Into the Darkness: Revitalize Your Facebook Presence By Utilizing Dark Posts

Take advantage of unpublished—aka “dark”—posts on Facebook to reach a highly receptive audience of consumers

Facebook knows us more intimately than many of our friends. The social media site that made posting cat photos to the Internet feel normal has been gathering reams of data (we’re talking big data) on us from day one.

Lately, the social network’s keen insights into consumer behavior have resulted in the creation of highly effective in-house advertising tools. In fact, “Facebook has probably the most ­targeted marketing tools out there today,” says Ben Smithee, chief strategy officer at New York City–based ­Relevents and founder of consulting firm Smithee Group. “Because it knows us contextually, which is so powerful. Context is everything in marketing.”

Smithee says too many small businesses fail to take full advantage of the platform’s robust, ever-evolving marketing machine. Regular, run-of-the-mill posting to your Facebook feed results in the ceaseless spamming of your audience—a practice that’s likely to erode your social fan base over time. The solution? Create and post content using unpublished Facebook posts—aka “dark” posts—that allow you to target vetted groups among your company’s Facebook fans.

We asked Smithee to break down the ins and outs of going to the social site’s “dark side”:

A Curated Audience

“The goal in advertising and marketing is to get the right message to the right people in a cost-effective way,” Smithee says. With unpublished posts, not only can you break down your Facebook fans into different demographic groups, you can also pay the platform to “take that profile data and create an audience that mirrors your [personal] audience,” he explains. In essence, Facebook will replicate your audience—using an algorithm to comb for people whose interests and personal info mirrors those of your original audience—to reach as many hyper-­targeted users as you’re willing to pay for.

Powerful Perks

Connecting with an already interested demographic is the main reason marketers use dark posts, but there are several other perks that come with venturing over to the dark side.

Dark posts are only visible by the users they’ve been sent to, so you’re not clogging up your Facebook feed with content that may or may not be relevant to certain segments of your fans. And did you know that most posts you publish to your feed don’t reach every one of your Facebook fans? The site randomly picks feeds to publish your updates on, so “you will play the pay game,” Smithee says. With unpublished posts, you can opt to send a message to your entire Facebook base—and feel confident that it landed. Last, dark posts allow you to A-B test your content without spamming your audience. Basically, “you can create two different ads and see which one is really performing,” Smithee says. “That’s hugely helpful to marketers—it takes guesswork out of the equation.”

Getting Started

To create a dark post, find the “Power Editor” section, head to “Manage Pages,” and click on “Create Post.” Before publishing, make sure the button for “This post will only be used as an ad” is checked so your post doesn’t publish as a general update. To actually publish the post, go to the Facebook ad manager and click on “Create Ad,” then follow the prompts to select your audience. And remember, this is one instance where it pays to be picky.