Unpublished Posts: Using “Dark Posts” On Facebook To Test Content

Did you know that Facebook offers the capability to create unpublished posts on your Facebook Page? Such “dark posts” have actually been around for over six months, but it was only recently that Facebook has allowed them to appear in the Newsfeed. With Newsfeed being by far the most engaging placement on site, it’s not a surprise that more and more advertisers are expressing a renewed interest in unpublished posts.

The primary (and most exciting) use case for creating unpublished posts is message testing. Before “dark posts,” Pages that wanted to test post content would have to blast said messages out to their entire fan base, and most were naturally averse to doing this. When you’ve carefully built your fan page population, the last thing you want to do is spam them or give them a reason to unlike your Page.

Still, it was important for Page Managers to understand what type of content their fans were interested in. Some of this measurement could be achieved through a carefully crafted posting and promotion strategy.

Managers could lay out specific post types and content in advance and then look at the relative response rates of each type. However, such exploration takes time and isn’t optimal, because it still requires Managers to share all content with all users.

Targeted Posts

Some of these problems were solved by the introduction of targeted posts, which allow Page Mangers to limit their posts to specific groups of fans. The most prevalent usage of this capability is to gate posts by location. For a large coffee chain with franchises across the country, creating geo-targeted posts is a great way to tailor the geo-specific content on their page to only those fans that live near the particular store location.

Screen Shot 2013-04-03 at 5.43.58 PM

However, there are substantial limitations to this type of post-gating. For example, there are only six means of targeting posts: location, language, gender, age, relationship status, education status, and gender interested in.

That does allow you to segment your audience in a lot of different ways, but there is no ability to target by what is arguably the biggest differentiator on Facebook: keywords. Nor is there the ability to target Custom Audiences. Plus, targeted posts still live on the Page for all those within the target, and it doesn’t necessarily promote that content via ads.

Unpublished Posts

Unpublished Posts give Page Managers total control over who sees what message. For the first time, you can create posts for the sole purpose of promotion. And, that content never has to show up on your Page.

To create a dark post, log into Power Editor, add your message, photo, or link as normal. Until you select “Publish Post,” the post will remain unpublished, but is still available for promotion. You can use unpublished posts to find the optimal post content without committing all your ad spend to one message.

For example, the large coffee chain could create several unpublished posts, each containing different language about a product launch. One post might highlight the taste, another the calories, another the date of arrival in stores. They could then designate some of their ad spend to each post and see which content had the highest engagement rates. With data to back them up, they would feel comfortable selecting one message to share and promote on their Page.Screen Shot 2013-04-03 at 6.54.22 PM

The other major use case for unpublished posts is to cater messaging to certain populations of people. As we mentioned, some of this capability exists with targeted posts. But the added layer of interest targeting makes unpublished posts an even better option.

Perhaps our large coffee chain is now offering free Wi-Fi in its stores. They might create a dark post about this new offering targeted only to businesspeople or those with specific job titles. None of the coffee chains’ fans would be offended by a post about free Wi-Fi in their store locations – but it’s not really relevant to them, either.

Don’t Get Carried Away!

Although unpublished posts are a great resource for message testing, it’s important to always stay true to your brand on Facebook. Don’t use dark posts as an excuse to deviate from the overall voice of your Page. Doing so will ultimately prove to be a bad thing.

Remember that your Edgerank is measured by both the number and quality of engagements on the Page. Promoting unpublished posts that have nothing to do with what your Page offers, what your product does, or what your brand is about are misleading and will only result in your losing fans and Edgerank.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Social Media Marketing | Facebook Marketing Column | Facebook: Advertising | Facebook: Facebook Exchange | Facebook: Marketing


About The Author: is Advertising Team Lead at SocialCode, a full-service social media agency. She has two years of experience in social media marketing and is responsible for the development, implementation, management, and optimization of ad campaigns for leading global brands on both Facebook and Twitter.


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  • Zach Shearer
  • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

    I don’t see the option to create a post anywhere within Power Editor. Where am I missing it?

  • http://twitter.com/RobvdBrink Rob van den Brink

    I like the idea of A/B testing with dark posts, but can you tell me what happens to all the comments that are left on these promoted unpublished posts?

    - does it affect your edgerank
    - do third parties like marketingcloud still receive all comments (as the updates aren’t posted on your own wall, the comments aren’t either), or is it possible to miss (important) feedback or questions?


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