What You Need to Know about How Facebook Displays Links

Jess Erickson

November 13, 2013

This post is part of the ongoing Distribution series. Every week the 500 Distribution Team highlights actionable resources for marketing your startup. Get even more tips by following @500Distribution on Twitter and subscribing to our email newsletter.

If you use Facebook at all  – if you don’t, wtf? –  you know  images rule Newsfeed. They look better than any other kind of content, and people are much more likely to share an image than a status update or link. Have you ever shared a status update? Probably not.

For startups looking to broaden their reach, uploading funny, insightful, or inspirational images (usually with text overlaid) is a great way to drive more people to a Facebook page and build an audience. But a potential downside is that people who come to your page through shared images might never actually click on the links you want them to. Even if you include an external link above an image (probably to your startups’ blog or product page), there’s little incentive for people into this after they’ve already shared or liked the image.

So why not just post a link directly the content you want people to see? The main reason: it used to look like crap on Facebook.

Here’s a link I shared back in August on the 500 Startups Facebook page.

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 3.28.12 PM

2,626 people saw it, but only 7 clicked the like button (a pathetic .0026%). According to Bufferapp, only 27 people clicked through. Not ideal.

Thankfully, doing this doesn’t look awful anymore. Here’s what it looks like now:

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 3.48.56 PMIt’s almost indistinguishable from an image upload, and clicking any part of the image takes you directly to the content. The really great thing is that you can upload your own custom image instead of using the automatically-generated preview. Just click on the “upload image” option after you paste a link.

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 3.47.52 PM

In order to see this option, Facebook has to receive information from your link to automatically generate a thumbnail, so be sure there’s at least one image on your destination page. (In this case, it’s the beautiful face of 500’s resident firefighter, George Kellerman)

So why’s this a big deal? While Facebook engagement is great, it’s mostly a vanity metric that makes you feel good. Likes and shares won’t do much for your company if people never actually click through to your content. Since Facebook links now look almost identical to images, you can “trick” people into clicking through by uploading a good custom image.

For example, I recently posted a link to our AngelList page (we’re accepting applications for our first SF batch BTW!) and used this image:


157 people clicked on the image and went through to our application page, and we saw a jump in submitted applications that day.

Regular images still have a place on Facebook, but if your goal is to get people to click through to an external site, pasting the link and uploading a custom image might be your best bet.

You should test out both to see what works best, but it’s nice to know that linking directly looks pretty good now. How you noticed a difference in how your Facebook content performs now that link previews look better? Let us know below.

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