As a chef works to create specific dishes for each table of guests from his menu in restaurant, a digital marketer must work to create specific messages that will connect with and drive action from their desired target audiences. With the ability to “dark” post, it’s easier for marketers to know the right ad to put in front of someone at the right time. A method that surfaced just a few years ago is now booming as one of the most effective ways marketers can drive returns from their social media investment.

Here are the marketing tactics you should be using with dark posting and tricks of the trade to help you master the “dark” side.

What is Dark Posting?

Facebook has led the way for dark posting, a news feed-style ad that doesn’t publish to your timeline or in your fans’ feeds organically. That means you don’t clutter up your page with messaging that matters only to a fraction of your audience; these posts can leave as many of your page’s fans “in the dark” as you want.

A dark post doesn’t have to just be a status update. Facebook allows this type of post in the form of status updates, photos, videos, links or an offer. And one little-known fact: Facebook isn’t the only social channel to feature these types of posts. Other platforms have this ability in the form of:

So why would you use dark posting?

1. To focus in on a specific targeted audience.

You can plan the big picture of your campaign, then segment. Segmenting different target groups based on geography, interest, job title, etc. will allow you to personalize messaging and ensure best measurement and attribution. For example, segmenting based on interests such as marketing, marketing tools, and CRM would be a good reason for Salesforce Pardot to hone in on me and serve this dark post:

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Segmenting is one of the principal advantages of dark posting, so here are some tips:

  • Tip 1: Do create “Look-a-like” campaigns for targeting. Facebook, for instance, let’s you find and build audiences similar to those that are already visiting your landing pages.
  • Tip 2: Bucket narrow audiences so you can optimize and invest dollars wisely. You want to reach a lot of people, but the more well-defined your audiences are, the better you’re able to understand which audiences are responding the best to your offers and messages.
  • Tip 3: Use 3rd party data for targeting segments and testing. We all have audience data, but there are companies out there that specialize in selling huge volumes of such information. The data these large companies provide is typically purchased on a large scale from publishers. If you’re not in the position to mine such data yourself (few of us are) look to one of these providers.
  • Tip 4: Personalize the landing page you are driving your audience to. Now that you are speaking to a specific audience, take the next step and be thoughtful about the landing page you are sending them to.

2. To adjust messaging with A/B tests.

When it comes to dark posting, A/B testing is actually a tactic that will save your business money, or allow you to use your budget more wisely. I find that when I have created multiple versions of a dark post to A/B test, my per-click costs went down as it was optimizing for the post with the highest click-through rate (CTR).

You are able to organize these ads by campaigns and ad groups, a feature that certainly makes sense when running lots of ads for different offers. The payoff? An easy way to find the highest performing ad for each target audience.

Creating several variations of a post to target different attributes allows you to optimize for your best performing dark post. There is no need to worry about over-posting since these posts can be shown to different audiences and won’t appear on your company’s page.

Here is a Percolate example of A/B testing. We delivered these to the same audience that have interests in content marketing and content marketing tools to determine the best performing ad copy to use:

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One A/B testing tip: run as many A/B tests as you can. Dark posting allows marketers to become scientists. The more experiments you run the more you can learn about your audience.

3. To promote local initiatives and events.

The way information is curated and made available makes it easier than ever to build the perfect audience for a local initiative or call to action. Your east-coast followers don’t need (and probably don’t want) to hear about a new store opening in California.

And when it comes to promoting local events, rich media stands out. Know that video views are cheap, eye catching, and easy to set up on Facebook and Twitter.

Here is a Percolate example for our upcoming industry conference, Transition:

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There are many ways that you can use dark posts to your advantage. Using dark posts to promote content beyond your follower audience should lead to more comments and conversations around the content you’re spotlighting. In my experience at Percolate, dark posts outperform organic posts driving higher engagement and make ad management easier.

We encourage you to test dark posting out for your brand to see what kind of performance boost you can achieve. Happy dark posting.