Facebook Kills Ability to Modify Link Previews. Here's What to do Instead.
Not only is organic reach at all-time lows across many industries (more in our upcoming September issue, which can be found here in a couple weeks), but Facebook has announced that it has removed the ability to modify/edit/customize link metadata information (i.e., headline, description, image) for all "link sharing entry points." The social networks states that it is eliminating a channel that has been abused to post false news. Further stating:
"We also understand that many publishers have workflows that rely on overwriting link preview metadata to customize how their content appears to audiences on Facebook. We're committed to a solution that supports them."
Still, this is a less-than-ideal situation for marketers as what appears on Facebook when they are sharing a link can be irrelevant, not optimized for click through, include an image that is not the optimal size for sharing on Facebook and other elements that could impact performance. Here are a couple fixes:
1. Use Open Graph Markup: Companies relying on links to drive traffic from social media to their sites, will need to consult Facebook's documentation to use Open Graph Markup within their content management systems (CMS). Otherwise, as Facebook states, it will take a "best guess about the title, description, and preview image for your content." Facebook provides this example of a company using Open Graph Markup, as you can see the details of the post complement each other and are optimized for click through (something until very recently marketers were able to customize freely).
Using Open Graph Markup will require developer help, but all the details for implementation can be found here.
It should be noted that even publishers using Facebook Instant Articles will need to use the Open Graph tags to customize how their articles appear in the News Feed.
2. Using the Image/Video-Sharing Button Instead: While marketers are waiting for their Webmasters to implement Open Graph Markup, they can opt to share images or videos instead with the link in the caption. If you share a link to your post before uploading an image, the metadata information will appear. Rather, for images, click on add photos to upload.
After the image is uploaded, include your copy and the link (which will be clickable).
It's not an ideal format. The shorter the copy within posts often the better but unless the image itself says the article name or description, then marketers will have to include more than just call-to-action words and a link. Take a look at how the NY Times shares its videos and includes the link in the caption. Without Open Graph markup, this type of format is the only way a Page admin can control what appears in their post when sharing links.
3. Go Live Already: Page admins who prioritize video - particularly live video - on Facebook will most likely see an increase in organic reach; the format is one favored by the social media network. It is highly likely that link posts will continue to be under greater scrutiny by Facebook News Feed algorithms so that the network does not participate in helping to spread misinformation and so Facebook users stay on Facebook (versus following links outside of the network). Knowing this, marketers will need to embrace what Facebook is promoting including Facebook Live and Facebook Stories (when possible).
While Facebook Live still requires links to be included in the description (versus a clickable video), the content itself is typically more engaging versus a text or image post. Thus, the likeliness of getting a click through may be higher. With Facebook Stories, users cannot include links and the feature is only available for profiles (not business Pages) at this time. With Instagram, however, identified influencers are able to include links. With Facebook updating its branded content guidelines, it's not out of the realm of possibility that Facebook Stories could have some sort of advertiser-influencer benefits in the near future.
Kiss Your Links Goodbye
Links will continue to come under attack on networks beyond Facebook (why send people elsewhere when they can remain in-app), so continue to stay up to date with network news, try new features and be willing to change your strategies.