Shining the Light on Facebook Dark Ads

As a business or brand, using Facebook’s dark ads has always been a way to reach new customers and page followers without annoying those who have already liked your page with too many posts. Dark ads are also a great way of getting new customers and followers who may not be familiar with your page or brand.

If you are unfamiliar with dark ads, also known as dark posts, they are advertisements created through Facebook’s Ads Manager that look like normal posts, but do not show up on your business’ Facebook page. Social media managers create the ads, or posts, and pay to promote them to a specially-targeted audience.  Many times, people who already like your business page do not see, or even know, that you created a post.

However, anyone visiting a Facebook page can now see what ads are running “dark.” This change comes from transparency issues that came to light (no pun intended) over the past year that we have all probably read or heard about on the news. Facebook announced that, starting the summer of 2018, all active dark ads would be viewable by anyone who is interested in seeing them.

Looking at a page’s dark ads is pretty simple. Navigate to any brand or business page.  On the left-hand side of the page you will notice a menu which will contain options such as About, Community, Posts, or any other of a variety of clickable links. At the bottom of that list will be Info and Ads. Once you click Info and Ads, you will be taken to a page that says Active Ads from that business or brand page. On this new page, by default, you will see any ads that are running within the United States. If the page is running dark ads in any other country, you will have the option, from a drop down list, to see what ads are showing in each country.

While you will be able to see a page’s ads, what you won’t be able to see is who was targeted. You are also unable to see any comments on the posts or any dark ads that are no longer running.

If you are reviewing a page’s dark ads and see something that might be questionable, unethical, or just plain not appropriate, you can click the ellipses (the three dots laid out horizontally) at the top right side of the page and select Report Ad as offensive or inappropriate.

But there are benefits for businesses to review another page’s dark ads. Now, companies can take a peek behind the scenes of their competitors’ pages to see what product and services they are promoting. Beyond that, a business can determine what brand voice competitors are using and what types of photos and videos are being targeted at their (and your!) audience.

This is just the first step of many that Facebook plans to roll out in their effort to combat transparency concerns and fake profiles and news.  With a goal of keeping its users honest, businesses who aren’t breaking any rules and are running legitimate ads, should have nothing to worry about. In fact, business owners and their social media teams should be thrilled about the change—it just became a little easier to keep an eye on the competition and adjust your digital marketing accordingly.