The Forgotten Social Web May Not Be So Forgotten

Alexis Madrigal had a very interesting article in The Atlantic last Friday. In his article he talks about there really being two social “networks,” one is the one that gets all the hype, led by Facebook and Twitter, and the other is what he dubs “dark social” networks, or those that can’t be tracked. Included is email, instant messages and the like. It turns out that 57% of The Atlantic’s traffic and 70% across Chartbeat’s media partner sites are referrals via dark social media. Chartbeat is the company tracking data for The Atlantic and others.

If you think optimizing your Facebook page and Tweets is “optimizing for social,” you’re only halfway (or maybe 30 percent) correct. 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.

So the social web (web 2.0) revolution didn’t create social, as Alexis points out, instead it structured it and made it trackable.

We optimized powerOne to share via email. While we technically have the ability to know how much it is used we aren’t tracking that data. It would be interesting to know. Furthermore, and again under the heading of “can’t possibly know,” it would be interesting to know how much of powerOne’s success has come from one person showing another person the app. I hear from customers all the time who say they tell everyone they know about the app. Given the amount of conversation on Twitter about it, email and word of mouth has got to be huge.