Here's a great little throwback fact: When Facebook advertising first began, the only way you could target by interests, locations, etc. was through dark posts. Now, those features are available with every ad. So what are dark posts in 2017?

Dark posts, or as Facebook calls them "unpublished posts," do not post to your FB page's wall or appear organically in the news feed of your current followers. The perks of dark posting is pretty obvious for big brands + e-commerce pages, but every advertiser can benefit from experimenting with them too. But if you are new to the Facebook ad game, it can be a little abstract to learn. So, if you're a rookie or just need a refresher (like I sometimes do) let's turn the light back on the benefits of dark posts + how to create them.

Why Create a Facebook Dark Post?

Good question. The short answer is two-fold: you'll reach new people + learn more about your content. Here's why:

It's your chance to get super targeted + super personalized: Let's say you're a publisher who focuses on Hollywood gossip + entertainment news. You've got a great piece of content about Lady Gaga. You could put ad spend on this post, targeting your current followers in addition to other celebrity bloggers, entertainment sites + fans of Gaga. In fact, that's probably what you are doing. But what if you wanted to create a post about that same piece of content that was only directed to Gaga fans + the entire Little Monsters fanbase?

Dark posts allow you to hyper-target those specific online communities without posting the same ad twice on your timeline, potentially causing your fans to see repetitive posts. Since your Gaga dark post is unpublished + specifically targeted, you can alter your copy + accompanying media to be even more Lady G-centric. This kind of personalization increases your chance for engagement and allows you to reach more potential followers.

A/B Testing: Dark posts are a great chance to experiment with new strategies. Try out different messaging, imagery + ad types to see if something performs particularly well. If a particular call-to-action is working well with narrower targets, start threading it into your larger strategy.

So, if the Gaga post is out-performing what you expected, maybe you should think about creating more Gaga content. Or, maybe you should use some of that messaging on other pieces of content. Dark posts can teach you more about what kind of audiences are out there that want to receive your content--and the best way to reach them.

No over-posting: This ability to not overcrowd your followers with the same posts is powerful. Not only can you stretch the legs of content, but you get more opportunities to learn how that content is received across the Facebook ecosystem. Jon Loomer nicely articulates in this article: "You'll now be able to create multiple campaigns or ad sets that promote the same ad — not just ads that look the same. That way, each separate promotion of that ad will contribute to the comments, likes, shares and other engagement."

Now, let's turn the light on how this all gets done.

How Do You Create a Dark Post?

It's not the most intuitive of processes, but once you've done it a few times, it's easy to remember. Here's a how-to to get you started:

Create dark posts in the Facebook Power Editor. Use the hamburger menu to go to All Tools → Create + Manage → Page Posts.

Click the blue "Create Post" button in the top right corner. An editor will pop up where you can create your post. You can do multiple formats: link, carousel, photo video, etc. Make sure you only select "this post will only be used as an ad."

Once you have created the post, highlight it in in the queue, click the drop-down menu for Actions → Create Ad.

You will be prompted to choose a new campaign. You could start an entire "Dark Posts" campaign with various ads and ad sets. You can also chose your ad type. Here's more on how the Facebook ad campaign structure works -- it can be easy to mix up sometimes.

Once your post is created, copy the post ID.

You will be taken to a screen like below. You can either click "create/view" ad set from here. Or, just head back to the ads manager and click "create ad" like you would for any other campaign.

Either, way, a familiar interface will open up if you've created Facebook ads before. Click "Use existing post."

When you are selecting the media for your ad, that's when you paste your post ID.

Once you've made it to this step, you can set up the ad, including locations, custom audiences and interest targeting like normal.

Tip: If a certain ad does particularly well, you can go back to the "Page Posts" tab in the power editor and then publish it to your fans (making it no longer an unpublished post).

You may notice that your dark post campaigns have a higher CPC than your traditional ads. This could be especially true if you do a lot of video view campaigns and then switch to a URL traffic ad for a dark post. Keep in mind, though, your reach will often be similar to published ads, and your results will often be more meaningful and targeted.

Happy dark posting! Hopefully it brings you plenty of new ideas. 💡