Making Your Content Facebook-Friendly

I’ve noticed when posting links to my Facebook account that some web pages do not display as they should. The Post Link function in Facebook uses the Title tag content of a given web page for the wording of the hyperlink it displays and uses the Meta Description tag of a given page for the accompanying explanatory text.

That’s how it’s supposed to work. But some sites, like the Pioneer PressTwinCities.com site, do not display this information. Instead, the posted links generate only domain name information, like so:

Facebook-Friendly Content Post Link Example - 03/01/09

I did some testing to try and discover why TwinCities.com content displays as it does but I’m stumped. The pages to that site use unique Title and Meta Description tags, so there’s no apparent reason why they do not display in the Post Link function. The only thing I can think of is some of the ample JavaScript on the page is creating an obstacle.

Whatever the reason, the problem highlights the importance of paying close attention to how and where your content is used and what it looks like when redistributed.

People have been sharing links to online content long before the advent of social networks like Facebook; it’s just that these networks make it much easier to do so.

Because of this, it is important that your content display as well as possible in all of these channels. As you can see in the above illustration, the link to the Pioneer Press story hardly makes you want to click on it. The members of my network with whom I share such links would be far more likely to click on that link if the wording of it included the actual headline to the story, rather than “www.twincities.com.”

That may only result in a few page views but it’s a few page views more than they would have had otherwise and throughout a network, those page views add up and have a direct effect on the bottom line in terms of advertising effectiveness: The more page views, the more chances for someone to click on an advertiser’s banner. And, I might add, the more compelling the headline, the more likely members of my network will be to share that story with members of their own network.

UPDATE 5/19/09: Gregg Hilferding has written a great, specific, and short blog post about the mechanics of optimizing your content for Facebook Share.

UPDATE 3/2/09: I am no longer as stumped as I was as to why Facebook displays some links poorly. I just tried to post a couple of links to my Facebook account from this and my . I’ve never encountered this problem when posting links from these blogs but I did just encounter the formatting problem with both of my blogs.

I waited a half hour and then tried again and this time, the links formatted normally with an accurate title and description. That, then, indicates that the problem is not with the page of the URL you post, but a glitch with Facebook’s Post Link function.

While that problem is solved, the more broad point remains as important as ever: Be aware of how your content is delivered through all channels.

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About David Erickson

David Erickson is principal of e-Strategy Media, a digital marketing consultancy based in Minnesota. David has extensive experience in digital marketing and is often used as an expert source by media and asked to speak on the topic before organizations and to sit on panel discussions.