The Plain English Guide to Dark Posts on Facebook

The Marketer‘s Guide to Facebook Dark Posts in 2024

As a marketer in the digital age, it‘s crucial to stay up-to-date on the latest tactics and best practices for reaching your target audiences online. One powerful tool that has emerged in recent years is the Facebook dark post.

What exactly is a dark post, and how can it level up your social media advertising game? In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll shed light on everything you need to know about this essential strategy for 2024 and beyond.

What are Facebook dark posts?

A Facebook dark post is a targeted ad that doesn‘t appear on the advertiser‘s main page or in the organic news feeds of their current followers. Instead, these "unpublished page posts" are shown only to specific users that the advertiser has chosen to target, based on demographics, interests, behaviors, and more.

The key distinction is that while regular Facebook feed ads are attached to and shown on a company‘s public Facebook page, dark posts are only accessible to the selected ad audience. This allows advertisers to create and test many ad variations without cluttering up their main page or alienating followers with irrelevant content.

You can think of dark posts as highly personalized ads delivered only to the most promising prospects, while keeping a brand‘s public Facebook presence streamlined and curated.

The benefits of dark posting

So why would a marketer choose to utilize dark posts vs. the traditional method of creating a post and then boosting or promoting it? There are several compelling advantages:

  1. Hyper-targeting abilities
    Facebook‘s robust ad targeting allows you to reach very specific audience segments based on a wide range of criteria – from basic demographics to niche interests and life events. Dark posts take this a step further by enabling you to craft unique creative and copy for each micro-audience, without broadcasting this content to your broader follower base.

For example, let‘s say you‘re a fitness brand looking to promote a new line of yoga apparel. With dark posts, you could create one ad tailored to young women interested in hot yoga, and a completely different variation aimed at middle-aged moms who value at-home yoga routines. Each ad would speak directly to that subgroup‘s unique needs and preferences.

  1. Improved ad testing and optimization
    Most marketers know that A/B testing is essential for maximizing the ROI of any campaign. But if you were to publish multiple versions of an ad to your Facebook page, it would quickly become spammy and repetitive for your regular followers.

Dark posts solve this problem by allowing you to test numerous ad variants "in the dark" and gather performance data without muddying up your main feed. You can experiment with different headlines, visuals, copy, calls-to-action, and audience targeting to home in on the combinations that deliver the best results. Then, you can either continue running the winning dark post campaigns or convert them into regular feed ads to drive greater visibility.

  1. Maintaining a curated public presence
    Your Facebook business page is an extension of your brand, and it‘s important to keep the content there highly relevant and engaging for ALL of your followers. Overloading your main feed with multiple posts aimed at small audience segments can dilute your core messaging and turn off potential customers.

With dark posts, you can keep your page focused only on your most important, unifying updates, while still delivering targeted ads to specific prospects behind the scenes. This allows you to maintain a cohesive brand experience for page visitors.

Creating dark posts in Facebook Ads Manager

Now that you understand the power of dark posting, let‘s walk through the steps of implementing this tactic using Facebook Ads Manager:

  1. Navigate to Ads Manager and select the "Page Posts" option from the menu on the left side. (If you don‘t see this option, try exiting and re-entering Ads Manager or looking under "Other Features")

  2. Click the blue "Create Post" button in the top right corner.

  3. Choose where you want the post to be published – most often with dark posts you‘ll select "Only use this post for an ad. It will not appear on your Page." (Choosing "Publish this post to your Page now" would negate the "dark" element and immediately show the post to some of your page followers)

  4. Create the content of your dark post, including any text, links, visuals or videos. Remember that these posts can only be tied to one Facebook page, so double check that you have the correct page selected in the "Identify" section.

  5. Once your post content is finalized, click the blue "Create Post" button at the bottom. Your new unpublished post will now appear in the inventory of page posts.

  6. To turn this post into an ad, select the checkbox next to it and click the "Actions" dropdown menu. Choose "Create Ad" to enter the regular ad creation flow, where you can define your target audience, budget, and other key settings.

Alternatively, if you want to use an existing post as a dark post ad, you can navigate to Ads Manager, create a new campaign, and select "Use Existing Post" from the Ad setup menu. You can then choose the published post you want to secretly sponsor to a target audience.

Best practices for dark post success

Crafting a clickable, high-converting dark post goes beyond just choosing the right audience. Here are some tips for making your unpublished ads shine:

Have a clear, measurable goal
Before you even begin building your dark post, it‘s critical to determine the key action you want users to take, whether it‘s visiting a specific product page, signing up for an email list, downloading a piece of content, or something else. Your entire ad creative and copy should be built around driving that single objective.

Design eye-catching visuals
In a cluttered news feed environment, visuals are the most effective way to grab a user‘s attention and stop them from scrolling past your ad. Use high-quality images or videos that clearly showcase your product/offering in an appealing way. Contrasting colors, close-up shots, and images of people using your product tend to perform well.

Write succinct, compelling copy
Once your visuals hook the user, your dark post copy needs to reel them in further and convince them to take action. Keep it concise by focusing on one key benefit or pain point that will resonate with your target audience. Use simple language, avoid jargon, and always include a strong call-to-action.

Make it feel native
The best performing Facebook ads are ones that blend in seamlessly with the platform‘s organic content. Avoid overly salesy language or gimmicky offers that will make users tune out immediately. Your dark post should aim to replicate the look and feel of a normal post from a friend or page that the user trusts.

Test multiple variants
One of the biggest advantages of dark posting is the ability to test a high volume of ad creative/copy/targeting variations without spamming your main page. Develop several versions of the ad with different element tweaks to determine which ones resonate best with your audience. Let these tests run for a few days or weeks while monitoring the results closely.

By applying these dark post best practices and leveraging Facebook‘s powerful targeting solutions, marketers can take their social advertising to the next level and engage their most valuable prospects like never before.

Addressing privacy concerns

Understandably, some users may feel a bit uneasy about the concept of businesses being able to target them with personalized ads that aren‘t shown publicly. Facebook has taken steps in recent years to provide more transparency around dark posts and other types of ads on the platform:

Ads Library
All Facebook pages are now required to have a searchable Ads Library where users can view every ad that page has run across Facebook products. Simply visit facebook.com/ads/library and enter the page name to see a complete archive of their ad content, including dark posts. Users can even filter the results by location, impressions, or active vs. inactive ads.

"Sponsored" labels
Facebook also requires all feed ads, including dark posts, to be clearly labeled as "Sponsored" in the top left corner. This ensures users can easily distinguish between organic posts and paid promotions appearing in their news feed. The "About this ad" link displays more info about why the user was targeted.

Updated privacy terms
As part of the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal and other data privacy concerns, Facebook has revamped their ad policies to prohibit discriminatory practices and give users more control over their ad experience. Advertisers must now certify compliance with Facebook‘s non-discrimination policy when creating a campaign.

While dark posting still allows businesses to deliver hyper targeted ads by nature, these key measures can help provide a critical level of transparency for discerning consumers in 2024.

The future of dark posting

As Facebook‘s advertising offerings continue to evolve and the digital landscape grows increasingly competitive, dark posting is poised to become a key tool in every social marketer‘s toolbox. When executed thoughtfully, dark posts offer a unique opportunity to reach specific audiences with the most relevant messaging – resulting in more efficient ad spend, higher engagement rates, and deeper connections with prospects.

If you haven‘t yet explored the potential of dark posting for your own Facebook marketing efforts, let 2024 be the year that you embark into this "dark" new territory. By putting these tips and best practices into action, you‘ll be well on your way to achieving more powerful and profitable social advertising results.