Posts Taged digital-marketing

Dark Social: Digital Word of Mouth


“Dark social” isn’t as malicious as it sounds. The term was coined by Alexis Madrigal in an article for The Atlantic in 2012 to describe the sharing of information in emails and instant messengers – sharing that existed long before social media platforms were popular. Social media ROI is getting easier to measure, but dark social is more difficult. And it accounts for a huge portion of the referrals your website is probably getting.

When looking through your Google Analytics, you probably notice a large chunk of the referrals are listed in the “direct traffic” category. These hits can come from a variety of behind-the-scenes sources; a link shared through text, email, native mobile apps (like Facebook’s), messengers, Slack messages, Snapchat, and someone using a secure HTTPS browser all fall in this bucket. It’s word of mouth on the internet, but not the kind you can track easily through Facebook Insights.

The Struggle for Social Media Strategists

While it’s great to have so many avenues for your content to be shared, dark social adds to the struggle for social media teams in proving the value of what they do. If you can’t specifically show that these direct traffic hits are from people copying and sharing a link you put on Facebook, it’s tough to show true ROI. Social media marketers are under a lot of pressure to show concrete metrics, which is sometimes next to impossible. There’s no real way to say “yes, all of these direct traffic hits were from text messages sent in this market.”


Dark social can also make optimizing content tough. Without knowing how the content is being shared specifically, marketers can’t design it for those platforms. These shares are likely hitting demographics that may not be on other social channels, like the 55 and older age group. When you can’t pin down the audience and the channel, it’s difficult to be strategic.

Shining the Light on Dark Social

So, what can PR pros and marketers do about dark social? Here’s a few things to focus on to get a better handle on this type of sharing:

  • Use Google Analytics’ customer URL builder. This can help with proving that your social sharing is driving dark social communication, and which posts are bringing in the most referrals. No matter where the link is clicked from, you’ll be able to see that it was that specific link you created for your latest Facebook post that brought visitors to the website.


google analytics

  • Invest in a tool made for dark social tracking, like st by Radium One.
  • Make shareable content a priority. Even when it’s hard to track, dark social is still sharing of your content. Make sure your social posts are shareable – find the emotional connection, keep text short, and include visuals whenever possible. You might not be able to optimize it for a Snapchat message, but you can still focus on creating content that resonates with your audience, no matter where they are.

From Points to Pixels—Marketing Digital Content in Print Media

We’re in a weird spot right now—digital content is an essential part of any marketing campaign, but we’re also still producing a lot of print materials. We can build beautiful, comprehensive campaigns, but the way these two types of media interact with each other is a little awkward.

I was recently working on some print collateral for a client, and came across a challenge for which I didn’t have a great solution. Without requiring a user to type in a URL, how do we drive recipients of a printed postcard to a corresponding landing page in a slick, mobile-friendly way?

This guy's excited about QR codes.

This guy’s excited about QR codes.

QR Codes

“A QR code, obviously!” you say. The QR code was our best bet for a few years. The codes can be scanned to bring up a webpage from a printed piece. But, they’re ugly. And users have to have the appropriate scanning app. And they just never really caught on in a big way (thank goodness, says the designer).

Surely there’s an alternative by now?

I did some quick research, and the answer is yes! But each has its own twist.

image scanning

Image Scanning

There are a number of image scanning options, but they all work a little differently, and each has its positives and negatives.

Google Goggles (different than Google Glass) allows a user to take a photo of a printed image or barcode, and then it performs an image-based search to pick the best match. Cool! But it’s only available on Android…not as cool.

From what I can tell, SnapTag takes a similar approach to the QR code, in that you scan a custom-built barcode image to pull up digital content. As their site says, “SnapTag mobile barcodes are like interactive buttons for the real world.” Perfect! Prettier code, simple interactivity. But they require a hefty monthly engagement to use their tool, so it’s not something I can quickly leverage for many clients.

Clickable Paper uses hotspots rather than barcodes or marks, so the user can scan over that spot in an image to pull up content. It looks cool, but it does require an app download, and I’m not clear on how to engage the service based on the information on their site.

blippar augmented reality

Blippar offers robust “augmented reality campaigns.”

Augmented Reality

Blippar call itself a “visual discovery browser” that focuses on “augmented reality campaigns” on mobile. It’s a much more robust tool, with some really cool interactivity. In a quick test, I was able to assign links to an image, then use the Blippar app to immediately call up those links when pointing my phone at the image. However, it does require an app download, and the tutorial required for new users makes it a little tricky to implement on smaller print pieces, so it’s better for bigger outlets like magazines with lots of rich media offerings. Maybe it will catch on in a big way, making for less of a learning curve among users.

nfc_moo offers NFC business cards with their ‘Business Cards+’ product.

NFC technology

I wrote a post awhile back about NFC enabled business cards. Printed pieces with an embedded NFC chip need only be tapped by an NFC compatible device to pull up a range of digital destinations (contact information, websites, social media profiles, etc.). Printing these pieces can be a little spendy compared to standard prints, and you’d have to hope that most users are carrying around a compatible device. But this is an interesting option for the right project.

No silver bullet

All that said, there doesn’t seem to be a very simple or widely adopted solution for basic print-to-digital actions at this point. But it seems like we are very, very close.

Did I miss any? Has your brand used any print-to-digital action technologies or apps? I’d love to hear about them.

3 Takeaways from Digital Summit Portland 2016

digital summit portland content marketing

This past week, I was able to attend the inaugural Digital Summit Portland at the Portland Art Museum. A meeting of the minds among social media, SEO, content marketing, and UX experts, the conference provided a wealth of information and networking opportunities. Speakers from companies like Pinterest, Microsoft, Facebook, and Uber gave me some inspiration for our clients’ programs. The conference provided a guide on where the digital realm is going in the next few years. For the first year, the conference was very successful, and I’m looking forward to what next year’s event will bring.

