The Silver Lining of Dark Posts


Dark posts, aka unpublished posts, are inexpensive social media messages that allow marketers to programmatically target demographics without littering their brand’s newsfeed. 

Are consumers aware that sponsored posts don’t solely appear on sponsored pages? Although labeled sponsored, these “dark posts” appear in contextual format and blend into the stream of organic posts on news feeds. Most users are aware.

While some are deeply frustrated by the interruptions, many, especially the younger generation, are content with the blend. According to a recent study, 87% of Gen Z are open to seeing advertising from brands they already like to new brands as well.

Brands have realized that paid social is ideal for brand awareness, reaching new audiences, driving conversions, and boosting sales. It’s not always organic posts that do the trick. The standard process of buying and placing sponsored posts on social media is usually keyword-driven. But dark posts, aka unpublished posts, are inexpensive sponsored messages that allow marketers to programmatically target demographics without littering their brand’s newsfeed. 

How and why are dark posts created?

Dark posts are developed through Ads Manager and offer more advanced campaign customization. For example, Ads Manager offers several advertising objectives to help reach specific business goals and audiences.  

Many advertisers also use dark posts for A/B testing. They create several ad versions and identify the variation that offers the highest CTR. Using analytics, the brand can guide its organic traffic for better reach and engagement. Brands can also analyze the success of dark posts through social media management platforms like Sprout Social. 

Contrary to its name, this ad style has several silver linings.

Unlocking creative skills: Brands can design an ad that most perfectly fits business goals. Carousel ads with specific descriptions and a call-to-action button can help captivate audiences.

Massive targeting: Advanced tools can be leveraged to develop overlapping audience types, lookalike audiences, and more.

Mid-campaign tweaks: Editing a dark post ad while it is already live is possible without any major hiccups.

One, two, and then some: These posts provide the opportunity to run more than just one creative at a time, which increases the impact of A/B testing. 

Unsurprisingly, most social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest, entertain controversial dark posts. Why controversial? They lack transparency and are allegedly used to spread fake news, which has always been a problem on social media platforms. Some have made efforts to combat the abusive nature of dark posts. 

For instance, Facebook tweaked its page transparency policy so that anyone can know which pages are paying for ads and procure knowledge about other ads the advertiser is running on the platform. Unfortunately, Facebook’s dark posts are often under-utilized. Meanwhile, Twitter did not alter its policy but stated that all sponsored tweets would continue to be identified clearly.

TikTok dark posts are also created through Ads Manager and only exist as sponsored posts, not on the brand profile but by generating a ghost profile. When one clicks on the username in the dark post, the person is led to the CTA link in the ad, as no profiles can be linked to TikTok dark posts.

However, the Ads Only mode introduced on TikTok helps brands create a post through the app and link their profile when used as an ad while not appearing on their profile. 

One can choose different ad placements, an added benefit of selecting placements in Facebook News Feed side ads, Messenger ads, Instagram stories, instant articles, and Audience Network.

There is a thin line between engaging your audience and annoying them with over-the-top promotions and frequent ad appearances. While dark posts require the right balance, they can provide the right mix for a brand’s adtech stack.