As mobile buying grows, social advertising seems to be moving at the speed of light. Facebook naturally has led much of the way in innovation, giving advertisers a whole host of new tools and insights.
Today, we look at one of the platform’s smartest offerings: Facebook dark posts (also known as unpublished posts). As one of the most underutilized tools available from Facebook, you might want to see how taking a different approach with your social advertising could seriously pay off with your marketing plan.
Here’s everything you need to know about the hidden gem of Facebook dark posts.
What Are Facebook Dark Posts?
Facebook dark posts are News Feed style ads that don’t publish to your Timeline or in your fans’ feeds organically. A dark post doesn’t have to just be a status update; currently, Facebook supports status updates, photos, videos, links or an Offer.
Why Use Facebook Dark Posts?
Generally speaking, dark posts are a good way to advertise without alienating or annoying your followers. More specifically, dark posts offer four major benefits:
- You can get hyper-targeted. With the ability to create as many ads as you want without spamming your followers, you can create hyper-targeted ads for every segment.
- You can do A/B testing. For example, you might change the image, headline, body copy or call-to-action button, or change several of these components for more variety. Use this to determine which variations have the highest click-through rates. The higher the CTR, the more money you’ll save on cost-per-click campaigns.
- You guide your organic traffic better. Because you can see if certain images or headlines work better, A/B testing enables you to use paid social ads to guide your organic social strategy. Once you’ve determined which combinations perform the best, apply them to your organic posts for better reach and engagement.
- You avoid ad-only streams. Ad-only Facebook streams are not only aggressive, but they tend to push away your audience. Facebook dark posts are niche and hyper-sensitive so you don’t blast the same CTAs to everyone through your feed.
How to Create Facebook Dark Posts
You already know you can create dark (unpublished) posts from Facebook, but did you know you can also create them through Sprout Social? This will help consolidate your advertising efforts. Publishing dark posts through Sprout is much like publishing organic content.
Using Sprout for Facebook Dark Posts
- In the top right, click Compose to write your message.
- Select the Facebook account from which you wish to post.
- Click on the Facebook icon in the lower left-hand corner.
- Select Unpublished Post.
By using Sprout Social, you’ll have access to Facebook management tools that not only help you publish the types of content you want, but also allow you to analyze your performance along the way. Sprout’s collaborative scheduling and publishing features for Facebook will insure you’re spot on with your Facebook dark posts.
The last thing you want to do is improperly target your audience and seem like a spamy organization on Facebook. Instead, you can try Sprout Social for a free 30-day trial and take the reigns of your Facebook advertising strategy.
How to Measure Facebook Dark Posts
Using Facebook dark posts to promote content to a broader audience should lead to more comments/conversations around the content you’re spotlighting. Transmission Events, a music event organization, increased return on ad spend by 30 times by using Facebook dark posts ads.
The company was able to increase sales through their highly exclusive audience by using real audience data to boost the amount of ticket sales. The conversation simply grew as the spotlight shined on the targeted audience.
Luckily, with Sprout’s Smart Inbox—and the ability to reply directly to threaded comments—is an efficient way to streamline the management of these conversations and ensure you never miss a message.
Viewing Facebook Dark Posts in Sprout
Sprout’s Sent Messages report also allows you to view data (likes, comments and engagement) for unpublished posts. Here’s how:
- Go to Reports.
- In the left navigation, click on Sent Messages.
- Select Facebook.
- In the right-hand box, check Include Unpublished Posts.
If you are A/B testing and want to determine effectiveness, leave the filter on, then export the report and manually compare either:
- Ads versus ads
- Paid posts vs. organic posts
For those times that you’d like to focus your attention solely on organic posts, leave the filter off, and all unpublished post data will be removed from your Sent Message report.
Pro Tip: Keep in mind that turning the Include Published Posts filter on or off will automatically update your “totals for this week” and will be reflected in your exported reports, thus giving you full control over how you view and analyze your Facebook Sent Message data.
Balancing Out Your Audience’s Needs
Your audience is one of the most important things to your social media marketing strategy. And on Facebook, you have to walk a thin line of being engaging and overly promotional.
