How to Use Facebook Dark Posts for Greater Reach
With billions of active users logging on each day, marketing teams are constantly uncovering new ways to boost their efforts on Facebook. One growing trend is the use of “dark posts”. Their somewhat ominous title might be off-putting at first, but we promise - they’re not as shady as they might sound! And, since we had a few clients wanting to know more about the practice - we thought you might too. So here is our run-down on exactly what dark Facebook posts are, and how they can help build your business when used with influencer marketing.
What is “Dark Facebook”?
The term “dark Facebook” is sure to conjure up images of shady goings-on and underhanded techniques. (Or, if you’re like me, it conjures up images of Darth Vader sharing selfies). But, thankfully, this isn’t the case. In fact, these kinds of posts are an increasingly popular way to help streamline your page’s feed and target your posts more effectively. Let us explain.
Why is it called Dark Facebook?
Simply put, dark Facebook posts are posts that haven’t been published on a page. See? We told you they weren’t so scary. In fact, even though we now call them “unpublished posts”, “dark posts” used to be their official name. I’ll give you three guesses why they changed it.
Despite their sinister name, there really is nothing wrong with using these posts as part of your Facebook marketing strategy. But wait, I hear you cry, how can unpublished posts do anything for my page?
The benefits for your business
On Facebook, you can leave a post unpublished, but still spend some money to promote it to your chosen audience. While this may sound strange and unnecessary to some of you, it can actually be a great tactic to keep your feed streamlined, and your posts targeted.
Using dark posts can be incredibly beneficial if your target audience exists in fairly distinct segments. Say, for example, you work globally and have an audience in various countries, with a range of different languages. You don’t want someone coming to your page and seeing the exact same post repeated in five different languages, do you? That would just look messy and unorganised.
In these kinds of situations, using something like “dark posts” allows you to send out these targeted promoted posts, without spamming your entire audience with unsuitable content. Instead, you can create a selection of posts, adjust each posts target audience, and promote them to the right people. Campaigns like this are much more likely to bring you a greater ROI than any kind of blanket marketing posts.
How to use “Dark Posts”
I’m guessing that, as a social media marketer, you’re probably already fairly familiar with the inner workings of Facebook’s pages and ad manager tools. But, even if you’re not, creating these dark posts is still pretty simple to wrap your head around.
Step one: Log into ad manager
If you’re running a page on Facebook, and don’t already use Business Manager to keep it in check, drop what you’re doing and go fix that. Then, log into the ad manager section ready to create some dark posts.
Through the hamburger menu in the top left corner, select “Page Posts” under the “Create and Manage” menu. Then, from here, select the “Ad Posts” option from the left-hand side, and finally, click on “Create Post”.
Step Two: Create Your Post
You should now be greeted with a pop-up window where you can create your post just like you usually would. You can add images, video, links - the whole shebang. So go on and create your awesome Facebook post to bring in those leads and link clicks.
Then, you have two options for how you want the post to be used: “Only use this post for an ad”, or “Use this post for an ad. It will also be published on the Page later”. Selecting the first of these two options will make your post a “dark post”, and reserve it for ad status only.
Step Three: Using your “dark post”
Finally, you want to go into Ad manager and create your marketing campaign. Set the budget, target audience, and duration as you normally would. When you get down to choosing the content you’ll be using, you can simply select “Use existing post” and your recently created “dark post” will be sitting there waiting for you.
It really is that simple and easy to do, and there’s nothing shady about it!
When to use “dark posts”
We already touched a little on why “dark posts” can be beneficial for your business, but let’s delve a little deeper into when and how you should be using these in your marketing campaigns.
“Dark posts” are fantastic for carrying out some good, old-fashioned A/B testing. With these hidden posts, you’re able to discreetly test which image, copy, or incentive works best for your audience, without clogging up your feed with multiple versions of the same post.
With this method, you can test for the best creative, best targeting, and best posting time - without anyone even noticing what you’re doing. Perfect.
Having the ability to only show your posts to certain segments of your audience is an awesome way to carry out some local market targeting. Let’s look at a couple of examples of why this can be a good idea for your business page.
Your audience is global - In this instance, you might only want to run your ads in certain countries, languages, or timezones. People in the UK aren’t likely to care about your special weekend event in China, are they? Using “dark posts” can help to avoid this problem by only showing your post to the relevant local audience.
You want to run a store-specific campaign - Maybe one of your cafes baked too many carrot cakes and you need to run some kind of discount to get the stock sold. You don’t want to have to reduce the price at every store, so you run a “dark post” to only target customers of your selected store. Enabling you to sell your extra stock without costing you money.
Hiring new staff
When you need to hire new staff for your business, Facebook can be a great way to attract newapplicants. But, you don’t want to bore your fans with news of your HR endeavours, so using “dark posts” can be a great way around this. You can also be a little bit sneaky and retarget people who have visited your careers page to redirect them back to applying.
Using Facebook’s targeting features, you can make sure to attract the cream of the crop by showing your posts to people already in the industry with great experience. In other words - your ideal candidates.
Different audience segments
Most marketing teams will already be working with specific audience segments when targeting their promoted posts. But, with “dark posts” you can take this a step further. By only showing your posts to your chosen audiences, rather than to everyone who follows your page, you’re able to use that targeting even more effectively.
For example, if you’re a clothing store running a big blowout summer sale, you can create ads that showcase your crop tops and platform shoes to the fashion-obsessed millennial customers, your smart shirts and work shoes to the 30-something professionals, and your yoga pants and sports shoes to the wellness lovers. Working with this kind of super-specific targeting means you’re likely to see better click-through rates than traditional posting.
