The Facebook and Instagram dark post guide - how to set up and use them

By
Paul Johnson
In
March 23, 2020


Dark posts are targeted ads on social media. They are different from publishing and boosting organic posts because they don’t appear on the page of the account that runs them. They also don’t show up in the newsfeed of your followers. Dark posts show up as Facebook ads in the feeds of users you are specifically targeting 

As with all Facebook ads, dark posts can show up in multiple ad placements including Instagram and display network.

Dark posts are known as unpublished posts by Facebook and are available on Twitter, LinkedIn (known as direct sponsored content), and other social media platforms.

Why you should use Facebook dark posts instead of “boosting”

1. You can optimize content via A/B testing

Because these are ads, you can split test or a/b test different variants to figure out which creative, copy, and CTA delivers the best results for your objective from brand awareness to conversion. This is always going to outperform a single version of boosted organic content.

You will likely find that dark posts performance varies in different ad sets. Split testing lets you run ad variants head to head to see which versions perform best. When evaluating the winners, it is often best to continue to test the top performers against different audiences to figure out which ads work best for different audiences.

You should A/B test form factor to test if carousels, slide shows, video ads, or simple photo posts perform best.

2. Precise Facebook ads targeting

Dark posts unlock the full capabilities of Facebook Targeting options. You can use them for prospecting as well as retargeting efforts, which should be part of every marketing strategy.

3. You can run dark posts from different identities (facebook pages or instagram handles)

This social media marketing strategy is very powerful when it comes to influencer marketing and whitelisting. Incorporating influencer dark posts into your strategy means you can use facebook ads manager to power your influencer ads. You will need to gain advertising access via influencer whitelisting, and once granted permission can create ads through your influencer handles and run side by side with brand ads. This means your target audiences will be exposed to your brand through your ads and social proof of your influencer ads - which will also drive users to your landing page to convert.

The power of Facebook Dark posts with influencers is that you can effectively create & manage your influencer content to deliver results.

4. Dark posts keep your page free of clutter

We’ve all seen THOSE business pages. One promotion after another that all look the EXACT same. Don’t be that brand. If you constantly try to sell, your page followers will at best tune you out and at worst unfollow you. Over time, your content will get less and less organic reach as it gets less and less engagement.

This is also true for your influencer partners. Instead of asking them to spam their followers, you can precisely target new audiences with targeted ads. Unpublished page posts do exactly this.

5. Improved overall Facebook and Instagram ad performance

The freedom to create and manage dark posts will deliver better results than simply boosting content. Your budget is optimized across an ad campaign instead of being allocated by best guess against individual page posts. Not only will dark posts outperform boosting, you will also likely see improved results across all facebook and instagram ads.

Step by step - how to create Facebook dark posts

  1. Launch the ad creation process in your team’s Facebook Ads Manager. First click the green “Create” button to create post. Note that you will need to use an existing campaign or create a new campaign (set overall objectives) and ad sets (define targeted audience, ad placements and set ad spend budgets). Note that some options will change based on placements selected. We recommend using auto placements unless you are creating Instagram story ads (the vertical video is most often most effective as In instagram ads that show up only in the story placement).


The Ad Creation Process in Facebook Ads Manager


  1. Name your dark post
Name your dark post in Facebook Ads Manager


  1. Select the Facebook Page and Instagram account in the designated drop-down that you would like the dark post to come from when you create post
Setting ad identity in Facebook Ads Manager


If you are creating an influencer dark post, you can select the influencers Facebook Page and Instagram account in the designated drop-down as well.

Setting ad identity as influencer in Facebook Ads Manager


  1. Select the format for the dark post. These will vary depending on placement(s) selected in the ad set configuration.
Setting ad format in Facebook Ads Manager


  1. In the drop-down select the type of media that will be used in the dark post.
Adding media to ads in Facebook Ads Manager


  1. Upload or select the creative for the dark post from Facebook Page and/or Instagram account images/videos from the identity that was selected in the previous identity drop-down.
Selecting creative in Facebook Ads Manager
  1. Input the Primary Text (this is the post text), Headline, Description, Website URL, and Call-to-Action button for the dark post.
Set Headline, CTA, and Primary Text in Facebook Ads Manager
  1. Finally, select the “Review” button at the bottom right corner of the dark post creation flow and then select the “Publish Button” to launch the dark post.

Wa-la! You've successfully created your Facebook / Instagram dark post. Now let the A/B testing begin! If you're not seeing the results you were looking for from your dark post, try & test different content, CTAs, headlines, etc. until you're able to find a combination that sticks with your target audience and you can leverage.

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Paul Johnson is the Co-Founder and Head of Operations at Lumanu
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