How to Create Influencer Dark Posts to Drive Sales and RoaS

By
Paul Johnson
In
Guide
January 17, 2020

Influencer dark posts are sponsored posts run through the identity (social handle) of influencers. They are set up and managed in a brand’s Facebook ad account, and blend natively into user’s feeds on Instagram and/or Facebook as sponsored posts. Said another way, Influencer instagram dark posts combine influencer identity and creative and are run as unpublished posts (they do not appear as page posts on your influencer news feeds). 

Dark posts enable you to bring your Facebook advertising strategy to influencer marketing. For an in depth explanation read our post - what are influencer dark posts here. The best part about dark posts? They allow you to create new ads and optimize content just as you would for brand ads. That’s not the only advantage. Bringing in influencer identities and audiences can be extremely effective in combating Facebook ad fatigue. But what exactly should you optimize to ensure your dark post is performing as well as possible?

There are 6 levers to pull to optimize performance when creating posts for influencer dark post campaigns:

  1. Creative
  2. Copy
  3. Headline
  4. Call to action
  5. Variety of content
  6. Audiences

As influencer marketing grows up, the channel needs to deliver ROI. The most consistent way to deliver is via dark posts. Unpublished pages posts give the flexibility to optimize campaigns across these 6 variables is what makes for a successful social media marketing campaign. Let’s explore how optimizations like a/b testing and using proper metrics can improve the performance of your new ads.

“Test & Learn” to optimize ad performance with Instagram and Facebook dark posts

To drive optimal CPA or RoaS (or best results for any other objective), take a test & learn approach when creating posts to learn which ads perform best for your brand and target audiences. Testing different ads and targeting options can drastically improve performance.

How to measure: A/B and split test ad copy and creatives

A great place to start is considering what works for your branded Instagram ads and Facebook ads. Simple running different CTAs can drastically improve results (tip: include a reason to buy now like a discount code). For example: If you have already figured out that high quality video ad campaigns perform best, then having influencers create video content is a good hypothesis. Generally, A/B testing should include:

  • Single images versus carousels and slideshows
  • Having influencers create videos across feed and Instagram stories 
  • Testing various call-to-action-buttons and headlines
  • Split test different copy lengtha (long versus short form)

See how Plated incorporated the test and learn approach to deliver better results below.

a/b testing CTAs on Instagram ads

How to Test and Optimize different audiences

To start testing audiences, set up ad sets with influencer Facebook and Instagram dark posts for across different targeted audiences. Always test what works for brand ads - meaning Facebook interest targeting or a custom audience that has been successful. You can even test retargeting audiences (but this tactic is most often saved for later). Incorporating dark posts into your campaigns gives you the opportunity to build new prospecting audiences based on people who have engaged with your influencers.

Influencer audiences are effectively net new prospecting audiences. After an influencer grants advertiser permissions (i.e has whitelisted), you are able to create exact and lookalike audiences (LAL) built from users who engage with your influencer's organic posts. We recommend using both Instagram and  Facebook for audience creation (for those influencers who have 5K+ Facebook page followers). This unlocks net new targeting audiences made up of users who have a high affinity for engaging in influencer organic content. If you choose influencers with your target audience in mind, you’ll end up with niche audiences interested in your product category. Note: currently, audience creation for Instagram is only available when creators have their Instagram profile.

A great way to utilize dark posting is to incorporate them into retargeting campaigns.  You can do this by creating audiences of people who visit your website from influencer posts, and retarget them with additional influencer dark posts. Additionally, this can be done through creating audiences of people who have viewed your influencer’s video dark posts across feed and stories for retargets. This approach improves ability to reach target audiences, and keeps your brand top of mind for those consumers.

Target audiences in ads manager

Dark posts give you the opportunity to extend the shelf life of Instagram stories. Instagram stories, when optimized, are great for creating compelling video ads.  Optimizations include re-ordering frames or cropping out sections of the video that don't quite fit when expanding the reach of a story outside of an influencer's direct followers. Story ads exist far beyond the 24 hour window, so dark posts are a great way to get more mileage out of story organic posts and keep your brand relevant in the Instagram story placement. When creating Instagram story dark posts, you can define the URL for the Swipe ups and direct potential customers to a certain page or product.

