Great Facebook Idea: Optimized Link Images

In the immortal words of Olivia Newton-John: "Let's get practical. Practical. I wanna get practical." Or something like that, right? Oh yes, I'll let you hear my logic talk.

(Just when you thought this blog couldn't stoop any lower, I bust out an Olivia Newton-John pun. My mother would be so proud.)

When I started Social Media for Colleges, I wanted to focus solely on highlighting examples of great higher ed social media work and eschew the dime-a-dozen "Eight Ways to Increase Engagement!!!" and "How to Get More Likes the Easy Way!!!!" articles that are usually pretty much entirely useless to anyone with a week's worth of social media management experience.

But after I took a bit of a left turn last week and posted about Snapchat and its potential uses for higher ed, I was pleasantly surprised to get some good feedback on it, which made me realize that every now and then it would be OK for me to break the model of giving props to do a bit of espousing. Maybe one day I'll even get to pontificating. And then possibly even Bed, Bath & Beyond. I don't know. I don't know if I'll have enough time.

Facebook recently re-jiggered its dimension sizes for photos for what must be the 10th time in two years. Awesome. But actually, it really is awesome, because it makes the photos much larger, especially for preview images when posting links! This is a good thing, because a lot of social media managers were frustrated by the postage stamp-sized preview images and ended up posting a photo and clumsily pasting a link into the text box, which sort of worked but didn't highlight the link enough, which was the point of posting the darn thing in the first place. Not an ideal situation for anyone, really.

MAJOR TANGENT: Did you know that in an instance like "postage stamp-sized," when you are creating an attributive adjective phrase in which one of the modifiers is an open compound containing two or more words (Pulitzer Prize-winning, Pre-Cival War, etc.), you are actually supposed to use an N-dash - the medium-sized one between an M-dash and a hyphen - to signify that it is linking more than two words? It's true! But my blogging platform really sucks at using special characters, so we'll just have to muddle through with a plain old hyphen. Sorry folks! Gosh I miss my editing job sometimes. You haven't lived until you've spent eight straight hours in a silent office with nothing but a red pen and a stack of 1,000+ manuscript pages for gardening books. English Majors 4 Lyfe!

Anyway, Facebook now allows links to have images that are 400px by 209px for desktop viewing and 560px and 292px for mobile. (Yeah, that doesn't really make sense to me either, but just roll with it.) Images can definitely be larger - Facebook actually recommends that they be sized to 1200px by 627px - but the important number to keep in mind is a 1.91:1 aspect ratio so that it will scale down appropriately. John Loomer has a terrific breakdown on his blog with all the particulars.

So, if you are super into optimizing content on your own institutional website for Facebook sharing, you might want to consider now using photos that are AT LEAST 560 x 292 (and, if larger, sized with a 1.91:1 ratio) for all press releases, blog posts, etc.

But what happens when you want to share a link from an outside website, and it doesn't have a correctly sized preview image? Well, Facebook has created a handy solution! You can now upload a custom image of your own when pasting a link, which is a super duper handy feature. To do this, simply paste in the link like you normally would while composing a post, and click the "Upload image" link that appears under the preview image.

To show you the difference this makes, I'll use a personal example. Today, the new college women's soccer poll came out, and my school - University of Portland - is now ranked #5 in the country. (Yes, little UP is unbelievable at women's soccer: two D1 national championships in the past 10 years and countless national team and professional players.) I wanted to share a link to the poll, but this is what it looked like when I just pasted in the link:

Do you have a "test" Facebook page? If not, you really should. 

Do you have a "test" Facebook page? If not, you really should. 

Serviceable, but far from great, right?

Now, compare it to what I actually posted, after spending ten minutes creating a very simple custom image, optimized for size: 

Go Pilots!!! (And that's river boat pilots, not jet pilots, thankyouverymuch.)

Go Pilots!!! (And that's river boat pilots, not jet pilots, thankyouverymuch.)

Much better, right? It makes a huge difference, both for visibility in the news feed and for driving clicks - if someone clicks the preview image, it takes them to the link. I haven't done this yet, but I'm planning on creating a handful of stock images to have on hand for use when needed - pretty campus shots, something with students, an athletics one, etc.  Sometimes an actual custom image will be required, but a lot of times stock one should work just fine.

Can't tell if you need to post a custom preview image or not? Create a test Facebook page that you can use as a "playground" of sorts, where you can mess around with the formatting of posts so that they look they way you want them before you post it onto your main page. I've been doing this for years, and it has saved me many headaches.

Did you upload an optimized image onto your website and it's still not appearing properly when you try to post it on Facebook? Use the Facebook debugger, the single-greatest thing ever when it comes to fixing links for Facebook. Just paste a link in there and it magically makes things better - YouTube links that won't display a player, pages that won't show images, the growing mental health crisis in our country... really anything!

OK, well, this might be the last time I do a post like this, so enjoy it while it lasts. Or don't enjoy it, because it was pretty lame. Either way, thanks for reading it all the way to the end. You deserve a cookie!



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