Facebook Ads Tip: How to Create a Dark or Unpublished Facebook Post

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Advertisers now have the ability to promote unpublished (otherwise known as “dark”) posts within the News Feeds of Fans.

An unpublished post is a status update, link share, video or photo that was never meant to be shared as an organic post. Staying true to its name, it’s never published but is only surfaced as an ad.

This functionality was previously made available to the ads API in July of 2012, but until recently the only placement option was the sidebar.

Why Create Unpublished Posts?

The purpose of today’s article is to tell you how to do this, but it’s necessary to provide a short explanation for why you might want to. A deeper explanation will need to come on another day.

The main reason you should consider creating unpublished posts is for split testing purposes.

You can otherwise utilize post targeting via the following methods:

  • Gender
  • Relationship Status
  • Educational Status
  • Interested In
  • Age
  • Location
  • Language

This is nice, but you can’t target by interests, Custom Audiences, Partner Categories and other ways that you target with ads. And there’s also the issue with every targeted post appearing on your Timeline unless you hide the extras.

One of the ways I’ll find it helpful is when I create a post that is rejected by Facebook as an ad.

We’ve all been there. You share a link to your new product. You promote it. But the image associated with that link has more than 20% text in it, so Facebook gives you a big roadblock.

Instead of creating a whole new post, you can simply create an unpublished post and promote it to the Fans who matter most to you.

Okay, so here’s how you do it…

1. Use Power Editor

This should be Step 1 for all Facebook advertising you do. Please use Power Editor. If you don’t know how to use it, check out this tutorial.

2. Create a Campaign

Every site I’ve seen explain unpublished posts does a horrible job of explaining how to do it. As a result, every necessary step is here for you.

Since you will need to create a new ad from an established campaign, let’s do that first.

Click “Campaigns” at the top and then “Create Campaign.”

facebook power editor create campaign1 Facebook Ads Tip: How to Create a Dark or Unpublished Facebook Post

Then name your campaign, set a daily or lifetime budget and determine a start and end date.

3. Go to Manage Pages

If you’ve never created a post from within Power Editor, this step is one that will likely stump you. So click dropdown at the top left and select “Manage Pages”…

facebook power editor manage pages Facebook Ads Tip: How to Create a Dark or Unpublished Facebook Post

4. Create Your Unpublished Post

Select the name of your Page on the left hand side and then click the “Create Post” button at the top…

facebook unpublished create post Facebook Ads Tip: How to Create a Dark or Unpublished Facebook Post

Select whether you are creating a Status, Link, Photo or Video and then compose your post. You can also target by language or location, but that really won’t be necessary.

compose facebook unpublished post Facebook Ads Tip: How to Create a Dark or Unpublished Facebook Post

When you’re done, click “Submit.” Note that this does not publish your post, it merely saves your composed post.

5. Promote Your Unpublished Post

You will know that your post is unpublished (or “dark”) because there will be a moon icon next to it…

facebook unpublished dark post moon icon Facebook Ads Tip: How to Create a Dark or Unpublished Facebook Post

Select this post and click the “Promote” button…

facebook unpublished dark post promote Facebook Ads Tip: How to Create a Dark or Unpublished Facebook Post

You’ll now need to select the campaign you created earlier to run your ad in…

facebook power editor select target campaign Facebook Ads Tip: How to Create a Dark or Unpublished Facebook Post

Now go through and select the options you prefer within Creative & Placements, Audience and Advanced Options.

Then click the “Upload” button at the top right of the page, and your promoted unpublished post will be submitted for review!

6. Viewing Dark Posts and Notifications

Of course, once you create a dark or unpublished post, it won’t appear on your Timeline. So how do you see it, and what about when users comment on or like it?

From Power Editor, find that post again and click “View Post.”

facebook unpublished post view Facebook Ads Tip: How to Create a Dark or Unpublished Facebook Post

This will allow you to view that post within Facebook…

facebook post unpublished Facebook Ads Tip: How to Create a Dark or Unpublished Facebook Post

You will also receive notifications as you normally would whenever users comment on or like your post.

Also, if your unpublished post is a photo or video, it will appear within your photo album. It just won’t appear on your Timeline.

Try It!

Try your own dark post! What are some of the reasons that you’ll be using this feature? Let me know in the comments below!

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About Jon Loomer

Jon Loomer is a digital marketing consultant with a unique perspective on social media. He was introduced to Facebook in 2007 while with the NBA (back before Pages) and has been using Facebook for business ever since. Stay in touch by liking his Facebook Page (Jon Loomer Digital).

  • http://www.facebook.com/braddahmike Michael Jensen

    Jon is this a way around the 20% text rule or does that still apply?

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

      Not a way around the rule, Michael. Just a way to create a new post if you were previously rejected so that you don’t have to add another post to your Timeline.

