In a social media landscape dominated by Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that these networks define social media, and that efforts to network among stakeholders and professionals in the traditional, offline business sense — an activity that is utterly key to the commercial real estate business — should be centered on these three social media giants just because that’s where all the action is.
That conclusion would be wrong.
When trying to put the web into perspective, it’s important to remember that the web is young. Without the benefit of many decades of history to draw from, the web in many ways doesn’t know things about itself. Basic things. Like who is coming to your website and why.
We’re not entirely in the dark about this — the area of marketing is called web analytics, and we learn much when we study it.
But because of the way the basic web technology works, we can’t learn everything we need to learn.
A recent article in Atlantic by Alexis Madrigal underscores how little we know by pointing out that a giant category of web traffic called direct traffic adds up to far more web traffic to your website than all the focus on the big social media networks would have us believe. Below, he refers to it as “dark social”:
And then one day, we had a meeting with the real-time web analytics firm, Chartbeat. Like many media nerds, I love Chartbeat. It lets you know exactly what’s happening with your stories, most especially where your readers are coming from. Recently, they made an accounting change that they showed to us. They took visitors who showed up without referrer data and split them into two categories. The first was people who were going to a homepage (theatlantic.com) or a subject landing page (theatlantic.com/politics). The second were people going to any other page, that is to say, all of our articles. These people, they figured, were following some sort of link because no one actually types “http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/10/atlast-the-gargantuan-telescope-designed-to-find-life-on-other-planets/263409/.” They started counting these people as what they call direct social.
The second I saw this measure, my heart actually leapt (yes, I am that much of a data nerd). This was it! They’d found a way to quantify dark social, even if they’d given it a lamer name!
On the first day I saw it, this is how big of an impact dark social was having on The Atlantic.
The web marketing world more often than not overlooks dark traffic, shrugging that the visitors must have gotten there by typing a whole URL or by clicking a bookmark. But the far more compelling explanation is this: much of that web traffic is generated by the sharing of links by email.
Email, that business staple that we keep hearing is “dead”. That our kids look at us funny for using. That relatively boring, ancient application that calls for your attention for longer than a tweet or a “like” ever could.
What this means is if the listings, the research, the news we need to do our jobs appear to you to not lend themselves necessarily to Twitter or Facebook, or that your email distribution lists just seem to work — it’s not that you’re wrong. It’s that Twitter and Facebook aren’t the only networking game in town. Once you start counting properly, it turns out that good old email is just as social as they are.