Businesses using Facebook dark posts can help make that balance between the two sides a lot easier. Facebook is an amazing network to find beta testers for your new product or service. On the other hand, the process is long, tiresome and sometimes detrimental to your audience since you can make certain followers feel like outsiders.
Instead, with Facebook dark posts you can target very niche followers to make sure you’re not wasting your time and your follower’s time that wouldn’t be interested in your specific product or service. Be confident in your targeting ability and make sure you’re not just blasting out ads to everyone on Facebook.
At the same time, you have to be careful and not be too exclusive with your Facebook targeting and moderate your dark posts. If you are hyper focused on a small group, it could become too private and make your community building strategy unstable. It’s essential to ensure your all of your Facebook community is addressed and that you’re not simply targeting the same people over and over again.
Try to maintain your Facebook marketing strategy by not straying away from your brand or your brand’s image or voice. You still want to be the same company that your audience loved to begin with.
Want More Insights?
Leave a comment below, and we’ll get back to you. Feel free to share your experiences with Facebook dark posts as well!
I was wondering. Do you know if it is possible to Dark post your Live stream as well?
@KimPillen1 Hey Kim! Thanks for reading. As for the Facebook Live videos, I believe it's not yet possible to boost a Facebook Live post while broadcasting live. But once you finish your broadcast, the video will be automatically posted to your Facebook Page to watch on demand. Then you can advertise like a normal video post. Hope that helps!
Thank you Alex for your fast response and clever answer! Really makes sense to me :)
How would I know as a facebook user that I was seeing a promoted dark post? Curious. Thank you for your article. I never thought to use dark posts before.
Will the dark posts be visible on mobile or just desktop? also, can we only target followers of the page or anyone who has not liked our page as well?
Does this mean comments on dark post are now showing up in the social inbox? If so, only if they were published through Sprout Social, or even if they were created within Power Editor?
@AndreasHinterplattner If a dark post gets included all of the comments for it should be as well. However, it is known that we may not show all comments.
Is there a reason the ad management doesn't take place within Social Sprout itself? The intent behind Social Sprout is aggregation and an improved workflow - seems odd to have to manage these ads outside of the product, no?
@MichaelCrites Hey Michael, our No. 1 focus is on engagement, analytics and publishing within a business's social landscape, so ad management is a lot more difficult to incorporate (i.e. too many moving parts). However, with message tagging, URL tracking and other social stat features, we give the social media analyst, community manager and social media manager a way to track things like Facebook dark posts, but we don't claim to be the end all be all stop of ad management.
We're trying to help you manage your ads on social with our specific tools. But good question. We really appreciate your feedback and taking the time to read our content!
It seems as though posting ads through Power Editor seems like the most efficient way to keep all ads in one place. I like seeing that Sprout is getting involved in the ads arena.
Is there a way for Sprout to report on ad accounts from a business account?
@Troy While we don't get down and dirty with ad analytics like CTR, CPM, etc., we tend to focus on the social aspect of tracking advertisements. Our newest update in Sent Messages allows you to track reach, comments, shares and other social aspects. We're adding more all the time. Thanks for the read!
How do I edit or remove a dark post I created in Sprout? Your support team told me it doesn't actually show up in sent messages until you publish/purchase the ad through facebook. But I can't edit it in FB either, help!
@BriannaP You have to edit or delete it in Facebook’s ad manager (from the create ad button). You can't edit it from within Sprout Social. We hope that answers your question, Brianna.
Do you happen to know if dark posts with hashtags can be viewed publicly by anyone if someone views the hashtag? For example, if John Smith is served up a dark post with the hashtag #DearJohn, can anyone outside of John's targeting view this post by looking up #DearJohn in their search?
@AIleen It won't aggregate for hashtags. Dark posts are something that is a “draft” until it’s purchased via the ad manager. We hope you find this answer useful. Let us know if you have further questions. :)
Nice Post! Do this type od ads really generate interest in audience ? Can we invest on these ads and help our clients to benefit thru these advertisements ?
@NaveenSrikantaiah Hi, there. They definitely help in the way of segmenting your ads to a specific group of people without spamming your entire Facebook audience. Furthermore, dark posts allow you to A/B test to see which types of ads resonate and convert better. I would definitely give dark posts a try!