industry update

Social Media “Dark Posts” Fade to Black

November 1, 2017

Facebook and Twitter are shining the light on social media “dark posts”. Significant policy changes in response to growing concerns over ad-transparency will soon do away with the secretive ad-targeting practice, and the new rules are going to impact all advertisers. Heartbeat’s Group Engagement Director, Dan Haller, gives you the quick facts to make sure your light bulb turns on for this new age of ad-transparency enlightenment.

What happened?
Facebook and Twitter are changing up their ad-transparency game. Last week, both social media giants announced that they will no longer allow these so called “dark posts”—ads that are viewable only to those targeted by them, and not attributable to the advertiser that’s paying for them. These dark posts recently came under fire during the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election after it was discovered that they were used to target niche audiences with messages from fake organizations representing hot-button issues like immigration, abortion, and gun control. New policies being rolled out (within the next few weeks for Twitter, and next month for Facebook) will greatly improve the visibility that users have into ads being served on these platforms. Once activated, anyone (repeat, anyone) will be able to see every ad that is currently active for any advertiser. Currently, both Twitter and Facebook allow users to see only some level of information about why they are being targeted with certain ads (e.g. because they are located in the United States and have shown an interest in COPD), but only when they are served that particular ad. This new change will allow any user, at any time, to see every ad that is active in the market.

Why should you care?
This presents a new opportunity for advertisers to gain rare competitive intelligence about other brands’ social media strategies, as anyone who cares to explore will be able to analyze both messaging and demographic targeting strategies. This also means, in turn, that if you are going to advertise on Facebook, the same insight can be gained about your social strategies. We don’t believe this is rationale to eschew using Facebook and Twitter altogether, as the targeting options on both platforms continue to be top notch, but the added visibility your competitors will have should be taken into account when planning social campaigns.

What should you do?
No action is needed at this moment, however all advertisers should be aware that this change is in the works. Heartbeat is integrating these new sources for data and insights into all competitive analyses and will be reporting these learnings as soon as they are made available. You should work with your agency partners to determine the specific impact for your brands.

Official announcements from Facebook and Twitter can be found here: