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What are Dark Posts on Social Media?

Hassaan Khan
10 minutes
Dark Posts

Have you ever heard of the dark posts in your social media management journey?

Most of you haven’t heard about it until recently. Even though dark posts have been around for over a decade, it’s a concept still new to most of us.

Well, if you have been paying attention to social media marketing, then it’s worth going deeper into this and figuring out how to use dark parks on social media going forward.

So let’s cut to the chase.

Origin of dark posts

The concept of dark posts was introduced by Facebook in 2012. It was later adopted by all major social media platforms, such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and YouTube.

The dark posts are targeted ads that are tailored toward a specific segment of the audience and these posts don’t appear on the timeline for everyone.

Moreover, the posts don’t have the sponsored post or promoted post attribution, which makes this type of post quite unique.

Advertisers and digital marketers publish dark posts across all major social media platforms mostly to A/B test the performance between dark posts and regular ads.

Example of a dark post

You already know that a dark post doesn’t appear on the page’s feed. Instead, it appears on the timeline to a select group of users.

The purpose of a dark post across all social media platforms is to target the specific audience who hasn’t followed the brand just yet.

So after understanding the concept behind this type of social media post, it wasn’t difficult to spot a dark post.

Here’s an example of a dark post on Facebook:


It seems like Intuit QuickBooks is using dark posts on Facebook to reach out to the targeted audience that has probably heard about them before but hasn’t engaged with them properly.

It was a Facebook ad that appeared on the home feed. In fact, you won’t find that very post anywhere on their Facebook page.

Why use Facebook dark posts?

Some of you might be wondering why we need to use Facebook dark posts. Well, there is a reason why a social media platform provides users with a feature – Facebook’s dark posts feature is no different.

There are a handful of reasons why you should be at least testing out this Facebook ad strategy.

Let’s take a look at some of them:

1. Precise targeting

Precise targeting is the mark of a perfect social media ad campaign. Facebook dark posts offer unparalleled precision in audience targeting, which makes them special.

Unlike regular Facebook page posts that are visible to most followers, dark posts hit the bullseye as they aren’t intended to reach everyone. Instead, they’re tailored to reach a specific group of audiences based on the given demographics, interests, and behaviors.

2. Avoid timeline clutter

Big brands and organizations run multiple Facebook ad campaigns. Since showcasing multiple ads to the same audience could be overwhelming for the audience, dark posts come to the rescue as they don’t clutter your brand’s timeline.

Moreover, dark posts remain invisible to your followers as they’re targeting the prospective audience. This way brands avoid timeline clutter by opting for Facebook dark posts.

3. Split test Facebook ads

Dark posts make split testing easier than ever. Advertisers can create multiple variations of the same ad and test them on different target audiences without overwhelming their followers.

The advertisers would learn which combination of the ad copy, ad design, and target audience works best. As a result, it would immensely refine the brand’s social media advertising strategy.

4. Optimized Ad spend

Ad spending could go out of control if you don’t know what you’re doing, especially when you’re running ads with a tight budget. One of the reasons why dark posts work is that they appear only to the intended audience.

Moreover, advertisers can optimize the ad spend by improving the targeting, behaviors, and interests of the prospective audience.

5. Tailored engagement

Every marketer dreams of getting a ton of engagement on both social media ads and organic posts. Dark posts are a great way to get traction by crafting relevant and thought-provoking ads for a specific audience.

It massively increases the relevance of your ads, making them more impactful to get the desired results.

6. Unobtrusive advertising

Dark posts make it easier for brands and experts to target a select group of audiences without bombarding the same offer to the broad audience base. This subtlety can make a lot of difference in the outcome of the Facebook ad campaign.

How does dark posting work?


Dark posting on social media platforms is not rocket science. Users can dark post on almost all major social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and TikTok.

The way it works is quite simple. Dark posting is an advertising strategy that allows advertisers to publish ads targeting a certain segment without shoving the offer down the throats of existing followers.

