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Jul 14, 2023 A88Lab.

Understanding the Dark Funnel: A Guide for B2B SaaS Marketers

How many of us struggle to attribute the direct and referral traffic on our website?

The answer is ALL OF US.

Why? Because most of the shares, communications, referrals, and word-of-mouth happens in places where software attribution has no access, the Dark Funnel.

According to some studies, 77.5% of social media sharing happens through dark funnel channels. This means that a large portion of the traffic that SaaS businesses receive is coming from channels that they can't track or measure.

What is the Dark Funnel?

Dark Funnel refers to the sharing of content through private channels that are difficult to track and measure. Unlike public social media platforms where content sharing is visible and traceable, Dark Funnel occurs in one-on-one conversations, private messaging apps, email, and other non-public channels. It's like a hidden underground network where people share content without leaving any public trace.

When someone shares a link via direct messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or Slack, it falls under Dark Funnel. Additionally, sharing content through email, instant messaging platforms, or even copying and pasting links from a website directly into another platform are examples of Dark Funnel activities.

What does the Dark Funnel mean for SaaS marketers?

Dark Funnel poses a unique challenge for SaaS marketers because it undermines the ability to accurately measure and attribute the impact of content shared through private channels. The absence of clear data on Dark Funnel shares can lead to incomplete insights, making it difficult for marketers to optimize their strategies and allocate resources effectively.

For example, let's say a SaaS company launches a new whitepaper and shares it on social media platforms. The post receives moderate engagement, but little do they know that their customers are privately sharing the whitepaper via email or messaging apps, leading to a significant increase in downloads that goes unnoticed. Without measuring Dark Funnel, the company might miss out on understanding the true impact of their content and fail to capitalize on its success.

Here are some examples of Dark Funnel:

a. Sharing through Private Messaging Apps:

When someone sends a link or content to a friend through messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or Slack, it becomes a Dark Funnel share.

Example of messaging apps sharing:


b. Email Sharing:

When users copy and paste a link from a website into an email to share it with specific individuals or groups, it falls into the realm of Dark Funnel.

Example of email sharing:





c. Word-of-Mouth Sharing:

When people have conversations in person or over the phone and recommend a specific website, blog post, or product without sharing it publicly, it becomes a Dark Funnel share.

d. Closed or private communities:

When someone shares a link to recommend a specific product, or a solution to a question posted in communities like Quora, Reddit etc.

How can the Dark Funnel impact SaaS companies?

Dark Funnel can have a significant impact on SaaS businesses by influencing website traffic, brand awareness, customer acquisition, and conversion rates. Since Dark Funnel shares are challenging to track, SaaS marketers may underestimate the true reach and impact of their content. This lack of visibility may result in misinformed decisions, missed opportunities, and ineffective resource allocation.

Consider a scenario where a SaaS company launches a new feature and shares it on public social media platforms. While they receive a decent amount of website traffic from those channels, they fail to recognize that a significant portion of users discovered the new feature through Dark Funnel shares. By accurately measuring Dark Funnel, the company could identify the true impact of their marketing efforts, refine their strategies, and allocate resources more effectively.

How to adapt content strategy for the Dark Funnel

To adapt content strategies for Dark Funnel, SaaS marketers should consider the following approaches:

Create shareable content

Develop content that is highly engaging, valuable, and easily shareable. When people find content worth sharing, they are more likely to take the extra step of copy-pasting or sharing through private channels.

For instance, a SaaS company could create interesting infographics, interactive videos, social media posts, factsheets or informative blog posts that are tailored to their target audience's interests and pain points. By providing valuable content, users are more likely to share it privately with their network, increasing Dark Funnel reach.

Implement sharing buttons

Include social sharing buttons on your website and blog posts to encourage users to share content easily. While this won't directly measure Dark Funnel shares, it can provide insights into public social media shares.

By making it effortless for users to share content on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, you increase the chances of them sharing publicly. Although these shares are trackable through traditional analytics, they can indirectly indicate the success and reach of Dark Funnel shares.

Use UTM parameters

Implement UTM parameters in your URLs to track the traffic coming from shared links. This method can help differentiate between Dark Funnel and other traffic sources in your analytics.

