Why Dark Posts Are the Best Facebook Advertising Approach Right Now

Let me preface this post by highlighting the words in the title “right now.”

Facebook unpublished posts

photo credit: windy_sydney via photopin cc

As with all things in this fast changing digital world, a killer tactic today may soon be worth very little when, for example, the network you’re using it on decides to change the rules or it simply becomes diluted due to the fact that everyone is doing it now.

For today one of the most effective advertising plays on Facebook is something being called ”dark posts.” The term, while sounding a tad evil, actually applies to the tactic of using news feed style ads that do not actually get published to the newsfeed of your page.

Why use dark posts

So, you might ask – why would I use this tactic?

Imagine you sell four products and these products appeal to slightly different audiences and you’re not really sure of the most appealing call to action for each.

You want to advertise all of these products on Facebook and you’ve heard that news feed type sponsored posts are the best way to go. (It’s true for me, particularly on mobile devices where the ads look very much like the rest of the stream.)

Traditionally, the only way to advertise those four products in the news stream was to create four status update kinds of ads and then refine your targeting to get the add seen by the right audience.

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But here’s the catch – all four of those ads just ran in your page’s stream and now that audience you’ve worked long and hard to build by sharing useful and engaging stuff is unliking as fast as they can. Your stream seems full of nothing but ads!

Oh, and like any smart marketer you need to A/B test several headline variations on each ad, further overwhelming your stream.

The dark post option to the rescue

Facebook has allowed advertisers to create news stream ads with the option of not publishing to them to the news feed for some time, but it’s still a fairly untapped play for the moment.

By employing this tactic the advertiser mentioned about could run all four product ads as sponsored posts, target different audiences, split test headlines and even create personalized messages for demographic and geographic targets – literally run dozens of ads all on the same day – without a single ad showing in their own news stream.

Are you starting to sense the power of the dark post?

How dark posts work

Dark posts are created using the somewhat clunky, very obtuse, Power Editor. I won’t go into a tutorial on obtaining and using the Power Editor as there are some fine ones here. If you have no idea what the Power Editor is you should read one of these tutorials before going much further.

If you are a Power Editor user you simply need to play around with a few more features.

The key to creating dark posts in the Power Editor lies in the editor’s ability to create posts. Until the dark post concept came along there really wasn’t much reason to use this feature as you could simply create posts as status updates.

Fire up the Power Editor and start by clicking on Manage Pages and choose the page you would like to create the post for. Now hit Create Post but be sure to click the radio button that says – unpublished post.

Facebook Dark Posts

Now create your post by completing the fields. Remember, this is an ad, so pay close attention to headlines, call to action buttons, descriptions and images that grab. For some of the best advice on successful Facebook ad tactics head over to Jon Loomer’s awesome site.

Once you’ve created your post don’t forget the Power Editor requirement to upload the changes – the button at the top of the editor turns green when you’ve made a change and you have to hit that Upload Your Changes button before you can use this post.

If you are creating multiple posts you can create them all now and simply upload the entire batch. (You can view how your post will look on the desktop and in mobile and I suggest you take this step before uploading the batch)

Once all of your posts are created and uploaded you can switch to your Ad Manager and start creating ads by selecting the appropriate post to use as an ad, select your audience and choose your budget.

One bit of advice, don’t take the Facebook suggested budget. My experience is that you can start much lower and adjust accordingly. I don’t have hard data on this, but since I started refining better for multiple versions, I found my per click costs went down.

You can organize your ads by campaigns and ad groups, a feature that certainly makes sense when you start running lots of ads for different things.

Once your ads are approved you can start monitoring your Ad performance to tweak your tests and improve your results.

Now is the time to get on this tactic as my guess is that sometime in 2015 it will become less effective.

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John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
  • tomdiederich

    Thanks for this info, John. On my company’s page I had been
    “boosting” some posts (only for $5 each) to those who already “Liked” the page.
    Mainly those highlighting key blog posts on our main website. A couple weeks
    ago, using the same tactic, I noticed a dramatic drop in those reached
    and therefore in the “Likes” to those posts. Do you think this some
    insidious adjustment in a Facebook algorithm?

  • I’ve been using these dark (unpublished) posts for a long time now and find them incredibly effective. I just wish FB would provide a better way to preview them without the need to start over again if it doesn’t quite fit or look the way you like.

    • Totally agree Grant – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to start over on a post.

  • Wondering what people are find the best way to manage user engagement on dark posts is these days? I’m checking out AgoraPulse, but find some limitations. Probably will go with it, but does anyone else have a platform they’re using to answer questions on Facebook ads and any other dark posts?

    • Hello Annie, to my knowledge, there’s no other solution on the market! It’s awckward, I know, but what we had to do in the backend to allow that may explain it, very complicated.
      What limitations did you bump into? Happy to help.

