Have you ever wanted to share a link for your website on Facebook, only to discover you weren't happy with the automatically generated preview? Normally, you would just change the headline, description and pop in a better picture. But in the near future, that won't be option for many Facebook pages, and possible all of them in the future. This may sound like a minor thing, but it actually means that many website owners need to update their websites if they intend to continue using Facebook as part of a content marketing and link sharing campaign.
Over the next few weeks and months, Facebook will make changes to its Graph API, which determines how your website or app interacts with Facebook to produce link previews. Removing the ability to edit link previews is part of Facebook's larger campaign to prevent the platform's use in misinformation campaigns. But using such a sweeping measure means that regular business owners will be prevented from editing their links for legitimate reasons.
"By removing the ability to customize link metadata (i.e. headline, description, image) from all link sharing entry points on Facebook, we are eliminating a channel that has been abused to post false news," explains Matthew Robertson in a post on the Facebook Developers Blog. "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."
Facebook first announced the changes at a conference earlier this year, but these changes to editing links went into effect 90 days from that announcement. Even with the advanced notice, publishers weren't pleased as the time to implementation grew closer. Many of the comments on the Developers Blog post were negative. But since the changes have yet to be fully implemented, it's hard to know what the effect will be.
Facebook is aware of the challenges this will cause for content creators and they seem to be searching for a workaround that would satisfy all sides. Though, they say that such a solution will have to wait.
"We're working to find other solutions that allow publishers to share customized content on our platform, and we will have more to share in the coming weeks," said Robertson.
In the meantime, this change means that website owners may need to update their sites. If your site's links don't automatically fill with the proper information, then you need to update the metadata for the pages on your website. Otherwise, the automatically created link box for certain posts may not look right.
Depending on how the site is structured, this can be very easy or extremely hard. Most content management systems, like WordPress, have plugins that handle all the snippet generation for social media. These plugins will need to be updated so they meet the new guidelines from Facebook. So long as your plugin developer is up to date and your plugin has the latest version, everything should be fine.
However, if a site doesn't have automatically generated snippets or they were highly customized for the old format, then the site may need an overhaul to make sure all the pages have proper previews. Either way, it's important to know your site's status.
Remember, having the correct preview on social media isn't just about the business's social media page. If someone visits a site and tries to share a link with their friends, it's important that the automatically generated preview creates the best impression. This is how things spread on social media. Without an interesting headline, description and image, most people aren't going to pay attention to or click on the link.
So make sure your site is ready for changes to Facebook's Open Graph. It may sound all technical, but the implications for your business's advertising and marketing campaigns are big.
For more recent news about social media marketing, read this article on the benefits of using social media to spread video content.