What is Facebook Dark Testing and Why Should I Care?

More Facebook Clicks Without Cat Pics

September 19, 2015

Getting more engagement on social media can improve your bottom line, but only with the right message.

Top social media teams engineer their content for success by testing multiple messages among different audiences before posting to Facebook. When done correctly, this fast strategy is extremely effective at increasing content’s engagement.

The concept is simple: create multiple versions of a post on social media and use data to determine which one performs best. In practice, however, testing isn’t that easy. If it were, BuzzFeed wouldn’t be a unicorn, and a lot more companies would be testing every post they published.

Testing messaging for social media  remains frustratingly elusive, even for experts. Most teams don’t know where to start, and even those who do can’t scale their testing; it’s a tedious and time-intensive process. The result: most people don’t test, or test less than they should.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to test your messages like a rockstar: run dark or “Unpublished” posts on Facebook.

Great Advice Rarely Followed: “Always Be Testing”

Sneak Preview from Glengarry Glen Ross 2

Dark posts are specialized News Feed ads that don’t show up on your Facebook Page. They target an audience you define (such as a Lookalike Audience based off your Page fans). When you run a dark post with multiple messages, you’re dark testing. You can test two or more versions of your messaging as a means to drive more post engagement, Page growth, product and event sales, and more.

Until now, it would normally take you up to 90 minutes to create each dark test. Fortunately, that’s no longer necessary. If you’ve got five minutes, you’ve got time to run a dark test.

This article will cover when you should run dark tests and how to run them. If you already run dark tests, kudos. You’ll learn how to run them better and faster.

When Should You A/B Test With Dark Posts?

People  run dark tests to accomplish a variety of goals. Below are a few of the more common ones. We cover these goals in more detail in our post: 4 Reasons You Should A/B Test With Dark Posts.

  1. Grow Your Facebook Post Engagement and Fan Base
  2. Drive More Readers for Your Website
  3. Drive Product and Event Sales
  4. Keep Sharing Your Favorite Post Without Fatiguing Your Fans

How to A/B Test With Dark Posting in Under 5 Minutes

To run a Dark Test, you’ll need you’ll need a Facebook Page and an active Ad Account. There are two ways to run a dark test: Manual and Programmatic. Below, we cover both approaches.

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

Manual is not fun; it takes about 12x to 18x longer than programmatic testing, but if you’re determined to try it, here’s how: Dark Test Workflows . You’ll need to use Facebook Power Editor or Facebook Business Manager to run a test manually. There are 9 overall steps and a few dozen decisions to make along the way.

I’ve spoken with many teams about their experience running dark tests manually, and the common emotional thread is extreme frustration:

Common Emotions Associated With Manual Dark Testing

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

As you might guess by the name, programmatic testing involves using Facebook’s Ad APIs. But don’t worry, you won’t need to do that yourself; it’s already done.

You can kick off a high-performing, 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.

We already specialize in testing Facebook messages for large brands and publishers, and many clients asked for a way to make dark testing better. We listened.

Naytev has best practices baked into it, eliminating the learning curve for dark testing. We also eliminate unnecessary work, enabling you to create dozens of tests in the same time you normally could only create one or two.

How You’ll Feel When You Create a Dark Test 12x Faster Than Everyone Else

Even if you aren’t ready to start using Naytev, I hope this article helps dispel the mystery surrounding dark testing. It’s a powerful tool that can benefit teams of any size.

Have a Fantastic, Double Rainbow Kind of Day

P.S. Like the images in this article? Most are from resources we recommend using for great Facebook share messages in our blog post: The Formula for a Perfect Social Share Message.