Dark posts are also known as “unpublished posts” on Facebook. The reason is that such posts are used as ads only. However, Facebook provides users with an option to publish the dark post later on the page like a regular Facebook page post.

To ensure the proper publishing of a dark post, make sure you opt for the “only use this post for an ad” option while creating your Facebook ad.

We’ll dig deep into the benefits of dark posting on social media platforms later in the article. Just make sure that you have understood the fundamental idea of how dark posting works.

How to identify a dark post social media ad?

Digital marketers and online advertisers may spot a dark post from miles away. It’s essentially an ad just like any sponsored post or boosted post, but it isn’t necessarily intended for the existing customers.

Moreover, experts identify a dark post by looking at the offering as well as visiting the brand’s page to see whether or not the post exists on the timeline.

Here’s an example:


IDP Education is an education and visa consultancy service that helps students with studying abroad, admissions, and visa services.

They published a dark post on their Facebook page which wasn’t available on the Facebook page’s feed. So that’s how it was easily stood out.

Here are four ways to quickly identify a dark post on social media :

1. They don’t show up on your page’s timeline

One of the ways to identify a dark post is that it doesn’t show up on the page’s timeline. One can spot a dark post by looking through the brand’s page that whether or not the same ad is posted as a normal post. Usually, a sponsored or boosted post can be seen on the page’s timeline, but it’s not the case with dark posts.

2. They don’t appear on your followers’ feed

Just like they don’t show up on the page’s timeline, these posts don’t appear on the followers’ feeds. This is the difference between a regular ad and a dark post. A normal ad might be appearing to the current followers depending on the audience targeting, interests, and behaviors. However, the dark posts won’t do that.

3. These posts are only displayed to the targeted audience

Since dark posts don’t appear to the existing followers, these posts are used to target a specific segment of the crowd that hasn’t been following you on social media. Each brand has a buyer persona when trying to reach out to new audiences, and that’s where dark posts come in handy.

4. They are mostly discount or coupon offers

Brands, agencies, and companies use dark posts to get traction using discount offers, coupon codes, and other enticing offers. The purpose is to engage the new faces and bring them into the marketing loop. So dark posts could be used to reach new audiences by offering discounts and coupon codes.

Facebook dark post ads benefits

Facebook Dark Post Ads

We’ve discussed how these types of social media ads work and how to spot these ads across different social media platforms. Let’s shed some light on the benefits that they provide to the advertisers:

1. Easier to target a specific audience

Dark posts are paid posts that don’t target your existing audience on social. In fact, these posts target the new users who haven’t followed you or your business page just yet. These posts help brands and entrepreneurs put their products and services in front of new audiences.

2. No bombardment of sponsored posts on the feed

Since dark posts don’t show up on the feeds of the existing followers, these types of posts don’t clutter followers’ home feeds with sponsored posts. Nobody wants to see the sponsored posts from the brands or experts they’re already following.

3. Test out new ad strategies without disturbing the existing followers

Dark posts provide a segue into testing out different ad strategies without making a mess. One of the fears of online advertisers is that they don’t want to disturb the existing customers or followers in any way.

For instance, offering the same product to customers who have already bought the same product would be a bad move.

4. Experiment with new content trends

Experimenting is the key to winning on social media. Don’t shy away from testing out different types of content formats, styles, patterns, and tactics.

Social media trends change over time, so it’s necessary to keep up with the new trends and capitalize on them when they’re in the trend. Dark posts could be a fantastic way to test out new content trends to see how people react to them.

5. No appearance on the timeline

One of the benefits of dark posts is that they don’t appear on the timeline of the advertiser’s page, which means the followers don’t have to see every offer the business is creating for new or unpaid customers.

The dark posts only appear to the audience it is intended to reach out to on the social media platform.

How to create dark posts on Facebook?

Dark posts are paid ads, but they don’t show up to the existing customers. If you’re curious about how to start experimenting with dark posts on Facebook, then allow me to share my two cents on the process.

Let’s head over to the few simple steps to understand how to create this type of Facebook post:

Step 1: Navigate to Ads manager

To create a dark post on Facebook, go to the Facebook Ads Manager, which serves as the central hub for managing your Facebook ads campaigns.