      • http://www.facebook.com/braddahmike Michael Jensen

        Gotcha…thanks. Will start testing!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kimmywright73 Kimberly Wright

    I’m new to FB Ads with my page. I followed your steps and my ad is pending for review. Is that normal?

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

      It is! For all ads, it can take several hours to get approved.

      • http://www.facebook.com/kimmywright73 Kimberly Wright

        Thanks Jon!

      • Linnette R Mullin

        So the ads are eventually approved and you pay for them?

  • LinRP

    Super clear tutorial! I’m on it. Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/heatherdopson Heather Dopson

    We began using the dark posts last week at Infusionsoft and are very pleased with the results so far. It is a much more effective way to A/B test as well as target specific audiences without having to blast from your Page every time.

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

      Love it, Heather!

  • http://twitter.com/heatherdopson Heather Dopson

    We began using dark posts last week at Infusionsoft. It is a much better way to A/B test without having to blast from your Page.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/anna.geagea Anna Buzevskaya Geagea

    Great post, thank you. I will be trying this very soon!

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  • http://antoniocalero.com/ Antonio Calero

    Hey Jon, I’ve been disconnected for a few days but glad to be back and reading your useful posts.

    I had heard about this before, but have never find an easy tutorial, nor a reason to use it. So thank you for the heads up. Just a couple of things that are not clear to me:
    1) So you’re saying that if I post a photo as a dark post and then promote it, the 20% rule won’t apply?
    2) If the post is hidden, how do your followers get to see it and comment on it?

    Thank you

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

      1) The 20% rule still applies, but this just gives you a second shot at creating the post without publishing it to your timeline.
      2) It’s hidden from your timeline but will be shown in their News Feed (or wherever else) as an ad.

      • Linnette R Mullin

        I’m not quite getting the concept. I’m almost there, but there seems to be a missing piece for me to finish connecting the dots. So, we’re creating ads, submitting them for review, but they never use them as ads, why?

      • http://lukerumley.com/ Luke Rumley

        A similar question: will the post gain any viral activity? In your example, did Blake’s friends see that he had liked a dark post? I like the power of having a published post+boosting, and I think I’d want the halo effect of like/comments/shares even on a dark post. Any data available on that?

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

          Friends of those who interact with a dark post will see it just as they would when friends interact with organic posts.

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  • Efrat Dekel

    excellnet, right on time, again!

  • Rocky

    Hi Jon, My power editor does not have a “Promote” button to press after I create a post. It does have a Create Ads. I have followed your steps and my ads have been approved but they don’t seem to be working. Any thoughts on where I may have messed up? Thanks!

    • http://www.patcoakley.com/ Pat Coakley

      I have the same issue and wonder if FB has changed this option since Jon wrote about it in April. or whether it is one of the ever constant “sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t” architecture of Power Editor. I now use it in Safari and have had fewer problems than Chrome but, honestly, it is not a gliche-free bit of technology to begin with and add the constant FB changes and…well, onward we go.

  • Rocky

    - Failed to create campaign “”: Campaign creation missing friendly name
    - Failed to create ad “AllisonFLFB”: The campaign id is invalid.
    - Failed to create ad “AllisonUPFL”: The campaign id is invalid.
    - Failed to create ad “”: (#100) Must include the “name” index

  • Thomas Bigum

    Untill now I’ve been creating dark posts in Facebook and not in power editor. What you do is you schedule the post to the future, and then pick up the post-ID in the activity log, by clicking the date of the future post. Post ID will be in the URL.

  • Michelle J

    Facebook won’t actually let me access my page under “Manage Pages.” I can do just about everything else in Power Editor, but for whatever reason, “Manage Pages” seems to be broken. Even after downloading all the pages I manage, none of them appear in the left hand sidebar. I’m using Chrome, and I’ve repeated the process several time to no avail. When I try and create a post, it tells me to select a page, but none of mine appear.

    Has anyone else run into this problem with Facebook and/or found a way around this?

    (And it uploaded my screenshot 3 times — sorry about that)

    • huy

      Maximum working as Instructions but seen this error. It is any errors and way Khắc recovery?

      Thanks

  • LinRP

    Can you make a dark post an active post to show on your timeline? What I want to do is make the dark post, submit it for approval, have make it show on my timeiine when it’s ready to go.

  • http://www.patcoakley.com/ Pat Coakley

    Jon, I wonder if Facebook has changed this dark post options recently? Or, at least, since you posted this? I have followed your instructions, step by step, and yet when I click on “manage pages” and highlight the page, and create the post, the tabs do not give me a “promote” option. Create post, publish ad, revert changes, create ad, view ads…these are the only choices. The tab selection does not match your screenshot. There is no way to access the type of targeting which would make it worth it or even to attach it to a specific campaign. Just the same page post targeting offered in “boost post”. Here’s a screen shot. Do you know if there have many changes in this?

