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4 reasons why dark posts going public is good for marketers

The moment we’ve all been waiting for is upon us. In their move to bring more transparency to social, Facebook has made all active ads available to the public - but this is nothing to panic about! Read on to learn how to use this new change to your advantage.

In case you missed it, Facebook has announced that ads running for all Pages as well as on Instagram and Messenger will be made available to the public to make online advertising more transparent. That’s big news! It means you’ll get an uncensored look at what Pages are promoting across their channels. As a Facebook Marketing partner, we’re happy to roll up our sleeves and help out any way we can.

When marketers first found out about the change there was a lot of panic. We’ve become so accustomed to guarding our ads like answers on a test that it became hard to see past the initial shock and welcome the change with open arms. Now that the dust has settled and we’ve been able to explore the update firsthand we’re able to take a look at this new change and give it our stamp of approval.

How to see all dark posts on Facebook

Accessing this information is fairly simple. To take a look at a Page’s active ads look at the menu in the left-hand corner and click “Info and Ads.” 

From there you will be able to browse through ads complete with creative and copy. You can even take it a step further and filter by country to see which ads a running where.

Now that you know how to access this new feature let’s cover why this change has more positives than negatives. Here are 5 ways Facebook’s public ads are actually a good thing. 

1. Uncover your competition’s Facebook advertising strategy

This is HUGE. Facebook has given you a key to unlock your competition’s paid activities. Before now, it was largely a guessing game. Sure, there were times where you may have been targeted by your competitors and may be seen a couple promoted posts here and there. But a look into all active running ads, adds a whole new layer to your competitive analysis.

Being able to take a look at what your competition is investing in helps you see into their strategy. Since you’re likely targeting the same audience, it’s essential to investigate how you can make your ads stand out from the rest. Maybe based on your findings you’ll want to start promoting the same features your competition is to win over customers in the consideration phase of the sales funnel. Or maybe you’ll decide to go a different route entirely. The point is, with access to their ads as an entire package you’ll be able to clearly understand what value propositions they are using to lure in customers and use this intel to evaluate your own unique selling points. Can you compete? These are all strategic thought processes that weren’t available until now.

Here are some of the generalizations you can make based on this information:

Who your competition is targeting - this won’t be disclosed, however, based on the messaging it should be fairly clear who the ad was directed to. What you will be able to see, however, is exactly which country is seeing which ads. Knowing what types of ads are running where can help you understand which parts of the world you competitor is going after and how. Are they further down the funnel? Or are they focusing on brand building? Use these details to inform your own targeting strategy.

What they are putting budget behind - are they investing in lead gen activities, or are they pushing content marketing to raise awareness about their brand in a specific region?

How many ads are they running - keep in mind Facebook only allows you to view active ads, past ads will not be archived. That means you get a clear picture of how many ads are running at present and compare that to your own ads frequency.

How Many Facebook Ad Variations they’re testing - you not only get to see what ads they are running, but you get insight into how many different versions they’ve created. Maybe you can apply some of the same ad tests to your own strategy.

What Products They’re Promoting - By taking a look at your competitor’s treasure trove of ads you can see exactly which products they are advertising. Are they seasonal? Maybe new entirely? Find out what their running in which regions so you can develop a counter-attack.

I know what you’re thinking. If you get to see into their strategy then they will also be able to see into yours. That’s is true, unfortunately, it’s not a one-way mirror. However, you should keep in mind that they won’t have access to the most important information about your ads - and that’s how they are performing. The only thing they will be able to see is the ad itself and what countries you are targeting. Whether or not these ads are successful i.e. how many likes they receive, how many people have viewed or clicked through, will all remain private.

2. Get inspiration from ads on other pages

Inspiration is a huge part of the creative process, without it, ads can get pretty boring. Interestingly, finding inspiration for social media ads was extremely difficult.

With other mediums, finding inspiration was easy. If creating a television spot you could hop over to YouTube and watch commercials that have gone down in history for capturing the attention of audiences. You could drive by a billboard, or hear the same radio ad the rest of the world could hear.

With social media ads? Not so much. Dark posts made this domain extremely private, which can often lead to a dry-spell of inspiration and innovation. It’s hard to break out of your creative routine if you’re working in a vacuum. After all, Facebook ads are all about testing. Don’t be afraid to test some of what you see. That doesn’t mean plagiarize, it just means you have the ability to artfully steal what you like and let the results speak for themselves.

Browsing through Facebook ads in or outside your industry is a great way to expand your creative horizons. Maybe you’ll see ads you’ve made that you thought would help break through the crowded News Feed are actually overpopulated. Or perhaps you’ll find some copy gems that you would like to test out yourself. There is an endless number of ways you can use this newly discovered insight to spice it up in the Ads Manager department.

3. Acquire trust with your audience

Competition can be stressful, but it also makes you better at what you do. Just knowing that your competitors are watching, or that any prospects or current customers can act as a watchdog should make you think twice about your ads. It may sound a bit restricting, but opening the doors to your workshop could potentially motivate you to always go the extra mile. After all, your audience just got a lot a lot bigger which means you’ll want to only put your best content out there. If you’re publishing something that you don’t feel comfortable showing people outside of your target group then chances are it shouldn’t go live at all.

It’s important to realize that your competition won’t be the only ones with the ability to view your ads. Your current customers, as well as prospective buyers, may also take a peak. But this can really only work to your advantage if you’re playing by the rules. With so many online scams out there, people are becoming a lot more careful online. They aren’t going to put their credit card information in just anywhere. It’s very likely that your running ads could be used as a way to screen your company to make sure it’s legitimate or even as a way to see if what you are offering on your website matches what you're posting online.

4. Your metrics will not be skewed 

A big concern marketers have when they first hear about this new change is how data will be impacted. Luckily, Facebook is a step ahead of the game. If you have visitors checking out your “Info and Ads” section, they will not be able to interact with your advertisement. In the example below, you can see how Likes, Comments, and Shares are disabled. Views will not be factored into social media metrics such as Reach or Impressions. The only thing that is clickable in the ad is the Call to Action button. 

While it’s still unclear if users coming in from an ad clicked on in the “Info and Ads” section will be counted as conversions. It’s very likely that the only thing that could be impacted would be your website traffic - although there still hasn’t been much information on this topic. However, even if users coming in from this pathway are counted towards your website visits, the number would be extremely small so there is really nothing to worry about.


The election interference in the United States was an unfortunate example of what could happen if there is a shortage of visibility in the social media advertising world. Since this news came out, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have been hard at work developing new systems that could prevent unethical advertising from happening again. It’s important to note that Facebook’s new policy treats political advertisers a lot differently from businesses with plans to archive up to 7 years worth of ads, with plans of disclosing some targeting stats. And rightfully so. For the meantime, non-political Pages will only have their active ads displayed with the filter-by country option.

Change is always hard to adapt to, but it’s safe to say that adding a layer of transparency to our Facebook advertising is a step in the right direction. With the ability to unlock your competition’s Facebook ads marketers will have valuable information to inspire future campaigns. But qualitative analysis is just a piece of the puzzle, you need data to fill in the gaps. With Ads Benchmarks, you’ll have a chance to backup your social media plan with numbers that will show you how your Facebook spending stacks up against your competition so you can stand above the rest.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on socialbakers.com. Any statistics or statements included in this article were current at the time of original publication.

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