When NOT to use “dark posts”
While they can be an amazing marketing tool, as with anything else in the digital world - they won’t work for every brand or every campaign. There are a few instances where using “dark posts” won’t be the best path to take for your brand. So, let’s explore these together.
If you’re working with a pretty limited budget, then you’ll probably already know how vital it is that you put your money into the most effective channels out there. As “dark posts” have to be run as ads, you are going to need to spend some money on them for them to be effective. Especially if you’re hoping to use them to run some A/B testing.
If your budget is really restricted, then your money is likely going to be better spent on a traditional influencer marketing campaign, as you know they’re going to bring you in higher reach and engagement rates than you can achieve on your own.
Creating effective “dark posts” requires time. They aren’t being posted to your feed, so they are in addition to the usual social media posts you will be creating. This means extra work, extra manpower, and extra time.
You will also need to have the time to dedicate to tracking and analysing these posts once they have gone live. There’s no point in running any kind of marketing if you’re not tracking the results. This is especially important if you’re using “dark posts” for A/B testing. You need to be able to dedicate the time to really dig deep into the results of your testing to determine which worked best. So, if you’re short on time right now - dark posts probably aren’t for you.
How it works in Influencer Marketing
While dark posts can be an effective for your own brand’s digital marketing, teaming these posts with an influencer marketing campaign can help to bring in an even higher ROI. Of course, we’re pretty big fans of influencer marketing here at The Shelf - it’s what we do after all. And, using the two methods together can be a fantastic strategy for your brand.
If you’re working with an influencer who has an audience that spreads across more than one niche, then using dark posts on their page can be a great way to get the most out of your partnership. This way, you can be sure that your brand is being seen by the best segment of their audience to bring in the best results.
For example, if your influencer straddles both the fashion and travel niches, and your brand is all about travel luggage then this method could be perfect for you. They can design an ad that specifically targets their travel audience and help you reap the highest rewards for your brand.
Unfortunately, Facebook doesn’t currently allow brands to directly sponsor an influencers “dark posts”, but this is easy enough to work around if you plan for this from the start. In your initial agreements with your influencer, you should be clear that you wish for them to create a “dark post” and that the budget for the promotion is included in their fee. This way, they can create and sponsor the post directly from their own account, and help you reap the rewards of using a “dark post”.
But, what about the algorithm change?
Of course, like any other social media platform, Facebook is constantly updating and changing its algorithm. If you read our article on the latest Facebook algorithm change, you’ll know that business pages are being targeted especially, and that it’s led marketers to explore new strategies to bring in results.
How it affects “dark posts”
Thanks to the ever-growing trend of “fake news” and the recent revelations surrounding the outcome of recent elections, Facebook has been forced to take steps to make the platform a safer, and more reliable place for its users.
This includes changes to how marketers can utilise “dark posts”. While you can still use this method to just target specific audiences, people can now choose to see all of your published ads - even the dark ones. There is now an option for users to see all the ads your page has run, whether you published them to your page or not.
This is unlikely to affect how marketers use this method in their campaigns, but it does mean that spying on what the competition is doing with their own marketing is now easier than ever. Now, you’ll be able to check in with what your competitors are doing on Facebook, and use this information to adjust your own strategy.
The algorithm change and your feed
The biggest change brought around by the algorithm change though, was that business pages were seeing their reach drop significantly once more. It is now more essential than ever before to spend some money to promote your posts and reach a higher percentage of your audience.
So, now that Facebook is becoming much more of a “pay-to-play” platform, “dark posts” are likely to grow in popularity as marketers realise how effective they can be at targeting and influencing specific audiences.
Dark posts on other platforms
Facebook doesn’t get all the fun when it comes to dark posts though. This form of marketing magic exists throughout the world of social media. And, while Facebook may invented them - they’re not the only ones who are using them anymore.
Every ad that you post on Instagram is technically a dark post - and you don’t need to do anything special to create them. All ads posted on the photo-sharing platform only show up as ads - not in your actual feed.
These dark posts will look just like any other Instagram post, but will also contain a small “Sponsored” tag at the top, as well as a call to action button of your choice at the bottom. You have the same kind of freedom as you do with usual posts too. You can post images, videos, a carousel, or a Story. You also have a great selection of targeting tools to work with including location, interests, and behaviours.
And, because Facebook owns Instagram, those “dark posts” you create on Facebook can be instantly shared in the same here over on Instagram. Making the whole process super easy for you!
While the term “dark posts” has never officially been used over on Twitter - they do still exist here as “ promoted only posts”. Much in the same way as Facebook, you can create tweets that will only go out as ads, and only be shown to your chosen audience.
These tweets will not show up on your profile, and will only be shown to the audience you chose through targeting. They will also appear in the same style as any other tweet, but will have a line that says “Promoted by [brand name]”. Other than that, everything is the same, and users can like, reply, and retweet it like any other post.
And finally, you can also create these “dark posts” on the professional network, LinkedIn. Here, they are known as “direct sponsored content”. Again, they work in pretty much the same way as they do everywhere else. The posts won’t appear on your company page, only in the feeds of your chosen audience.
And, when it comes to choosing an audience, you have similar options to other social networks too. Here, they call it “audience matching” and you can select demographics such as job level, location, and age.
While many blogs are touting the end of dark posts thanks to new transparency measures introduced across social media - as far as we can see, these posts will continue to be a great way to promote your brand online. So, the next time you want to run a super-targeted ad, split test your creatives, or keep your local audience in the loop - why not consider running your own dark post campaign?
Come join the dark side. We have conversions.