What if I told you that the content on your blog and on your social media accounts is reaching audiences far and wide, even though you don’t have the stats to back it up? What if I told you that people from all over the country or ALL OVER THE WORLD are aware of your library and its services? Would you believe me if I said that your reach extends far beyond anything you can fathom or measure?

Welcome to the world of Dark Social.

No, it’s not a Jedi Master, “May the Force be with you” thing. This is a real phenomenon and it’s affects all kinds of companies. Depending on how you look at it, it’s either a window of opportunity or super frustrating. OR BOTH. But it does affect everything you do.

Mark Schaefer, one of the leading social media experts working in marketing today, says that on average, most marketers can only identify about two percent of their total audience via social media metrics.


That means the glaring majority of your social audience–an astounding 98 percent–are lurking around, reading your stuff, absorbing your content, and not leaving any trace of themselves. You don’t know how old they are. You don’t know where they live. You don’t know if they are using their library cards or if they are just consuming your content and then getting books, music, magazines, and more from some other source.

Is anyone else frustrated by this? HOW IS THIS HAPPENING?

One recent study revealed 70 percent of all the sharing of content done on social media is done in a way that cannot be measured by analytics currently available to marketers. Emails, private or direct messages, texts, forum postings and Snapchat are all untrackable.


It makes total sense. How many times has your mom emailed you a link to an article she thinks you need to read? How many times has someone sent you a Facebook message with content they didn’t want to share publicly on your wall? A bunch, right?

All this undercover sharing is frustrating. But what can you do about?

Big brands can spend money with fancy software to help them track dark social. A library cannot. But we do have two free and powerful tools at our disposal.

  1. Short urls or branded urls for sharing. is my favorite tool and it is within most library’s price range. You can buy a branded url and use it for every link you share socially. A branded url is more trustworthy, and followers, fans, and non-fans who come across one of your branded urls are more likely to share it because it’s linked directly, in name, to you!
  2. Personal touch. We should use the free and powerful tool…of talking. Don’t ignore the people who take the time to comment on your blog posts or share your content on Twitter right where you can see it, with tags and everything. You must respond to everyone who engages with your library on social media. Why? Because for every one of those outspoken, socially savvy people, there are thousands more who aren’t talking but who are thinking the same thing. Plus, front line library staff need to do the best job of any company ever on the face of the planet Earth in actually talking about services and programs to people to their face. It’s hard for some of us. We’re introverts. But a one-on-one conversation with your customer has a lasting impact. People are impressed by a library that excels in personal interaction. And sometimes that means your staff has to be a mind-reader. How many times have you seen a customer kind of wandering around, looking hesitant, appearing to need help? Maybe they’re too shy to ask. Maybe they don’t even know what kind of help they need. Train your staff to recognize that “deer in headlights” look and empower them to make the first move to help that cardholder.

That’s the bottom line of this slightly ranty post. We need to be more personal. Stop relying on signs, on posts, on website links to tell your customers what you can do for them. Tell them in person.


Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare,  Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.