanding the Percentages for Dark Social

Alexis C. Madrigal coined the word “Dark Social”. In 2012, Madrigal wrote an article for The Atlantic called “Dark Social: We Have The Whole History of the Web Wrong

Madrigal findings revealed that 56.5% of total traffic to The Atlantic website was Dark Social. Following is the break-up of traffic generate on The Atlantic:

Photo Credit: The Atlantic (

By looking at these percentages, you can very well understand how Big “Dark Social” can be. This explains the amount of your marketing efforts go wasted and you cannot understand which are the prime sources of traffic.

I understand it has become very complicated and you might be confused.

Here is the solution, so keep reading.

Decoding the Dark Social or Dark Traffic:

After understanding the “Dark Social”, your marketeer brain must have started looking for the possible options to break the “Dark Social” Labyrinth.

There is one way to un-hide your hidden audience. This can be done using UTM parameters.

Just-in-case you are not aware about UTM parameters –

They are little codes added manually to the URL of a website. They are basically the tracking codes which help a marketeer understand the Where? When? What ? How? of audience. They help you monitor the audience coming from particular codes.

So, next time you run marketing campaigns on different platforms don’t forget to use UTM parameters. And Voila! You know where your audience is coming from.

Understanding the UTM parameters:

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