At the weekend, I blogged about how great images were vital if you wanted to stand out on Facebook. They don’t need to be photos which photographers have spent hours creating, just images which make you stop pressing the down cursor or make your finger hesitate on your mobile screen.
For a long time, any digital journalist worth his or her lunch has known that Facebook posts do much better with a strong image attached to them, and preferably some compelling text explaining why people should click a link or reply to you. Just posting links or – worse still – having some automated system set up which enables Tweets to be copied across to Facebook whenever you use the #fb hashtag just don’t do anything anymore.
After all, would you respond to an advert if it was abundantly clear the advertiser couldn’t be bothered trying to talk directly to you? D
Anyway, Facebook clearly agrees as it announced in a recent post that it was changing the way it weighted posts from Facebook pages in favour of those which had more than just text:
As a result, the latest update to News Feed ranking treats text status updates from Pages as a different category to text status updates from friends. We are learning that posts from Pages behave differently to posts from friends and we are working to improve our ranking algorithms so that we do a better job of differentiating between the two types.
This will help us show people more content they want to see. Page admins can expect a decrease in the distribution of their text status updates, but they may see some increases in engagement and distribution for other story types.
Facebook’s advice on the best sort of status update is typically vague, although it does throw out this nugget of advice:
The best way to share a link after this update will be to use a link-share, so it looks like the one below. We’ve found that, as compared to sharing links by embedding in status updates, these posts get more engagement (more likes, comments, shares and clicks) and they provide a more visual and compelling experience for people seeing them in their feeds.
Facebook, in my experience, talks a good fight about wanting to work with publishers but then tends to keep its best advice under lock and key, so this is actually unusually candid for them …. and potentially huge news for publishers.
It means, to start, that this button becomes the most important button on your page:
(I’m hoping the advert above the headline isn’t a targetted campaign aimed at 30-something men!).
Anyway, notice the Facebook button. Facebook is saying click the share button, and then add your message to readers on Facebook, and you should see better results. That makes sense to me, but in my experience, goes against the way many journalists post links – with many preferring instead to take the link and insert it manually on a Facebook page.
It also places an incredible importance on strong images within your article, as Facebook tends to pull those in and gives a choice of which one to highlight.
For me, one of the biggest weaknesses many publishers have is around images. When looking for great images of the storms for a recent blog post, it took me much longer than a thought. Images, it would seem, are still treated as an afterthought by many. Since the websites I work with moved to a new design, created by a brilliant designer called Chris Lam, the emphasis has very much been on strong images.
Thanks to Facebook, getting images right on your web page is now utterly essential if you are to improve your chances of getting your content in front of your Facebook fans.
That’s no bad thing. Unintentionally, Facebook may have just forced us all to make web pages brilliant.