It has been said that the only constant in this world is change. In the world of social media, this is especially true. In that vein, Facebook recently made a major change for how content is displayed when shared. It is no longer possible to set link preview customizations for content that is not your own. Furthermore, to set customizations for links that are yours, you must verify your domain with Facebook.
The bottom line takeaway for brands is you MUST set a featured image, create a title tag, and write a meta description when programming your blog, or webpage, to your website. Hang in there and we’ll explain further….
Title Tags, Meta Descriptions, and Featured Images
When you program content to a website–whether it is a static part of your website or a blog–you should always set a custom meta title and meta description. That doesn’t have to be as scary as it sounds!
The meta title defines the title of the particular web page. By setting this title intentionally, rather than hoping search engines appropriately infer the title, you are ensuring that when your webpage returns in search results, it is descriptive and the user understands what your page is about. It also has value as you strive for favorable Search Engine Optimization (SEO) of your website. Furthermore, this is highly relevant to the recent Facebook change because this determines what Facebook will display as the title of your content. You can no longer change it when programming the post.
Similarly, the meta description is succinct copy that explains what the page is about. This is usually one or two very descriptive sentences (between 50-300 characters). If you do not set this intentionally, search engines and social media platforms will infer what the meta description should be. Often, this means the first copy on the page is used.
The featured image is even more simple to set. Most website Content Management Systems (CMS) have the ability to assign a featured image. WordPress is especially user friendly and makes it easy! If you do not set a featured image, your post will display without one–which is a really big (and bad) deal. People on social media often “eat with their eyes” and respond to content with eye-catching imagery. In the absence of an image, you can expect they will keep scrolling.
Why would Facebook make this change?
Other platforms already had this rule in place, like Google+, so this isn’t completely groundbreaking to those who work within social media marketing. However, it is groundbreaking for those who were used to the more slack rules on Facebook when it came to images and descriptions. This rule helps ensure that previews of content accurately represent the content, when shared by others and avoids misrepresentation of content.
This also loosely relates to the idea of click bait. Have you ever read an article headline on Facebook, clicked, and discovered the actual content was only loosely related (at best) to the headline that encouraged you to click in the first place? Clickbait is hugely frustrating for a user and creates a negative experience for them on Facebook and beyond.
Since social media has been under fire for having a role in “fake news” and “clickbait” content, we aren’t surprised that Facebook has taken a steps towards ensuring increased integrity in the content shared.
What should you do in response to this change?
First, ensure your website has the basic “behind the scenes” functionality needed to easily set a featured image and custom meta data for each web page or blog you create. If you are using WordPress, the featured image functionality is inherent. You can also add plugins that allow for a user-friendly experience when setting title tags and meta descriptions. Yoast SEO is one such platform we see regularly used. If your website CMS is Expression Engine, an option is SEO Lite.
Once your website allows for this information to be easily added, you must commit to programming each webpage and blog post with a succinct and descriptive title tag and meta description. Additionally, always remember to set a featured image. You need to be on your best behavior with programming content to your own website.
After that, verify your domain with Facebook so you still have the option of setting a custom image, title, and description when sharing your own content. One social media management tool, Buffer, has created a guide for how to do this. It isn’t hugely complicated but does require a Facebook Business Manager Account and access to the root folder of your website.
If you’re unsure about any of this, we’d love to talk you through the specifics and help you continue to create great posts that display well and positively reflect your brand! If you still feel a bit lost or overwhelmed by what these changes mean for you and your organization, please reach out!