By appending UTM parameters to the links shared within Dark Funnel channels, SaaS marketers can gain insights into the traffic generated from those shares. By analyzing the data, marketers can identify trends and patterns in Dark Funnel shares, leading to a better understanding of their impact.

Hybrid-Attribution: The Art of Measuring the Unmeasurable

To truly harness the power of Dark Funnel, SaaS marketers need a comprehensive approach that goes beyond traditional measurement tools. 

This is where hybrid attribution comes into play. By combining the capabilities of attribution software with self-reported attribution, marketers can improve their attribution results and gain better insights into the performance of their marketing activities.

With a deeper understanding of Dark Funnel's influence, marketers can make data-driven decisions, optimize their strategies, and allocate resources more effectively.

For example, by analyzing the patterns and trends in Dark Funnel shares, marketers can gain a deeper understanding of their target market's preferences, behaviors, and content resonance. This knowledge can inform content creation, audience targeting, and personalized messaging, leading to more effective marketing campaigns.

However, there are some self-reported approaches to measuring Dark Funnel:

Surveys and customer feedback

Conducting surveys or soliciting customer feedback can provide valuable insights into the sources and channels through which customers discover and share content. Including open-ended questions related to content sharing can help uncover Dark Funnel activities.

For example, after customers download a whitepaper or complete a purchase, a SaaS company can include a voluntary feedback section that asks, "How did you hear about us?" or "How did you learn about this product?". By analyzing the responses, marketers can gain insights into Dark Funnel activities and channels.

Here's an example of how we implement this on our website:



Social listening and sentiment analysis

Monitoring social media conversations and sentiment analysis can provide indirect indicators of Dark Funnel activity. By tracking mentions (@), hashtags (#), and brand references, marketers can gain a broader understanding of content sharing beyond publicly available data.

SaaS marketers can utilize social listening tools like Brandwatch, Hootsuite, or Sprout Social to monitor conversations related to their brand or industry. By analyzing the sentiment and context of these conversations, marketers can identify Dark Funnel mentions and gauge the impact of shared content.

Interpreting and acting on the Dark Funnel metrics

When analyzing Dark Funnel metrics, SaaS marketers should consider the following actions:

a. Identify trends: Look for patterns and commonalities in Dark Funnel shares to gain insights into audience preferences, content resonance, and potential brand advocates.

For instance, by identifying specific types of content that consistently generate Dark Funnel shares, marketers can create more of that content to further engage their audience and amplify the reach through private channels.

b. Optimize content: Use the insights gained from Dark Funnel metrics to refine content strategies, focusing on creating more shareable and engaging content.

By understanding which topics or formats resonate well within Dark Funnel channels, SaaS marketers can optimize their content creation process to align with audience preferences and encourage more sharing.

c. Engage with customers: Actively participate in conversations and engage with customers who share your content through Dark Funnel. This not only builds brand loyalty but also helps establish a stronger connection with your audience.

For example, if a SaaS company discovers that a particular customer consistently shares their blog posts privately, they can reach out to that customer to express appreciation and offer personalized assistance. This engagement not only strengthens the customer relationship but may also encourage the customer to continue sharing content through Dark Funnel channels.

What does the Dark Funnel mean for Demand Generation?

Dark Funnel presents both challenges and opportunities for demand generation strategies. While it complicates accurate measurement, it also highlights the importance of fostering personal relationships and creating content that resonates deeply with individuals. By understanding Dark Funnel, SaaS marketers can refine their demand generation efforts to better target and engage with potential customers.

For demand generation, SaaS marketers can focus on building referral programs or advocacy initiatives that incentivize customers to share content privately. By providing rewards, exclusive access, or discounts to customers who refer others through Dark Funnel channels, marketers can tap into this hidden network and increase brand visibility.


Dark Funnel is an intriguing and often overlooked aspect of social media. As SaaS marketers, understanding its existence and impact is crucial for building effective content strategies, measuring true reach, and optimizing marketing efforts. By acknowledging the limitations of current measurement tools, adopting alternative approaches, and leveraging customer insights, SaaS marketers can harness the power of Dark Funnel and unlock new opportunities for growth in the digital landscape.

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