Now click on the drop-down menu located at the top left corner and choose the “Page Posts” option under the “Create & Manage” section.

Once you find this option, move on to the next step and carry on the rest of the process.

Step 2: Create the dark post

Find the “Create Unpublished Page Post” option at the top and click on it to initiate the creation of a new dark post.

Provide your ad details, ensuring that it reaches the right audience. Moreover, when specifying how to utilize the post, opt for “Only use this post for an ad.” Doing so ensures that the post remains hidden from public eyes and would only reach a select group of the audience.

Step 3: Select target audiences

Target audience is one of the fundamentals of any type of digital ad. Advertisers can utilize preexisting segmented ad sets if they’ve created ads previously. However, if you’re new to this, you’ll need to establish audience segments while creating a new ad.

Advertisers have the option to specify their audience’s demographics such as age, gender, location, language, behaviors, and interests to make the ad campaign more authentic and helpful.

Step 4: Check & balance on the dark post performance

It’s vital to keep a check-and-balance on the dark posts’ performance. Don’t hesitate to A/B test
different ad types, formats, and styles to see which works better for your brand.

You can conduct a split test on your dark post and based on the results optimize your post accordingly. Moreover, you can modify your audience parameters as needed.

How to analyze the Facebook dark posts?

To analyze the Facebook dark posts, you would have to look at different numbers, graphs, and data. However, it’s not as tricky as it may sound like. Anyone with a little bit of Facebook ads experience can analyze the dark posts’ performance.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Compare the performance with regular ads

Start with comparing the Facebook dark posts’ performance with regular ads or sponsored posts. These regular Facebook ads would appear on the page’s timeline. Plus, they might be showing up to some of the current followers as well.

The idea is to run both types of Facebook ad campaigns and see if there is a difference in the outcome of the regular ads and dark posts. This will give you an idea of how well or badly your dark posts were performing.

2. Split-test different dark posts

Once you’re done comparing dark posts with regular Facebook ads, try split-testing the dark posts with one another. It means you’ll be running multiple dark posts on the same subject and see how they perform.

You can further analyze the winner’s dark post to see what was the differentiator that put the winner’s dark post ahead of others. Harness the power of A/B split testing by comparing different dark posts and trying to find the reasons behind this.

3. Check the ROI of the dark posts

ROI is a popular metric used in digital marketing to analyze the effectiveness of any marketing tactics or strategy. One of the ways to analyze Facebook’s dark posts is to see the return on the investment.

These are essentially paid posts on social media platforms, so there is no harm in analyzing the ROI of one type of paid post to another type of paid post.

4. Keep an eye on the niche preference

Some dark posts may outperform other dark posts from a performance standpoint. Sure, there might be technical differences, which might make the comparison irrelevant. However, there will be some cases where this won’t be an issue.

Keeping an eye on the niche preference means in some niches dark posts or advertising on social media in general would perform better than the others.

It’s necessary to figure out whether or not the dark posts make sense in this niche. Otherwise, you might end up wasting your time and money.

FAQs about dark posts

Are dark posts paid?

Yes, the dark posts are paid posts. However, they are slightly different from the regular paid posts from the targeting standpoint.

Why is it called dark post?

Dark posts are dark posts or unpublished posts because they don’t appear to the current followers. Instead, they only show up to the new audiences.

What is the difference between a dark post and an organic post?

The main difference between a dark post and an organic post is that the dark post reaches the audience through paid advertising. Whereas the organic post reaches the audience naturally through content popularity or recommendation.

You may also like:

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Conversion Pixels 101: Optimize Your Conversion Strategy
Retargeting Ad Examples That Convert & Drive Growth
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Hassaan Khan
Hassaan Khan is a freelance writer for SAAS companies, e-commerce stores, and niche websites. He has contributed to SEMrush, ThriveGlobal, BloggingCage, AllBloggingTips, and several other publications. He builds niche websites, publishes e-books, and helps website investors with his done-for-you niche site-building service.

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