Facebook Link Summary Snippets

December 17th, 2009
by Dustin Woodard

When you share a link on Facebook the summary text (or snippet) is usually displayed with the link. Sometimes they work well, other times they are completely random. Learn how to control exactly what shows up when a Facebook user shares a link.

Here’s an example of a link I recently shared that didn’t have ideal summary or snippet text:

Facebook Snippet

I wondered why it was such a poor summary, then I learned that Facebook uses the page’s meta description (same thing used by the search engines in displaying your page). The Webby Awards has no meta description, so Facebook tried to find the next best choice, which was the first paragraph in the code following the H1 tag.

As the user sharing the link, I can actually click on the provided summary text and alter it to whatever I like:

Facebook Link Summary

Facebook Link Summary Editing

The problem is, most Facebook users don’t realize they can change it, or are too lazy to. Plus, you’d rather feed them with the text yourself.

Solution: add a meta description tag to your pages, and make sure it is unique to the page (which will benefit your search engine display). No need to stuff keywords into your meta description because it will turn of Facebook users and it doesn’t help your search engine ranking (though limited keyword use can benefit from bolded SERPs).

Troubleshooting Facebook Snippet Displays
So you’ve got a meta description already in place, but you are wondering why the heck yours isn’t working. Here’s an example:

Google shows my meta description just fine:

Google Snippet

But Facebook shows this:

Facebook Link Summary Text

Turns out Facebook is hypersensitive as to how your display your meta tag. In my case, my meta description was written like this:
meta description facebook

Notice the capital “D” on description? Search engines don’t care, but Facebook does. Change it to lower case and it will work fine.

Solution: use
meta description facebook
This will ensure proper Facebook snippets (casin on mEta or cONtent make no difference to Facebook). After making the fix, it may take Facebook some time to recognize the new meta tag if it pulled it recently.

Facebook Links Display Title
The link display name, or title, uses the title tag of your page (same as the search engines). There is no case senstivity here so this should rarely be a problem for you. Sometimes Facebook has trouble pulling titles and descriptions, but it is more a matter of their fetching mechanism, because it usually works – try again if you do end up with something weird.

Control over Thumbnails in Facebook Links
Another frustration might be the images available in Facebook for thumbnails. The good news is you do have some control. You can add this tag to your pages if you want to provide a default image:

Facebook Thumbnails

You can also specify the medium type:
Facebook Medium Type
Valid values for medium_type are “audio”, “image”, “video”, “news”, “blog” and “mult”.

Since Facebook has such a high user-base, other services, like Digg have adopted the same policies for summaries, thumnails, and mediums.

Posted in Social Networking | Comments (3)

3 Responses to “Facebook Link Summary Snippets”

  1. Scott Bush Says:

    Ah, now that’s useful info. Unfortunately, most folks (myself included) post links on FB to pages over which they have no control. But, now I’ll be able to ensure my posts and other pages appear correctly when others link to them. Nice catch on that case sensitivity, too.

  2. Leah Says:

    The layout of our website prohibits personalizing the meta tags for each page I link to, and the generic descriptions were driving me mad. This is excellent info! Thank you.

  3. Duncan Wilccok Says:

    Thanks – really great info.

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