Best practices for ongoing management of social media dark posting campaigns

After the “testing phase”, you’ve figured out the formula to driving profitable RoaS through influencer dark posts. Remember that Instagram dark posts don't show up in your influencer feeds so you can often have them send you content to create ads without posting which should be much more cost effective.

What works well as far as content should be used to refresh the creative brief sent to influencers for future collaborations. Giving your influencers direction, such as “make sure the product is the hero of the image”, or requesting more content to create slideshows or carousels can drive 20%+ increase in RoaS for all new ads. Also, using Instagram dark posts from your influencers to say something your brand can’t (e.g. an exclusive discount or something that would be odd coming from the brand - like a review) can be effective in driving conversions from different target audiences.

Create new Instagram and Facebook dark posts to combat ad fatigue

Incorporating influencer dark posts and different new ads and identities into Facebook ads manager helps reduce ad fatigue from day one. It’s important to continue to refresh influencer ads the same way you would for brand ads. New ad formats and ad placements are simple changes to drive results. Given content usage rights allow for a certain length of usage you should be the most out of the campaign.

The approach is simple - replace influencer ads that aren’t delivering above RoaS targets (or in the event they all are, replace the lower performers). Turnover on a monthly basis will vary, but a safe target is ~50% of ads. Refreshed, strong content helps reduce ad fatigue across Facebook marketing campaigns by reaching users through new voices.

Document learnings across creatives and influencer “types”

Over time, creative briefs to influencers should incorporate learnings from the performance marketing team. We believe in the power of letting influencers craft content in their style and voice, but with creative direction that supports performance objectives.

Don’t be afraid to share the data. “We learned through split testing that images with a lot of contract tend to perform well from an engagement and sales direction” is helpful to share with creators. It gives them a starting point for the creative process, leads to more successful outcomes, and can setup longer term relationships between the brand and creators that perform well. Proven ROI makes a great business case for continuing to work with high performing influencers over time.

If you're looking for a more in-depth guide and examples about how to succeed with influencer ads (dark posts) read our post about how to setup and succeed with your influencer advertising strategy!

Bonus tip: Have influencers manage comments on influencer dark posts

Dark posts look like other posts in their newsfeed, and since they are from real people, the dark posts are going to pick up likes, comments, and shares. This "social proof" is part of what makes influencer ads a powerful tool in your digital marketing strategy. Prospects will ask questions about the products they see in their feed, and it's important to engage and provide them with an answer.  If they had this question, chances are other users will too. When someone starts reading through the comments on your dark post, they’re interested in what you're offering. Comments can move them from being on the fence to buying.

But since these posts are not present on your influencers pages, they’re hard to find, along with the comments made on them. Complicating things even further, you can’t manage comments in your ads manager like you can with dark posts from your brand page.

The best free approach to responding to dark post engagements is using Facebook Page Posts. Any time users comment on influencers' unpublished posts, they will receive a notification just like they do for published posts in their admin panel (you need admin access to the page to access the admin panel). From here, it is easy to click into the post and moderate comments as needed. 

business manager messages

For a deeper dive read how influencers can moderate comments on dark posts.

If your influencers are using Lumanu's SocialCert, they can easily access dark posts through the creator dashboard to manage and moderate comments on all content that has been run as a dark post by brand partners. If comment moderation is important to the brand's social media marketing strategy, then build content moderation (at least for the first couple of weeks) into agreements with influencers.

Instagram dark post ad example

To wrap up, dark posts allow brands to leverage influencer assets and leave a lasting impression on potential buyers. They allow you to test what is delivering results, and tweak relevant variables until you find what works. Dark posts are powerful and can shine a whole new light on what influencer marketing can do for your brand.


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