Three key takeaways I found during the Summit:

Jump on the Pokemon GO Bandwagon Now

Pokemon GO hasn’t been live even a month yet, and it’s already taking over the digital world. Every single talk I went to mentioned the augmented reality (AR) game. Plenty of conference goers were catching the creatures on their cell phones in between sessions. By day 2 of the conference, the app had surpassed Twitter in daily active users on Android.

Virtual reality and AR are tools we already know will affect communications in the next decade, and Pokemon GO is one of the first wide-spread iterations of this technology. Because the game encourages players to visit real life locations that have been marked as “PokeStops” to collect in game items, savvy businesses have already taken advantage of PokeStops located at or near their stores. Users of any kind can purchase “lures” in the game to drop at PokeStops that will attract Pokemon to the site for a set period of time. If a PokeStop is near a business, the store can purchase lures and drop them during business hours to attract people hoping to catch the Pokemon drawn to the lure. This is a great idea for places like coffee shops and cafes. They come for the Pokemon, they stay for a coffee break.

Businesses will also soon be able to pay to be a Sponsored PokeStop if there’s not one near their location.

Content Marketing is just Marketing

Content marketing sounds like a “buzzy” phrase, but according to the experts at Digital Summit Portland, it’s really just marketing. Content marketing has been around for quite some time, and simply focuses on creating personalized experiences for the individuals in your customer base. Based on the discussions at the conference, content marketing is here to stay and will likely be considered a foundational piece of any marketing program in the next few years.

Influencers aren’t defined by follower number

Influencer marketing is a trendy communications topic right now. Social media lifestyle gurus constantly promoting the latest detox tea, work out gear, and makeup. Brands of all kinds want to see their products on the biggest influencers’ pages. However, according to a few panels I sat in on at Digital Summit, the largest, difficult to land influencers aren’t necessarily the best. Follower number doesn’t make you an expert. The key is to know what influencers exist in your arena, and how you can leverage them to talk to your audience. Whether they have 12,000 followers or 1,200 doesn’t matter. Those 1,200 might be key members of your audience you want to reach, and there may be only 500 members of your target audience in that 12,000.

Were you at Digital Summit last week? I’d love to chat with you about what your highlights were!

3 Digital Marketing Challenges and How to Overcome Them

There are numerous challenges online marketers face in the social media and digital marketing space. Below are 3 common challenges along with tips for overcoming them.

1. Challenge: Effectively Targeting Your Prospective Consumer.

Solution: Establish Your Buyer Personas.

According to Hubspot, it is important to develop a detailed picture of your target audience. Identifying your buyer personas ensures your message resonates with your intended audience and is providing value. You can develop buyer personas with these 3 steps: segment your target consumer by demographics, identify their needs, and develop behavior-based profiles. Ultimately, this will help tailor your content accordingly to your audience.

2. Challenge: Your content doesn’t engage.

Solution: Put the story first.

According to Content Marketing World, content for content’s sake doesn’t work, it’s the story that matters. To create engaging content, marketers need to become storytellers and educators.

How to source your next great idea?

  • Talk to your sales team to find out what are the most common customer queries
  • Research Google Keywords to find out what your customers are searching for
  • Take on a familiar subject with a different angle
  •  Create content your customers can emotionally invest in
  •  Appeal to who your customer’s aspiration
  •  Review my recent blog post for inspiration on content ideas


When it comes to crafting social media content, PR Daily advises it’s important to humanize your content by asking the following:

  • Would you be excited to be a member of your social community?
  • Would you share the content you provide?
  • Does the communication from your business come across as personable and trustworthy? Why or why not?


Viewing your content as a consumer, rather than a marketer, will help you humanize the voice of your content. In turn, this will increase engagement with your target audience.

3. Challenge: Enhancing Social Engagement Without Noise.

Solution: Build relationships based on customer loyalty and brand value. Don’t over-promote and instead focus on increasing word-of-mouth promotions.

According to Ahrefs’ Blog, many brands fail to realize the difference between pertinent social marketing communications versus noise. Having a relevant reason to engage your audience is key.

A few suggestions on ways to enhance social engagement without coming across as too noisy:

  • Solve consumer problems via social media.
  • Don’t always promote your products or services. Share what the users will love to see.
  • Build relationships between your brand and prospects.
  • Provide a meaningful reason to people to talk about your brand.
  • Enhance your product and customer experience to encourage people to talk positively about your brand.


What are some digital marketing challenges you’ve faced and how did you overcome them? Please feel free to share them in the comment section below.

Girl Scouts Go High Tech

Girl Scouts cookie

It’s that time of year: My Facebook feed is slowly but surely starting to fill up with pictures of Girl Scouts and their cookie order forms. But the changes this year go far beyond the addition of a new cookie; for the first time since cookie sales began nearly a century ago, the parent organization will allow online cookie sales.

The new online platform will allow local Girl Scouts to market their online cookie businesses by inviting customers to visit their personalized cookie websites through a link sent via email. Customers who buy cookies from girls will be able to have their order processed, paid for and confirmed at point of sale, with the option of having cookies shipped directly to them or delivered by the Girl Scout. You can go even online to find out where and when the girl scouts will be at your favorite grocery store or sign up to receive an email alert when new booth sales are announced.

For many girls, cookie sales are the first exposure to developing sales, marketing and general communication skills, as traditionally they have gone door-to-door, worked in booths or made signs to post in their parents’ offices. And now, with the addition of the online sales platform, potentially their first exposure to online commerce.

It’s a natural progression of the cookie-selling empire, for sure. But will these Girls Scouts get the same experience from online sales, or will the learning lessons inherent in the process be lost in the digital interaction? What do you think?