How to Deliver Influencer Marketing ROI with Dark Posts

Paid ads that fill up feeds across Facebook and Instagram are known as dark posts. However, only a fraction of brands, even those who fully embrace influencer marketing as a major component of their marketing mix, are capturing the opportunity and return on investment they could be from the influencer content they have already commissioned and paid for.

Dark posts may bring to mind political advertising black hat tactics, but they are not as sinister as the name suggests. Dark posts are a common social media marketing tactic with several advantages (which we will cover shortly), but their potential when combined with influencer marketing is what’s really exciting.

influencer whitelisting

Dark posts are a powerful tool to help deliver maximum results from your influencer marketing efforts.

How to Deliver Influencer Marketing ROI with dark posts:

What are dark posts?

Influencer dark posts are targeted ads on social media platforms that don’t appear on an influencer’s timeline, page, or stories. In other words, dark posts will not show up in the news feeds of an influencer’s followers (unless you specifically target that audience in an ad set - more on this later). 

Dark posts are also known as unpublished page posts and show up as Facebook ads (sponsored content) in the feeds of the users specifically targeted in an ad campaign. Dark posting is sometimes also called:

  • Influencer whitelisting
  • Influencer advertising access
  • Influencer paid amplification
  • Influencer boosting

 Dark posts exist across social media platforms, but this article will focus on the world of Instagram and Facebook specifically.

How can dark posts improve influencer marketing ROI?

When it comes to influencer marketing, dark posting offers a solution to declining organic reach by letting that content be targeted to anyone who is likely to respond (engage/ click-through/ buy). Instead of relying on organic reach and limited shelf life - marketers can determine who sees the content and ensure they reach their target audience(s) with their influencer campaigns.

By targeting your influencer dark posts to align with the audience(s) of your influencer(s), you can effectively reach your target audience with influencer content. This tactic keeps your brand top of mind in content the consumer enjoys seeing. Influencer dark posts are native, meaning  many people don’t view this content as a brand ad interrupting their social feed. In fact, dark posts leave a positive, lasting impression on the viewer(s), and may even convert them into customers. For example, let’s say you activate particular influencers because their audience is millennial fashion lovers living in major metro areas. Dark posts allow you to target the same demographics, interests, and locations as your influencer’s audience. But what does this mean for you and your brand? This means you’re able to target people you know your influencer will resonate with - AKA, you are reaching people who are likely to find value in your brand or product.

When gaining influencer advertising access (whitelisting), you can be precise and target new, niche audiences. This can be done by building lookalike audiences off of people who actively engage with your influencers. So, not only can you target people via Facebook recommendations, you can target those most likely to engage with certain types of influencers.

These audiences can be actual followers of the influencer and/or people who haven’t engaged with your influencers, but still find the content relatable. This is a win for the influencer, as well, since they’re likely to reach people who will check out their profile and follow.

If you plan to run Facebook dark posts in your influencer campaign, it’s recommended to build Facebook dark posts into the agreement upfront. Keep in mind, it’s typical that the influencer retains at least shared usage rights to the content. If you want to learn more, here is an in-depth article on how influencers charge for whitelisting and usage rights. Often times, influencers ask for additional compensation for this request. With that being said, it’s usually nominal and worth the payment, considering the time and money it takes to create high performing ad creative. Our recommendation: it’s better to work with fewer influencers and pay for the proper usage rights than to work with many influencers and rely entirely on organic postings.  

The true power of dark posting is realized when influencer content is treated as a performance media channel. The ability to optimize content across audiences, tweak variables (i.e. copy, creative, call to action, headlines, & landing pages), and run retargeting can increase overall ad account performance by double-digit percentages across prospecting and retargeting initiatives.

This whitepaper on influencer dark posting goes into the specifics around how to whitelist and optimize across all the levers mentioned above

How to get the most out of influencer marketing with dark posts

Influencers can say things that your brand can’t, and are received by users in a different way (people want to engage with people on social media, not brands). An easy way to run dark posts is to simply amplify the same content your influencer already posted organically about your product or brand. Instead of simply amplifying in one placement you may want to test auto-placements to reach your audience across Facebook and Instagram. This often how brands start testing dark posts as a strategy. 

Test different headlines and call to action buttons

The next step is usually testing various headlines and call-to-action buttons. The power of dark posting is the ability to make Instagram posts truly clickable (and embed tracking via UTM parameters and Ads Manager view and click conversion measurement). Headlines are not available in all placements (e.g. will show up in Facebook feed placement but not Instagram feed).

Test different content types and variations

Simply amplifying a post or using Facebook’s Branded Content Tool can leave a lot on the table when it comes to results. With dark posts, you can test how single images perform versus carousels/ slideshows for your brand.

Partner with influencers for dark post specific content

Another approach is to work with the influencer to create unique content specifically for dark post ads. Influencers will most likely not post 7 different images of your brand in their feed (that’s weird) but you can run this strategy across different audiences via dark posts. The content will most likely be related to the original content, but can enhance the experience of people who saw the content organically and tell a story to engage other audiences. Dark posts can actually add a lot more to the experience for your target customers - making them feel more positive about your collaboration and the campaign in general.

Publishing new and fresh content builds the feeling of authenticity and social proof – people must really like and endorse your product if your BRAND is constantly being promoted on social. . To target customers, it will appear like your brand is everywhere.

You can experiment with different formats and placements, all covered in the Lumanu whitepaper covering influencer dark posting.

Utilizing Ads Manager to analyze the hard data and results of your dark posts will give you the power to understand the return on investment of your influencer collaborations, and ultimately help you build the business case for investing in future influencer marketing campaigns. You will find out whether you should work again with an influencer, or what type of content elicits the best response from your target customers.

Dark posting sounds like the answer, how do I get started?

Dark posting should be thought of as a strategy that can deliver value with all 3rd party content creators. This applies to paid influencers but also affiliates, brand ambassadors, celebrity endorsements, publishers, even employees. Partnerships can be for content amplification, net new posts, or even just audience creation and targeting.

Programs should be designed with a test and learn framework around content as mentioned above and start with laying out the 3rd parties that are going to be included, the outreach and activation plan, ensuring contract language is in place as needed and of course measurement built into campaign, ad set and ad setup. 

The bottom line: influencer dark posting drives sales. With that said, it’s not easy because it involves multiple parties, at the very least a brand and an influencer. It’s an evolving space and the process still has some challenges brands should be aware of with 3 primary concerns being:

  1. Usage rights agreements
  2. Assigning advertising access/ whitelisting permission
  3. Content strategy and approval process for edits and changes
  4. Compliance with laws/regulations and Facebook policies

If you’re facing some of these yourself or are about to bring influencer into your performance media strategy (or vice versa), read more in our article on the Challenges of incorporating paid media with influencer marketing.


Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Head of Operations and Co-Founder of Lumanu, the leading media solution that enables brands to maximize the ROI of influencer marketing programs. Lumanu provides a unified platform that allows marketers to buy media through influencer channels at scale and measure results from reach to conversion. Over the past 3 years, Lumanu has delivered 1 billion + impressions and seven figures of measurable sales lift.

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