Clintavo's Musings on Art, Marketing, Wine and Fine Living

Are You Ignoring the Dark Social Network?

Photo credit: Wim Vandenbussche [3]
Photo credit: Wim Vandenbussche [3]



During the web's young "dark ages", we didn't have social media websites, but we did have social networks.  We shared stories, photos and links with our "social network" via email [1]





Then Came Facebook


Facebook has now become so monstrous it's almost synonymous with the term "social network." [2]   So it's only natural for artists to market art on Facebook.  If you pay attention to "the numbers", particularly the numbers that track referral traffic to websites, it often seems like Facebook is the biggest, badest mabajamba on the planet.


However, there's a problem with the numbers:  Because Facebook website referrals are public data, you know when someone finds your site from a Facebook link....because it's right there in your analytics.  



Another Look at Dark Referrals


But what about when someone shares a link to your site via email?  You know, like we used to do in the "dark ages"?  Answer: links shared in this manner will very often appear in your analytics as "unknown, direct, or bookmarked."   Which means that, unlike Facebook links, traffic that comes to your site from email is private and you don't know how much you are getting.


Real life example:  I like to send a links to a paintings that I love to my wife via email, so that we can discuss possible purchases.  When she clicks one of those links, that's a social link.  You just don't know it.  But it's not really true that it's "direct" or "bookmarked."  It's just "unknown".


We're going to call this "behind the scenes" social network the "dark social network", inspired by this article in the Atlantic.



How Big is the "Dark" Social Network?


Wouldn't it be great if we had some idea how much traffic came from this dark social network?


Good news:  the analytics company Chartbeat, came up with a clever way to measure traffic that arrives to websites via dark social links and here's what they found:


"Dark social is even more important across this broader set of sites. Almost 69% of social referrals were dark!

Facebook came in second at 20%. Twitter was down at 6%."  [source]



Basically, what they said is this: for most sites, Facebook refers 20% of social traffic, while email and IM refers almost 69%.


Of course, that's what we've been saying for years on this site, we just didn't call it "dark social."


The question you need to answer is this: are you having fun playing with the 20% on Facebook, while ignoring the much larger network of people you can reach via the "dark social network?"


If so, please start utilizing email newsletters to market your artwork ASAP!


Remember, Sharing Art Enriches Life.





Clint Watson

FASO Founder, Software Craftsman, Art Fanatic





[1]  Email was known as the "Killer App" of the Internet, just as spreadsheets were known as the "Killer app" of PCs.  And we still share links, stories and photos via email, much more than any other method.  People also shared links in the dark ages via usenet,IRC and instant messages.


[2]  Even the movie about Facebook was called, simply "The Social Network" as if it's the one and only "The" social network.  It's not.


[3] Photo source:


7 Responses to Are You Ignoring the Dark Social Network?

Diane Overmyer
I also feel that my newsletter is my best way of marketing my work to folks who are already fans fo my work. However, I continue to experience difficulties with the alignment of my images and text and the general over all look of my newsletter. I really wish someone could help me. I have yet to be able to conquer that application of your software and recently told a friend who does graphic design that I might have come talk with her. I am not computer techie like you, but I have fairly good computer skills, my guess if I am experiencing trouble over and over, then other artists are as well. Perhaps this is why many simply do not use the newsletter application on FASO.

Clint Watson

We have a new product very close (finally I think) to launching. It is a completely revamped newsletter designer. Making things look correct in email is VERY VERY hard. Even if you (or your friend) gets it to look correct on your screen in a web browser, it won't look the same way on the client end. Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo, Lotus, AppleMail etc. They all render differently. So here's what we've done: We've created a bunch of premade templates. Those templates have all been tested in every major email client (about 40 or so) to be sure they render the same everywhere (or as close to the same as possible).

Then, when you create the newsletter you don't worry about the design. You pick a template, you drop in the images (which automatically size for that template), you paste in your text (and it strips out any code that will cause rendering issues), you add your headline and you send it.

It does allow you to change the colors of various elements, but it doesn't allow you to move stuff around and break it. Once we roll it out, we'll add additional templates to meet everyone's needs as we go and eventually we'll create a template maker that lets you make your own templates.

It is very streamlined. Very easy to use. Easier than any newsletter software I've worked with. It has some goodies that are special for art as well. Our goal with it isn't to make something comprehensive like constant contact. It's to make something SIMPLE and quick that works for the majority of artists.

If you're getting my personal emails like the one I sent today with this article in it, you've seen what the output looks like. I've been using it for my personal newsletter to work out the bugs.

Diane Overmyer
WONDERFUL NEWS CLINT!!!! I can't wait!! That's what I love about you and your staff. If there are problems with new features you work to solve them or make the features easy enough for folks like me!! Thanks so much, I can't wait to put the new features to use!!

Eugene Veszely
The new templates sound just like what a lot of us are looking for.

I've not yet got a Newsletter together, mostly because I dont know what to put in it. Aaand I dont know if it is it worth trying to make a Newsletter when you only have 1 it's your Aunt! lol

Diane Overmyer
Everyone started with only one person who showed an interest in their art. Remember one person who loves art (or you) will often tell other people about you and your work. Put together a newsletter and send it to your aunt, only keep in mind that other people visiting your website might look at that newsletter in the future.

I include the following categories, give or take a few, depending on what is happening when I send a newsletter out:
1.) Upcoming art events (special solo or group shows, openings, art fairs...)
2.) Special awards or new achievements I have been granted or accomplished (this includes anything newsworthy that was not listed in section one.)
3.) New work (it is always good to include at least one photo of a new piece of work you have recently completed, or are nearly finished with...)
4.) Recent works that have sold.
5.) Other art related news, that I think my clients may be interested in.
6.) A list of the galleries that carry my work
7.) A statement reminding people that the images are protected under US copyright law, with a notice stating that people are welcome to forward the newsletter to individuals they know who might be interested in it.
8.) My contact information and web address.

As I stated before, I don't always include everything listed here, but I do try to include at least upcoming events and note worthy news pertaining to my art career.

One other thing you can do is to sign up for other artist's newsletters. I have really enjoyed following a few artist's careers as I have read their newsletters, plus I have learned from seeing what they put in them.

Good luck!

Clint Watson
Eugene - I don't know if you saw my previous post on "Your Hidden Email Subscriber List", but it might give you some ideas on how to grow your list beyond your Aunt:

I've also noticed that activity begets growth. When I send newsletters, my list seems to "magically" grow. When I don't, it doesn't. The nice thing with a small list when you start that as you make the newbie mistakes, not that many people see them! So by the time your list gets bigger you have a better idea how it works.

Katarzyna Lappin
Since the newsletter template topic came out of this string, I would like to praise the FASO team for the phenomenal job on those extra templates. I requested one and it is so awesome. The team not only makes it looking great but they also match the style and the color with your website design. In my opinion FASO provides great professional service, worth every penny I am spending monthly.

As far as social networks I didn't find it too much useful for my art business. I cancelled my subscriptions since it was bringing traffic not resulting in any offers. I was using it experimentally just for extra promotion of my art. From my experience the buyers come mainly from the physical effort of putting work "out there" on the real walls and then using website, blog and newsletters to make sure my art fans are updated with everything I am doing.