    • Hasan Jensen

      I am having the same issues as Pat.

      Don’t see any “Promote” button but instead a “Create Ad” from which I cannot promote my post. Instead I can do sponsored stories, normal ads, etc.

      • http://www.patcoakley.com/ Pat Coakley

        Hasan, I suspect this option is no longer available or available only to some. They said they were cutting down on the ad options and this one probably was first on their list. I thought it sounded too good to be true in the first place! Being able to promote a post “darkly” with even more precise options than the boost post ad AND being able to promote it even though this post may have been previously rejected by FB on your “visible” timeline? It didn’t seem to make sense. Maybe I didn’t understand what Jon was saying, but it still is not an option in my Power Editor so I am not going to spend any more time on it.

        • Hasan Jensen

          Hi Pat,

          It seems so.

          I have actually discovered a different way of creating unpublished posts – a way that is possible directly from the post composed on an FB page. Check this article out:

          http://www.insidefacebook.com/2013/05/21/facebook-gives-admins-new-way-to-create-unpublished-posts-directly-from-page/

          • http://www.patcoakley.com/ Pat Coakley

            Thanks, Hasan! To borrow a phrase…”It takes a village to figure out what you can and can’t do on FB.”

          • Chris

            Pat / Eric / Hasan,

            Maybe I’m not following along, but to me it looks like the “Create Ad” button does the exact same thing that the “Promote” button did. So really the only thing that changed was Facebook renamed the button.

            If you click Create Ad you have all the options you need to set the Creative & Placements, the Audience, and everything else.

            So you’re correct that the screenshots don’t match, but it’s only because the button was renamed to Create Ad. Agree? Am I missing something?

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

            This is exactly it.

    • Eric Leszkowicz

      Same here.

      You can view the post and then boost it….so I am assuming that this works out the same?

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

      Create Ad seems to be the new lingo. Use this. But you don’t need to promote it from here since the post is now in Power Editor’s database. It would also be available to pick when promoting a post in the main interface.

  • Angela

    Hi Jon – Any tips on how to publish a previously dark / unpublished post? The API seems to say it can be done, but I can figure it out, and Googling have failed me so far!

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

      Hi, Angela! Within Power Editor…

      Manage Pages > Click your Page > Highlight the Dark Post > Click “Publish Post”

      Hope this helps!

      • peter_oriolo

        I can’t find the Publish post option Jon :(

  • joshuacarter

    I keep getting this error while trying to promote: Ad targeting does not match targeting of the story — The targeting specified for this ad is not compatible with the story being boosted. Check the privacy and language/country targeting of the story you are trying to sponsor.

    • Chris Kemp

      I got a couple error messages along the way as well. Here is how I got around them…

      - If you select a language and location in the dark post it may cause an error when you add targeting in the ad. Even if your dark post and your ad targeting both say English and United States it may still cause an error. So, create a new identical dark post without any language and location selected and it should let you proceed. Basically save any targeting for when you actually create an ad, rather than choosing anything on the dark post.

      - For a different post I got errors on the targeting. So I created a new “Audience” within Power Editor that was just an empty audience. So if I get an error on my targeting criteria I go back and select my empty audience to clear things out, and then try again with my targeting criteria. After clearing out and starting over it allows the upload with no errors.

      Hope those work for you.

      • joshuacarter

        Thanks, that helps. Next time around I’ll give that a shot.

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

      When you created the unpublished post, did you choose targeting?

      • joshuacarter

        Probably. Anyway to change that after-the-fact?

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

          Don’t believe so, Joshua.

  • Jefferson Midei

    Jon, please, help me… How do I EDIT a dark post?! I want to REuse a dark post (with all its comments, shares, likes, etc), but I want to change some thinks, like text and image… Do you know how to do that?

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

      Hey, Jefferson. You can’t edit a dark post, just as you can’t edit a regular Facebook post. I know, it would be nice!

  • Mike

    Having issues with this. Did FB shut this down?

  • Tracy

    When I click on “MANAGE PAGES” nothing shows in the area under “CREATE POST” so I can’t select a Page to create a dark post for. If anyone has any ideas on how I can fix this, I’d be very grateful.

    • Tracy

      OK, found a solution, when you got to create the “For a Facebook Page using a Page Post” Ad, select the DESTINATION FB Page and then you get a “CREATE NEW UNPUBLISHED POST” click to create the dark post.

  • Grant Perry

    I’m finding unpubished posts work really well. Another reason for using them is to see your conversion (and cost per conversion) data in the admanager. These metrics don’t seem to display fully with regular promoted posts.

  • Thanasut Vudthivichai

    How to delete or edit unpublished posts? Please help. Thanks.

  • Connie Yiu

    Doesn’t work! followed all steps, but ad was still disapproved.

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