Facebook Advertising: How to Create Dark Posts

As Facebook has altered its algorithm in recent years to encourage more organic engagement and deliver relevant content to its users, paid advertising on Facebook has become a must for any brand. The “free” era of Facebook is long gone. With organic impressions as low as 10% or less of your total fan base, managing social ad funds is required to drive converting clicks to your website. 

Facebook Advertising: Methodology

There are several methods of advertising on Facebook:

• Boosted page posts
• Newsfeed, right hand column and mobile ads
• Promoted “dark” or “unpublished” posts

Each ad type allows you to target your audience. However, marketers are learning that not all ad types are created equal. Enter the “dark post”. The main intent of a dark post is to A/B test ad content before promotion, to ensure that the content posted is the best bang for your buck. At Acumium, we have found success recently using this strategy to test before promoting the most successful version of an ad. It takes a little more time, but the results are well worth it.

The big difference between a Facebook timeline post and a dark post is that the dark post will not show up on your timeline as a normal post would. This keeps your timeline filled with fun and engaging content, and free of self-promotion overload. Promoted dark or “unpublished” posts appear in a user’s timeline just like an ad or boosted page post, with the “sponsored” heading at top.

Tip: Use dark posts to create ads that do not show on your timeline and blend with other newsfeed posts.

Dark Post: How To

To create a dark post, you will need to use Facebook’s Power Editor within Facebook Ads Manager. Just like the newest version of Ads Manager, Power Editor is segmented into a hierarchy of Campaigns, Ads Sets and Ads. To get started, create a campaign (ex: Holiday 2014), then an Ad Set (ex: Thanksgiving) and finally an Ad (ex: Thanksgiving Sale – Men’s Shoes). You may want to create several ads under one ad set. For instance, besides an ad for men’s shoes, you may also want target women (ex: Thanksgiving Sale – Handbags).

creating dark posts


Tip: Use Power Editor for dark posts.

Once you choose an ad type option, like “Clicks to Website” for increased conversions, you will be asked to enter a URL. We suggest using a URL builder for tracking data into Google Analytics. Facebook also provides a code to place onto your website that will track conversion data. Sometimes justifying your social ad spend can be a challenge. This tracking step will give full credit to the web clicks derived from your Facebook ad campaign.

Tip: Utilize Google’s URL builder to give full credit to campaigns and ad clicks via Facebook.

Creating the unpublished page post in Power Editor is similar to that of an ad in Ads Manager. You are able to target your audience in a profound way. However, this next step is the most important, as it keeps the post containing promotional content from posting on your brands timeline and only in your select audience’s newsfeed.

1. Choose “Use existing post”
2. Under Page Post, click the “+” sign at the right
3. Choose “Create a New Unpublished Page post” (seems counter intuitive, we know)

Creating dark posts

With any post or ad, creating a captivating headline paired with enticing imagery is key. With dark posts, the trick is to create multiple versions of your post – different headlines, images, etc. See what works best with your audience. Then, monitor your post’s performance – you should be able to tell pretty early on what’s creating clicks and what’s not. Once you know what’s working, throw some money at it!

Tip: Create a captivating heading for your dark post to attract attention.

To do this, go back to Power Editor, select your post and go to the Ad Set tab. Here, click on the “Optimization and Pricing Tab.” This is where you will set your bid for clicks. Acumium has had good luck with the “optimize” option. However, feel free to experiment if you wish. Rule of thumb for Facebook ads is to target a click through rate (CTR) of $0.50 or less. Aim to keep your ad spend as low as possible, with the most clicks possible.

Dark Post: Example Results

Here is an example of the results of two ads run side-by-side for one of our clients: a traditional ad with no A/B testing compared to a promoted dark post. The results speak for themselves. By paying close attention to your audience’s reactions, you can really reel in your spend with optimal results!

See below for an example of a client ad vs. an A/B tested promoted dark post. Only a slight variation in wording created these dramatic results.

Traditional Facebook Ad
Creating dark posts

Promoted Dark Post
creating dark posts

With any advertising effort, it is important to experiment to find out what works best. Once you find that sweet spot, stick with it!

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