Pros and cons of boosting organic content vs. launching dark ads on social media 

Two laptops open on a table with evening light

Over the last several years, I’ve found myself in front of rooms of social media marketers and PR professionals vocalizing my disdain for the term “boosting” because it is often a signal to me that people are leveraging the Boost button instead of applying concrete strategy. When it comes to social media advertising, boosting can be a loose cannon – if used strategically, boosting could work wonders, but if you are boosting ad hoc, you might as well be throwing dollars out the window. 

A quick primer.

There are two ways you can amplify content on social media. First, you can pull organic content from an organization’s page into an ad campaign, or, alternately, you can create what’s called a dark ad (meaning the ad appears to come from an organization but it isn’t actually published to its profile page). 

Before you throw precious dollars behind creating, publishing and promoting content, consider these pros and cons. 

Benefits of boosting organic social media content 

  • ROI: In my experience, by pulling in organic content into existing campaigns, you tend to get more results for your buck. For example, you may pull a post into a traffic campaign, but you’ll see engagement go up, too. 
  • Bandwidth: By using approved content, you save the additional approval step with your client or leadership. It also saves your team from building new ads from scratch. 

Downsides of boosting organic social media content 

  • Limitations: Because you’re leveraging existing content, you can’t edit anything. No tweaking headlines, URLs or images. If a social post is dated, there’s a chance it won’t work in an ad campaign. To leverage organic content, your paid team and social teams must work closely on copy to ensure a seamless integration – which means more time and prep on the front end. 
  • Hurdles: We’ve gotten dinged using this approach because third-party scheduling tools change our content’s URL (for example, a is created but leads to Facebook calls this circumventing and we’ve had our ad account shut down for it. 

Benefits of creating dark ads on social media 

  • Customizable: Dark ads mean you have full control over the headline, description, preview copy, URL, images and more. You can use messages that you may not want to publish publicly on your feed, and you can serve them to the right people at the right time. 
  • Nuance: With customization comes nuance. Ever see a “Hey Richmond!” ad? That was a dark ad served just for folks in the Richmond DMA – but the organization didn’t actually have to publish that content organically. This allows for a more personalized user experience. 

Downsides of creating dark ads on social media 

  • Bandwidth: With a fully customizable dark ad, you’ve doubled your workload – and doubled your approval process. Dark ads require more preparation from your team and more approval time from decision makers. 
  • Results: In our experience with dark ads, whatever your campaign goal is, those are the results you’re likely to see from dark ads. For example, an ad placed in a traffic-driving campaign will more likely generate clicks vs. clicks and engagement. 

Casey Prentice

A self-proclaimed organizational junkie and data geek who confesses to a secret desire to be a professional organizer, Casey enjoys account management, writing, editing and digital content strategy. Her agency work has helped clients like Virginia’s Community Colleges, VCUarts and Swedish Match.

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