Dark Posts Will Change How You Think About Facebook

Like it or not, Facebook is here to stay. With a post-IPO war chest, and rising adoption and revenues, Facebook’s imminent demise is greatly exaggerated.

I understand why so many of us love to hate Facebook. It disrupts the tactics we’ve come to rely on in digital marketing and it forces us to change our organizations. It’s confusing and complicated and everything’s “native.” It’s tough to maintain even the most basic strategy let alone drive real and sustained brand and business value. Unlike other marketing channels, we can’t just turn it off and try something else; it’s omnipresent. And to top it all off, social is mobile, which presents a whole host of new complexities.

But those pesky consumers just can’t get enough. As I shared in a recent blog post, I believe the latest updates to the news feed mark a significant pendulum swing back toward consumer experience that will make Facebook even stickier.

To be clear, I’m speaking to marketers here. Many social media efforts are built around monitoring and responding, customer service, and community management. That’s all great. But I’m a marketer and I’m accountable for generating demand for my products, and while I’d love to ignore social until it’s more mature, it’s becoming harder and harder to do so.

Honestly, all I want is a predictable and effective framework for dedicating money and resources. In advertising, search, and email, it’s all pretty clear: how to spend money; what outcomes you can expect; and where you can focus creative and strategic resources on improvement and optimization. Within social, however, many of us still can’t answer these questions:

How should I spend $20,000 in Facebook? What do I get if I do?

Recently, Facebook quietly made a change that I think will make answering these questions easier. I say easier because it will make getting real ROI out of Facebook much more predictable and sustainable.

Have you heard of “dark posts”?

Instead of publishing a post to your fans, Facebook now enables you to make any link or photo post “dark.” What this means is that it won’t show up on your brand timeline and it won’t hit fans’ news feeds until you put media dollars behind it. It converts a post into an ad. There are a few big implications to this feature.

  1. Facebook provides a lot of functionality around promoting ads, far more than you get when publishing and promoting posts. And you can target with much more detail. For example, a record label could choose to target “only people who are fans of a band” or “people who have listened to any of the band’s songs on the Spotify or Rdio apps.”
  2. You can now run A/B tests to optimize creative. Since dark posts won’t show up on your timeline, you can send similar creative to different segments and test and learn. Then you can go broad with your best performing creative.
  3. You can optimize your spend against conversions. This is big. For most native post types, this will include a like, share, comment, click, or video view. But with social rich media, you can optimize your spend against things like email opt-in or even add to cart.

With right rail advertising slowly going away, and Facebook’s focus on mobile – and bringing mobile-like experiences to the desktop – advertising in the news feed is becoming more and more important and effective.

But marketing in the news feed is different. This is sacred ground and spam and useless irrelevance will not be tolerated. Opt-out/unlike is a simple click away. With this new power to reach into fans, friends of fans, and key prospects’ news feeds, and with an expanding toolset around native and third-party post types, the potential to drive sustained brand and business value is suddenly real.

If you thought you could crack the code on social media ROI by hiring a community manager and developing a killer content strategy, you’re only half way there. Brands that bring strategy (digital directors and brand marketers) together with creative (in-house or agency) and media strategists and tacticians to apply all of their marketing and digital expertise to Facebook will be in the unique position to capitalize on these new opportunities. And for the first time, the potential value from these efforts seems unbound.

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