And then Facebook said, Let there be light! Facebook transparency centers are to be first tested in Canada, followed by other markets. How the dismissing of Facebook Dark Posts impacts the brands will be interesting to see.
The role of Russian groups in influencing US Presidential elections using Facebook Dark Posts has opened a can of worms that no one was ready for. For the unacquainted, over 3000 ads featuring polarized and coloured content were targeted by Russian Groups to various sects. Facebook claimed that approximately over 10 million users viewed the ad, while 44 per cent of these ads were seen before the elections.
Some of the ads targeted by Russian Groups through Facebook Dark Posts
As a measure to deal with the threat, Facebook brought dark posts out of its protective shell, making all ads visible as a part of its transparency measures. Facebook’s Transparency Tools will enable users to view all ads running on the platform, irrespective of it being an unpublished post, with the help of a ‘View Ads’ icon on every page.
“Starting next month, people will be able to click “View Ads” on a Page and view ads a Page is running on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger — whether or not the person viewing is in the intended target audience for the ad,” read Facebook’s official blog.
Facebook Dark Posts played a vital role for brands and marketers, who counted on the feature to run hyperlocal and targeted advertisements for particular group of audiences. According to data by TrackMaven at $776.75, the average total spend per post for dark posts is nearly double than boosted posts which stands at $389.00.
For a deeper sense of understanding, there is a thin line between Dark Posts and Boosted or Targeted posts. While both the formats allow specific targeting, boosted post allows users to target basis pre-decided parameters such as gender, educational status, and more, Dark Posts allowed targeting basis personalized keywords.
The core difference between the two – targeted ads appear on a brand’s timeline while Dark Posts appeared only on the consumers’ timeline who have been targeted, allowing brand the luxury of privacy. Data suggests that the average dark post is active for 42 days, nearly double the duration of the average boosted post (27 days).
Dark Posts offered a number of benefits, including, hyperlocal or hyper intensive targeting, allowing the brand to maintain a neat and consecutive timeline, and in some cases helping in keeping the competition in the dark.
Statistically, Dark Posts were doing a phenomenal job as Facebook page likes for businesses with active dark posts was recorded at 845,086, while the average Facebook page likes for business actively boosting posts was 592,797.
Impact on Marketers
While marketers do not bear any direct or intense wrath of the update, a bit of caution is advised on their path.
Sabyasachi Mitter, Managing Director, ibs unified, shares, “It will definitely reduce pointless experiments. Every sort of targeted ad is going to be visible (albeit post a click to view all ads)”.
Mitter explained that the move removes the secrecy behind what is being promoted. You will be able to see what the competition is advertising; even if you don’t know the amount. “I’m guessing the Analytics tools will update their software o more reliably indicate paid posts.”
Chetan Asher, Founder & CEO, Tonic Worldwide on the other hand explains that while the impact will be tangible, it wouldn’t be as big as expected.
“Brands can continue using the conventional methods that have worked for them in the past. The whole tracking your competition bit was possible before as well, so, dark posts out in the open, wouldn’t make much of a difference, Asher concluded.
The banishing of dark posts is more likely to have a direct impact of the day to day functioning of social media managers and agencies. As test ads too, will now be out in the open, brands have very little scope for trial and error. Also, with all ads being accessible to all consumers, brands might eventually have to take up a multi-page route, to maintain distinctive tonality for different sects of audience.
Furthermore, consumers will now be much more aware of what is “advertised” in the literal sense, increasing brands’ reliability on content creators and indirect marketing.
Facebook recorded third quarter ad sales at $10.1 billion while mobile sales rose to $8.9 billion. If these numbers get impacted by the transparency issue will be interesting to see.