You might have heard of dark social or dark web – but this is something different.

Let’s shine a light on the subject.

Social posts for select eyes only

A dark post is anything a brand might post on Facebook – such as a link, video, photo or status – that will only be seen by a specific or target demographic. 

Unlike a regular published post, a dark post does not show up on a brand’s timeline or on its follower’s organic newsfeed. 

Instead, it appears as an advert for some, but remains hidden to everyone else.

You might have heard dark posts also being referred to as ‘unpublished posts’ – they are the same thing, a promoted and targeted post that is not published on your brand page.

A similar option is available on LinkedIn.

Why do brands use them?

There are many benefits to using dark posts.

The biggest is that unlike organic or boosted posts, they enable brands to carry out A/B testing without cluttering up their own pages and annoying users in the process. 

By tweaking headlines, call-to-actions and even the time of publication – brands can measure CTR’s and determine what kind of ads are the most effective and why.

Further to this, it allows brands to ramp up personalisation.

With the ability to post dozens of ads without the fear of backlash, posts can be targeted to a user’s location, interests or previous online behaviour.

The idea is that the more targeted they are, the larger the likelihood of engagement. 

Are they better than boosted posts?

A recent report from TrackMavens found that businesses are spending on average nearly twice as much on dark posts as they are on boosted posts.

However, despite this increased spend resulting in greater reach and more page likes, boosted posts appear to garner more engagement overall.

The average boosted post on Facebook receives 643 total interactions, while the average dark post on Facebook receives 559 total interactions.

With the latter having more longevity – staying active for around 42 days – it appears that dark posts are being used as more of a long-term strategy for larger brands.

Should you use dark posts with caution?

While dark posts mean improved targeting and testing, brands do need to be wary that they don’t enter into ‘creepy’ marketing territory.

Instead of increasing engagement, using super-personal details like names has the potential to alienate users instead of attracting them.

However, if used correctly, these types of posts can undoubtedly be a valuable tactic for brands online.

The chance to carefully measure how an ad performs, as well as tailor it to a target demographic, could easily outweigh the high cost and potential pitfalls.

With a recent survey finding that 46% of users use ad blockers due to annoyance over irrelevant ads – it’s sometimes better to be left in the dark.