Facebook’s unpublished posts, also referred to as “dark” posts, are actively used by advertisers. The Ad Library has pulled back the curtain on just how frequently advertisers are utilizing this feature.
Sometimes unpublished posts are intentional, such as cases where advertisers want to test out multiple posts, but without all the ad variations appearing on their page. Other times, they are the result of Facebook’s functionality (Example: Lead Ads are unpublished by default).
Let’s cover what unpublished posts are, when you might want to publish them, and how to navigate the publishing process.
What is the Difference Between a Published Post and an Unpublished Post?
A published post means that the post appears on the Facebook page associated with the post. An unpublished post never appears on the Facebook page, and instead only on News Feed (or other placements as applicable). These are often used as advertised (also referred to as sponsored) posts only. However, both published and unpublished posts can be either sponsored or organic.
Why Would you Use an Unpublished Post?
There are sensible business scenarios when advertisers might use an unpublished post. These are just a few examples:
Creative Testing of Ads: An advertiser may test out multiple creative or copy combinations and may not want the page’s visitors to see all of the variations.
Lead Forms: Posts for Facebook’s Lead Forms are created within Ads Manager, but the Lead Forms themselves can be created directly from a page. This means that by default, Lead Form posts on Facebook are unpublished posts.
Instant Experience Ads: Posts for Instant Experiences tend to be created from Ads Manager, and are unpublished by default.
Why Would You Publish an Unpublished Post?
There are multiple reasons why you may want to publish an unpublished post. Here are a few:
Creative Testing of Ads: You may let multiple posts run for some time before determining the best performer. You might then select the top performer for publishing directly to the page, thereby ensuring that page visitors would see the best you have to offer.
Lead Forms: You may want to publish Lead Form posts directly to the business page to be certain that Facebook users can find them easily. This might be particularly important when running a contest that is likely to generate high interest, for example.
Instant Experience Ads: If you want these posts to be discoverable from your page, you will need to publish them directly to your page.
Remember that the Instant Experience creative unit is only viewable from mobile devices, even though the initial post may appear on desktop. For this reason, I only recommend publishing Instant Experience ads if it is absolutely required that they be visible on your page. Otherwise, keep them unpublished to avoid frustration from users visiting your page on desktop who can’t see the Instant Experience after clicking the initial post.
How to Publish an Unpublished Post
To publish an unpublished post, navigate to Ads Manager. If you use Every organization should have their own Business Manager to organize their assets (pages, ad accounts, pixels, and more), and then provide appropriate access to those assets to partners. More, you can go to business.facebook.com to access. If you do not, you can go to www.facebook.com/manage to access.
From Ads Manager, click the drop-down “stack” at the top left, and from the Engage customers section, select Page Posts.
After landing on the Page Posts tool screen, you’ll see a Page Selector drop-down on the top left. If you are unable to locate your page in this drop-down list, make sure you have selected the correct Business Manager account, or Ad Account, from the top right of this screen:
*I’ve labeled the two drop-downs in this example.
You’ll see various Posts options on the left: Scheduled Posts, Published Posts, and Ads Posts. At the time of this article’s update (August 2023), both Published Posts and Scheduled posts redirect you to use Business Suite to access that feature. However, Ads Posts is seemingly not yet integrated into Business Suite. The Page Posts tool from within Ads Manager is where they can be accessed currently.
- Scheduled Posts shows posts that are scheduled to be published to your page, but have not yet been published.
- Published Posts shows posts that have been published to your page. These are already visible to your page visitors, provided that you haven’t restricted the audience.
- Ads Posts shows posts that have already been used in ads. These are the posts which we can now publish directly to our business page.
From here, you can select the specific post you’d like to publish by choosing the button on the left of the post.
After selecting the post, a new menu for the post should appear with a drop down called “Actions”. If you click to expand the Actions drop down, there will be an option to Publish.
You can choose to “Publish,” which will immediately place the post on your page, visible to page visitors.
You can also choose “Schedule,” which will allow you to set the time and date for when you’d like the post to appear on your page. Be careful not to mistakenly select “Delete.” This would completely delete your post.
The option to Create ads allows you to create a new ad using the same post used previously – including using a Facebook ad post on Instagram placements. Remember that multiple ads can use the same post, which is a common tactic for building on “social proof.”
Locating Unpublished Posts in the Page Posts Tool
To see your unpublished posts, you can use a search bar in the Page Posts tool to navigate through your Ads Posts. This is particularly useful if you have a large volume of posts associated with ads.
You can search by the text copy within the ad post using this search bar. You can also search by the Post ID number.
You can locate the Post ID in Ads Manager by navigating to the Post Preview of an ad. Here’s a quick review of the steps to do this:
1) Navigate to a specific ad within Ads Manager, and check the box beside that ad.
2) Select the edit button on the far right. It looks like a pencil icon:
This will now display the Ad details. We can use the post link here to locate the post ID.
To access the associated post link for the ad, navigate to the Ad Preview section, and select the small upward right facing arrow. From here, choose the option Facebook Post with Comments:
This will open the link to the URL for the post associated with the ad. The Post ID is the very last string of numbers, after the “/posts/” segment of the URL. It will look like this:
You can copy the Post ID, and search in the Ads Posts of the Page Posts Tool search bar using this number.
Considerations on Publishing Unpublished Posts
The Page Posts tool we are using to publish unpublished posts has a history of being a bit buggy. I’ve found that it often works best in Google Chrome, but sometimes switching between browsers can resolve errors.
If you happen to run into issues, you might try again in a day or two, as these errors tend to resolve themselves. If you continue to have problems, you might try reaching out to Facebook Support for help.
What other scenarios do you have for publishing unpublished posts?
Let me know in the comments below!