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Working Around Facebook Changes
Kate Gingold
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Working Around Facebook Changes

The Sprocket Report

It was only a few months ago that we showed you how to clean up ugly link previews when sharing community events and news. If you’ve tried these techniques lately, you know they don’t work any longer. Here’s why – and what you can do about it.

Last spring, when we wanted to repost news from well-meaning but sloppy websites, we simply cleaned up the ugly link preview that Facebook automatically generated. We wrote a new headline, updated the text appropriately and inserted a more eye-catching image, but we were still sending readers to the appropriate web link of the original news.

Only the bad apples had to go and spoil it for the rest of us in the barrel. To deliberately mislead and trick readers, the bad apples also changed the headlines, text and images in the Facebook preview so that when you clicked on the link, you went to a far different website than you expected.

To help control this hijacking, Facebook has taken away the ability to modify link previews. You can read about it at their Help Center. What does this mean to you? If you are using Facebook for marketing, there are two main points you need to know now.

Point #1: When sharing other people’s links

Community news and events make wonderful content for your business Facebook page. When you share local news, you get in front of folks who might never find you otherwise, especially if they in turn pass along your post. Unfortunately, too often the webpage you want to share generates a really ugly post and that throws a bad marketing pall on both them and you.

As an example, one of our clients is the Naperville Independent Film Festival. We learned about a theater that was auctioning off some really wonderful old fixtures and memorabilia that the Festival’s Facebook audience might be interested in seeing. But the link to the auction site created an unattractive blank post. We could add an image, but we couldn’t replace the blank space with an image. The best work-around we could do in a timely manner was to let the preview show part of our added image.

Facebook post with two images 

For a better looking post, we could have written our own article about the auction which included the proper link and completed it with an attractive image before posting on Facebook, but let’s be honest:  This quick share wasn’t worth the effort. Which leads us to:

Point # 2: Preparing your own links for others to share

If you want other people to share your news and events -- and of course you do! --make sure your links create useful and attractive preview posts on Facebook. Here’s another example from the Naperville Independent Film Fest. No doubt the title and summary of this video made perfect sense on someone’s laptop so they could find and share it quickly, but it makes a pretty lousy Facebook post.

Facebook post with poor title

Providing a better title and summary from the very beginning would have made a much better post for sharing, but even sophisticated websites can undermine your intentions. Some platforms automatically provide the same headline and snippet regardless of updated content. For instance, any event shared from the City of Naperville website looks exactly the same on Facebook:

Facebook post with no info

On the plus side, there is no automatic image so you can add one to make the post a little more attractive:

Facebook post with added image

Go ahead and experiment by scheduling a draft post on Facebook that uses a link to news from your own blog or website to see how it will appear. If you don’t like how it looks, talk to your web tech to see what you can do to improve it. By providing the best info and graphic from the start, you’ll make it easy for folks to share your news and you’ll look great when they do.

It’s a shame when bad apples make our work even harder than it has to be, but that’s the price for using the tool. Facebook is still a great marketing tool, so we’ll just have to adapt. If you have more questions and want help with your social media, just give us a call. We’re happy to help!

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Kate Gingold

Kate GingoldKate Gingold

I have been writing a blog with web marketing tips and techniques every other week since 2003. In addition to blogging and client content writing, I write books and a blog on local history.

Other posts by Kate Gingold
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Full biography

I have been writing a blog with web marketing tips and techniques every other week since 2003. In addition to blogging and client content writing, I write books and a blog on local history.

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