Facebook Removing Ability to Modify Link Previews

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by Kelly Googe Lucas, client marketing director

Starting 12:00am PST on Tuesday, July 18th, you will no longer be able to modify links when posting to Facebook profiles and groups. It would appear there were some unscrupulous individuals who took advantage of this feature to alter the text and images in misleading ways, misrepresenting the content they were sharing and causing considerable consternation. This is why we can’t have nice things!

At first blush it may not seem like a big deal. After all, why would regular, good folks like us want to change the photo or wording of a link we obviously liked and wanted others to see? The problem is that sometimes (way too often, in my opinion), websites don’t take the time to input the metadata needed to generate the preview graphic, headline and content, leaving you with a boring pile of nothing to post. Below is an example screen shot of a link from CNN with no metadata. Not exactly enticing you to click, is it?

Facebook Removing Ability to Modify Link Previews | bbr marketing

From the post on Facebook’s blog for developers:
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. As we make these changes, content creators maintain the ability to control how their links appear on Facebook using Open Graph meta tags. For more information on how to host and preview these changes in your CMS, please refer to our documentation. We’re also working directly with apps that support media publishers to manage this upcoming change for their clients. We will provide the tools and resources publishers and apps need to accommodate the coming changes. Our goal is to support publisher workflows and app functionality, while limiting malicious misrepresentations of underlying link content. As content customization evolves we continue to work closely with our partners to support the best tools for sharing links on Facebook.

It should be noted that this change currently only affects links posted to individual profiles and Facebook Groups. According to an update from Hootsuite, Facebook Pages won’t be affected “until a later date.” For the time-being, businesses that rely on a Facebook Page still have a bit of flexibility, but whatever that “later date” is will be here before you know it.

So what happens if you have a link that has great information you know your audience will love, but there’s no image or content that pulls into the preview? One way to work around this change is to share the link as a photo caption.

If you use a third-party platform like Hootsuite:

  • Shrink the link through the platform and X out the preview section. This leaves you with just the shortened link in message box.
  • Add in the headline to the message box and/or additional commentary about the link’s content.
  • Copy the featured image (or select an image if there are multiple) from the post to your computer and then attach the image to your post.
  • Double check the photo album where the photo will be “saved” and adjust as appropriate. We let ours default to “Timeline” but you can also create an album specific to these posts and always save there.
  • Schedule or hit share.

If posting a link directly in Facebook:

  • Shorten the link first, as some are incredibly long and will junk up the look of what you share. If nothing else, this will allow you to track link clicks, assuming this is provided via the URL shortening service you use.
  • Add the link into the message box at the top of your feed and X out the preview section if it opens.
  • Add in the headline to the message box and/or additional commentary about the link’s content.
  • Copy the featured image (or select an image if there are multiple) from the link to your computer and then add it via the photo button.
  • Double check the photo album where the image will be “saved” and adjust as appropriate.
  • Hit share and you’re good to go.

The end result of this series of actions is a prominent graphic that drops into people’s Facebook feeds. When viewing directly in the feed, the content you added and the link will display above the image. When viewing the image via a photo album, the content and link will display to the side. Be aware that while this method works most of the time for third-party platforms, it doesn’t work all the time, as other factors like tagging the source’s Facebook page can override what you attach.

Another thing to note: not only does this impact your ability to post the links of others, it also impacts their ability to share your links. Make sure your site is outfitted with a means of inputting metadata descriptions and headlines, and always add an image in your post, or at least designate a featured image in the back of the website. By doing this small bit of extra work when publishing a post, you increase the likelihood of people finding and sharing your content versus the content of others who couldn’t be bothered. Not sure how to do this or even if your site will let you? Contact your web developer and they can help you out.

What do you think – big inconvenience or meh? Let us know your thoughts on Facebook’s API change on link modifications in the comments below.

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