While largely meant as a response to foreign interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, the new policies impact all app marketers. How will you need to adjust your tactics?
Last fall, Facebook announced the end of “dark posts” is near. The pivot in policy is meant to provide users with greater transparency into the advertisements they see and who those ads are coming from.
While meant as a defense against recent manipulations of the social media platform that influenced the outcomes of political elections, eliminating dark posts also affects all app marketers with a paid social strategy.
The result is a bit of a double-edged sword.
Dark Posts Defined
“Dark post” sounds much shadier than it actually is. A dark post is simply an unpublished page post that doesn’t readily appear in a brand’s page or news feed. Creating a dark post allows marketers to be highly-targeted, whether that be for A/B testing purposes or to allow them to only share content to certain relevant audiences. And in contrast to organic posts that do publish on news feeds and brand pages, dark posts remain opaque to all other users (and competing brand advertisers).
The New Rules
Facebook began testing a new “View Ads” icon in Canada late last year. This feature allows anyone to go to a brand page and see all of its active ads running across all Facebook channels (even if the user is not in the intended audience). The ads are clickable to simulate functionality through to the destination URL.
But Facebook will NOT reveal any “secret sauce” recipes. Competitors will simply be able to see the ad (like a TV or print ad). They won’t be able to see engagement, such as likes, comments, or shares. And Facebook will not provide impressions, clicks, budgets, or bids.
New functions simply reveal the messaging and little hints into the tactics behind it.
In the political sphere, advertisers now require authorization that confirms their identities and locations. Only authorized advertisers will be permitted to serve issue-based ads in an effort to limit misinformation that skews the perceptions of the voting public. All political ads will be archived for four years.
The Pros and Cons
The benefits of dark posts were three-fold. They allowed for extremely precise targeting, A/B testing, as well as competitive opacity. Eliminating dark posts does not eliminate targeting and testing capabilities. But newfound openness replaces the opacity.
This shift to transparency can be spun as a pro. It is a step towards regaining user trust in the platform that’s eroded due to a bombardment of misinformation and negative PR.
From a marketer’s standpoint, if bringing greater transparency to Facebook boosts user sentiment, rebuilds trust equity, and increases time spent on the platform, it’s a net positive. Ultimately, app marketers will still go where the eyeballs are.
The obvious question is how many consumers are actually going to take the time to go to a brand page and click on “View Ads”? The full impact is TBD, but probably not very many. Most general users probably aren’t even going to notice the “View Ads” button.
The most significant development for app marketers is the competitive insight. Advertisers can now visit competitor pages, see what ads are out there, and either mimic those themes or create promotional offers in direct response.
However, those same competitors, of course, have access to the same insights in return.
As Facebook turns out the light on dark posts, advertisers must be mindful of competitors peering inside the newly opened black box. But it’s a level playing field. We can all track competing strategies, and quickly iterate new creatives accordingly.
“View Ads” will launch globally in June. App marketers, start preparing your tactics now if you haven’t already.
How are you preparing for Facebook’s new “View Ads” functionality?
Drop TMGA a note at firstname.lastname@example.org to chat with us about our thoughts on the subject and how we plan to continue maximizing ROAS for app marketers.