Social media marketing has not stopped evolving since its inception. Likewise, digital marketers have looked for more nuanced ways to leverage their social media advertising.
The rise of influencer marketing has also forced digital marketers and ad platforms to create new opportunities for brands to extend their reach and drive sales. One such example of this is social media dark posting.
What are Dark Posts on Social Media?
A dark post is a social media ad that you place in audience newsfeeds but are not included on your timeline as organic content.
Unless you state otherwise during ad setup and design, it is standard operating procedure for most social media channels to post your ads as organic content on your company page, or on the page of the influencer with whom you have a dark posting agreement. As you create your social media ad, you may choose to only run your ad as an ad. This selection ensures that your ad will not post onto your public or the influencer’s account.
Also, dark posts are specifically for placement in non-follower newsfeeds. These ads show up on the newsfeeds of those you target when setting up your ad on social media ads manager.
Dark posting is especially popular on Facebook and Instagram. But it is possible to also run dark posts on LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter. When creating a dark post through Facebook Ads Manager (which you will need to do if you want to dark post on Facebook or Instagram), this technique is known as “unpublished posts.”
How Does Dark Posting Work?
The idea behind dark posts, or unpublished posts, is that your ad content remains separate from your page content. This feature opens up more possibilities for your brand to run ads that look more organic. More importantly, dark posting has allowed influencers to further partner with brands in a whitelisting campaign.
From a Brand Page
When creating a social media ad, brands can typically select existing posts from their page or create a new post that they plan to run as an ad. For dark posting, marketers select the option to not publish the ad content to the company page (the option will most likely read “only use this post for an ad”).
When choosing where to place the ad, marketers select audience newsfeeds. In most social channels, these ads do show as sponsored ads, but they fall seamlessly into user newsfeeds for a more organic look.
In an Influencer Whitelisting Campaign
For influencer whitelisting campaigns, the influencer gives the brand permissions to their social media ads account. An important distinction is that the influencer does not give the brand control over their entire social media account – just advertising permissions.
In the most common influencer dark posting campaign scenario, the brand takes influencer content, alters the message, includes content from other influencers, or otherwise customizes the post for specific audience segments.
By using influencer posts in this way, the brand can run the ad without the influencer having to worry about that post/ad showing up on their social media account. The post is for “ad only” use but utilizes the influencer content that performed well organically to generate greater returns on ad spend (ROAS).
Where Did Dark Posting Come From?
Many credit Facebook for introducing the dark posting technique by way of “unpublished ads.” The concept developed as digital marketers decided that they wanted to test ad variations in audience newsfeeds without wanting those ads to publish to their page.
In today’s cookie and remarketing digital world, consumers are concerned with how brands gather and use their online activity information. Because of consumer privacy concerns and general ad bombardment, social media users grow less interested in traditional social media advertising.
Dark posting – whether from a brand or influencer account – offers a middle ground between paid advertising and organic content. The dark post acts more like an organic post but the marketer gains the benefits of ad creation, targeting, and A/B testing. However make no mistake – dark posts are paid ads.
Why Do Dark Posts Matter?
First, dark posting gives your brand more options when reaching new audiences on social media. You’re not limited by the size of your (or your influencers’) audiences when taking advantage of dark posting.
Second, you can further repurpose your (or your influencers’) top-performing content without cluttering your (or your influencers’) social media page. You can make minor adjustments, test new CTAs, target new audiences, and compare results. This benefit to dark posting is closely related to your ability to test content variations in multiple social media contexts.
Lastly, you can get more mileage out of your influencer campaigns without paying for additional ad creation. Influencer posts naturally fit within user newsfeeds and already feature organic content that you know will resonate with look-alike audiences.
What are Brands Using Dark Posting For?
The most popular way to use dark posting is in an influencer whitelisting campaign. These campaigns only occur between brand-influencer relationships with a high level of trust. After all, the influencer is allowing the brand to run ads from their social media account.
When the opportunity arises for a brand to extend their reach through an influencer dark posting campaign, they harness a number of benefits that are difficult to achieve through more traditional organic or paid content.
Reach New Audiences
Influencer posts reach their own audiences and audiences of the brand that they tag. Hashtags can also extend a post reach, but at the end of the day, organic reach is much smaller than paid reach.
In a dark post campaign, the brand can target look-alike or brand new audiences. This approach places the influencer content into the newsfeeds of those that have never heard of the influencer or the brand.
Achieve Greater Control Over Organic Content
Technically, dark posts are not organic. But they behave similar to organic content. And because they are paid ads, brands have more control over the ad design and targeting. For example, marketers can take an influencer post and alter the written portion to appeal to a specific demographic.
Dark posting also allows brands to create a carousel of images from multiple influencers. These multi-image designs flatter the brand’s products/services and even give the impression that those products/services are everywhere.
Repurpose Influencer Content
The more ways you can repurpose your influencer content, the lower your ad spend will be.
Conversely, influencer content is more authentic and comes with clear engagement metrics so that you know it resonated with consumers and will perform better than studio or agency-designed ad content.
Lower costs and better performance equal a higher ROI.
More User-generated Content
When dark posting from an influencer’s ad account, users can comment on the ad as if it were an influencer post. The brand can respond to user comments as a third party, rather than as the brand that sponsored the post. Dark posts also allow influencers to engage new audiences and promote the brand.
The Impact of Dark Posting on Social Media Marketing
New technologies in social commerce are warming consumers to online shopping opportunities in their social media newsfeeds. Dark posting is one more way to leverage social media to not just sell to audiences, but to connect with them.
Dark posting also renders many traditional paid media less effective. That’s because dark posts are subtle and nonintrusive by comparison. And when incorporating influencer content into those dark posts, the ads feel even more organic despite the fact that most users can tell that the post is sponsored.
Conclusion: New trends in dark posting can be your secret weapon for an effective influencer and social media marketing strategy.
Effective marketing means trying new techniques and tracking results. Dark posting can help you extend the value of your influencer posts and generate excitement among new audiences. More importantly, dark posting allows you to experiment with more variations on integrating influencer content with paid ads without cluttering your influencer’s official page. For brands that are looking for ways to further leverage their best influencer relationships, dark posts offer greater flexibility and more conversion opportunities.