  • Mike Orme

    Now was over a year ago.

    • Yep – that’s about when this post was written actually

  • Kay Carter

    Great article! I’m about to try this out now.

  • Thanks for that helpful article

  • Is this still relevant?

    • Yes, you still can hide posts that you want to use for advertising. So, somewhat relevant.

  • Lala72

    This article and concept seem like utter nonsense.

    First of all, if you are releasing three or four products simultaneously, those products are probably crap. No one worth their salt releases multiple products at the same time. Quality takes exclusive attention.

    Secondly, if you market unrelated products to the same audience…well, then you know NOTHING about target marketing. To optimize engagement and trust—you know, those things needed for actually success—you should have a tightly targeted following on ALL social networks you use. I mean, I’d much rather have 3000 followers that routinely retweet and like my content than 125K followers that largely ignore me.

    Therefore, you should have ABSOLUTELY no reason to be marketing three or four different products to three or four different demos at the same time.

    It’s the New Millennium, man; we live in an era of specialization. Do what you do best, do it because you believe in it, and avoid being a whore at all costs.

    • Mark Snow

      He didn’t say “launch”. He said “sell”. And he also said “imagine”. This is purely hypothetical. Take it as a lesson on Dark Posts. I’m not sure what you sell, but if you were a company with hundreds of products, this is very inexpensive way to test multiple messages across multiple demos, and quickly. And just a point of note, in the New Millennium, Snapchat is all but destroying Twitter. You may want to consider rethinking your marketing strategy before your 3000 followers split.

      • Lala72

        The argument remains illogical. Why? Because what “company with hundreds of products” is going to be reading a Ducktape Marketing blog? This is for solopreneurs and the likes, firms that are much smaller, and therefore my argument is accurate.

        As well, I never said that I personally had put my stock in Twitter. I haven’t. I work almost exclusively through JVs. I gave you a random example.

        But thanks for the two arguments today. Glad I could let you vent. :)

      • Lala72

        PS SnapChat is utterly worthless if you want to market to anyone over the age of 34, so you might want to back off those ridiculous claims. Just because a billion teenage girls send photos to each other every day doesn’t mean it’s a marketing goldmine for your average business. Kind of an absurd claim on your part, in fact.

        In other words, I very much doubt my Gen X and Baby Boomer demographic is going to be jumping ship and heading to SnapChat.

        Nice try, though. :)

        • Mark Snow

          Glad I could let you vent.

      • Thanks for trying to clear up the confusion – unfortunately some people only want to hear themselves rant :)

    • Lala72 first off, it appears you found this post because it is highly ranked by Google but I’m guessing you are a new reader so welcome.

      The article and concept are both well proven and not particularly new or unique ideas anymore. The practice of unpublished posts is an excepted advertising tactic used by most Facebook Advertisers today.

      I think perhaps you were just a little confused about what I was suggesting so let me simplify it some more.

      Suppose you are a small business with only one product to sell and you know exactly who you market is so you’ve targeted just the right group.

      Now, let’s say you want to advertise your product to this group using a sponsored post since you know that’s the best ad unit.

      Now, let’s also say you want to make sure your ad is as effective as possible so you decide to test 3 different headlines in the post but you don’t want all three versions of the post or maybe any of the versions of the post to show up in the news feed of people who already follow and like you because you are trying reach new people.

      If you simply publish all 3 version, which you have to do if you want people to see them, then you need to use the dark or unpublished post option so your page followers don’t get bombed with all the versions you are testing. (Given your clear handle on all things marketing I’m sure you agree that testing is an essential element.)

      There does that help clear things up?

      • Lala72

        That makes much more sense. :)

        Thanks

  • Dark Posts have been an effective marketing tool in Facebook ever since they were introduced. But depending on the region, not all the companies are willing to dive into the new marketing pools. This article should definitely help in convincing those CEOs to try out the new strategies.

  • Pankaj kadam

    Hello
    The tools used are quiet helpful and dashboard seems relevant

  • Valencia Martin

    Great information! By the way, you’re a graceful human being. This is much needed in our world today. Thank you!

  • Paul Mason

    What a load of drivel

  • V. Sam

    Let’s say you want to advertise your product to a big group on Facebook using a sponsors. you don’t need to do anything in that. it is as easy as creating a Facebook account. if you also want to make your ad effective than you need to decide 3 different headlines. thanks for clearing the confusion in the mind. this post is all about advertisements and how to use it. for marketing there is no other solution than advertisements on Facebook. as this is the only platform employing masses in it. http://bestvrheadsetapps.com/

  • Ronny

    Great Article, thanks.

  • Valuable information on facebook dark post.

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  • Quality information! Dark Posts have been an effective tools in facebook, i like to try this
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  • Great information in your post. Thank you

  • Zydrunas Jasinskas