How to A/B Test on Facebook Using Dark Posts

Manual and programmatic workflows explained

September 17, 2015

There are two ways to run a dark test: manual and programmatic. Manual is not fun; it takes about 12x to 18x longer than programmatic testing. Below is a breakdown of both approaches. Be forewarned:

Common Emotions Associated With Manual Dark Testing

Before getting started, make sure you have administrative privileges for your Facebook Page and an active Ad Account. You’ll need both before running a test with either approach.

1. Manual Dark Testing: 60 to 90 Minutes per Test

You can run a manual dark test via Facebook Power Editor Facebook Power Editor or Facebook Business Manager.

To master the basics of running a dark test, most people need to run a handful of tests and speak with others also running tests to pick up tips on best practices from others already running tests.

There are also some good online resources, like this overview of dark testing by overview of dark testing by Refinery29, that can help you learn.

Here are the basic steps:

  1. Create a Campaign: Here’s how.
  2. Create a Lookalike Audience. Here’s how.
  3. Create an Ad Set. Here’s how.
  4. Designate your Lookalike Audience as the target audience for the Ad Set.
  5. Add different versions of the share message you would like to create.
  6. Set your budget, schedule, conversion goal, and placement (e.g. Mobile).
  7. Submit your Ad Set to Facebook for review.
  8. Assuming your Ad is approved, it will run for the scheduled time.
  9. When the results are in, copy the best performing version and post it to your Facebook Page, or promote it further.

Easy and quick, right? When you have some free time I’d encourage you to run one dark test that has 6 meaningfully different messages (try combinations of 3 different headlines, 3 different images). This exercise may take a few hours, and unfortunately you won’t really know if you did things right.

However, you will know you’re getting the hang of things when you whittle down setup time to about 1 to 1.5 hours per test. Most people find it hard to cut down the setup time further without undercutting the quality of their test (like only testing one alternate headline).

The problem is that Facebook makes you manually define settings for every new test you run, and every message variation you want to include. Cue extreme frustration.

If you’d like to remain in a more Zen-like state but still run dark tests, I suggest doing so programmatically.

2. Programmatic Dark Testing: 2 to 5 Minutes per Test

Programmatic testing allows you to ignore the mind-numbing steps of manual testing, and focus on what really matters: your messaging and results.

You can kick off a great, tailored dark test programmatically in under 5 minutes. In the video below, I actually do it for a test with 9 messages in under 2 minutes. New world record?

The platform I used in the video above is called Naytev. My team and I created Naytev to make dark testing incredibly easy and scalable. If you’re interested in Dark Testing in under 5 minutes, try it out.

How You’ll Feel When You Create a Dark Test 18x Faster Than Everyone Else