Back in 2011, Apple joined Twitter. Not that you’d know about it, mind, as they’ve famously never tweeted. Or have they?
Tweets such as these started to pop up in 2016, publicising a launch event.
— Apple (@Apple) 2 September 2016
Note the RTs and likes. Yet if you head to their profile…
How do they do it? By utilising Twitter ads, and a method that has been dubbed ‘dark messaging’.
What is ‘dark messaging’?
‘Dark messaging’ is a way of creating tweets that don’t show up on your profile or in users’ timelines. It’s made possible by exploiting a small loophole in Twitter’s ad platform that — as of July 2017 — hasn’t been closed (although if it does get popular that could change).
These tweets exist, can be interacted with in all of the usual ways, but won’t show up unless you know their exact URL.
How are they created?
To create a ‘dark message’ you need to log into Twitter ads. From here, head to the ‘creatives’ tab and click ‘tweets’ or — if it’s available — click on the blue button in the top right to create a new tweet.
If you head in via the ‘creatives’ tab you’ll now have a blue button which says ‘new tweet’. That’s what we need. Once you’re there, and you get the compose tweet screen, make the sure the ‘promoted only’ check box is selected. Then it’s time to create your tweet (this bit’s up to you).
When you’re done, click ‘tweet’, and you should now see it on your screen.
So far so good. You’ve now created a tweet that is intended to be promoted, but we’re not going to do that. Instead, click the tweet’s date.
This opens the tweet in a new tab. This is the only way to access your tweet without paying to promote it. If you copy the URL you can link to it, embed it, and generally do everything you can normally do with a tweet. Here it is:
This is me testing out how dark messages work.
— The Online Rule (@OnlineRule) 12 July 2017
What does this have to do with Moments?
Remember when I said that these tweets can be used in the same way as any other tweet on the network? This includes dropping them into Moments.
To create a Moment, click on your profile image at the top when you’re logged into Twitter. You should see an option for ‘Moments’, which is where we’re heading.
From here, find the ‘create new Moment’ button on the right, and you should be greeted by this screen.
From here you can add tweets to your Moment and set a title, description, and cover image. Twitter gives you several options for adding tweets, but it’s the ‘tweet link’ one that we’re interested in here.
This box is where you need to paste the link for your ‘dark message’ that we created earlier. Once you add it, you’ll have the option to continue adding tweets. It’s up to you whether these are public or dark. You can re-order them using the arrows, or by using the ‘sort by’ option at the top of your screen.
When you’re done, you have two options: creating a public Moment that will show up on your profile, or creating a private one only accessible for people with the link. Creating a public one is as easy as clicking ‘publish’ in the top right, and creating a private one requires the menu in the top left.
Clicking ‘make Moment link only’ will do exactly that: give you a link that can be used to access your Moment. This will be the only way people can find it.
Whichever way you choose to publish it, all of your included tweets will show up for all users. You can also embed Moments, like this one below where all of the tweets from @OnlineRule were included as dark messages:
Dark messages can be used for Moments like the above, where you can provide a bit of context and narrative to a series of tweets. They could also be used for announcements if you’ve got a dedicated fanbase – I can see them being used brilliantly by football clubs to announce new signings (to add to the many creative ways they’ve already been doing so this summer).