A dark post is an inexpensive sponsored message on a social media website that is not published to the sponsor page timeline and will not display in follower feeds organically. Although dark posts are clearly labeled sponsored, they often appear in contextual formats that make them blend in with organic posts.
The process of buying and placing sponsored messages on social media websites is keyword-driven and relatively inexpensive when compared to other advertising channels. Dark posts, also known as unpublished posts, allow marketers to programmatically target specific demographics and conduct A/B tests without cluttering up their own brand's newsfeed. Platforms that support unpublished posts include Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest.
Dark posts have become controversial for a number of reasons, including the form's inherent lack of transparency and their alleged use in the distribution of fake news. To combat the abuse of dark posts, Facebook is changing its policy to make it possible for anyone to see which page is paying for a particular ad and what other ads the advertiser is currently running on Facebook. Twitter has announced it is not changing policy, but emphasizes that all sponsored Tweets will continue to be clearly identified as such.