Facebook is changing. And we’re not talking about a little change. From Tuesday 18th of July, Facebook is removing the ability to edit a link preview before sharing a link in a post. This is the preview box that appears under a post, containing the title, description and an image. While this will have a positive impact for people using the platform, businesses and marketers may struggle with this new creative straightjacket.
Read on to find out why Facebook is making the switch, and what you can do about it.
At F8 in April 2017 – an annual Facebook conference for any developers and entrepreneurs that build products and services around the platform – a change to Facebook’s Graph API was announced. Graph API version 2.9 was rolled out, which – after 90 days – would end any user’s ability to edit previews attached to link posts.
The goal? According to Facebook, to counter the “spread of misinformation and false news” on the site. In the past few years, fake news has become a more mainstream phenomenon. So much so, it’s one of President Trump’s favourite catchphrases. Fake news is frequently used to attract clicks, with the target site benefiting from advert view and click revenue. More recently, it has come under the spotlight due to people sharing misleading and incorrect information in the 2016 US election.
However, fake news has been around for longer than you think. In 1917, a story – dubbed “the master hoax” – was published in the English-language North China Daily News. In 1925, the story was revealed to be a false report. But, at the time, the story claimed the Kaiser’s forces were “extracting glycerine out of dead soldiers”, with Britain using the slur to pull China into the war as an allied force.
The change will undoubtedly improve user experience, as spammers, scammers and clickbaiters will struggle to manipulate updates. So, people using the platform can expect more transparency, and can trust the site further as a dependable news source.
However, most people have at some point updated a Facebook link preview, as many don’t include Facebook friendly-images, titles and descriptions, and some don’t include any at all. So, we can expect a little less personalisation and polish too. Users can expect link previews with missing parts, clumsy text, incorrect images (such as the site’s logo) or no images at all.
For businesses and marketers, the ability to edit link previews has been crucial. A way to share the same things, but dress them up differently and avoid continuous repetition. For example, a pet grooming business could share multiple posts, all to their homepage, but each link preview could feature a different doggie pic. An accountant could do the same, but include different benefits in each link preview title. And who hasn’t included a new call-to-action in the link preview description, such as “visit today to claim your no-obligation quote”?
So, the question for many businesses and marketers is – how will you keep your Facebook updates fresh, especially if you don’t have much to share? Facebook does understand how important editable links are for publishers, and is working on new ways to create customised content on the platform. And have promised “tools and resources, publishers and apps need to accommodate the coming changes”.
Until these solutions transpire, content creators still have the ability to control how the automatic link preview will look directly from their CMS using Open Graph meta tags. To find out how to host and preview changes, take a look at Facebook’s documentation.
Good luck with your social media endeavours everybody. Next time you’re on Facebook, come and say hello!