Facebook Image for Social Media

Facebook is Changing Link Previews: What You Need to Know

Facebook has been raked over the coals for its part in perpetuating fake news, and a lot of that comes from the way scammy pages have manipulated the Facebook link previews. In a June 29 release, the social media giant announced that it would soon be making a change to one part of what they felt was helping spread that misinformation – link previews will be changing.

Those of us who have been in the social media business for a long time remember the days when changing the link preview wasn’t an option, and the social network is taking a step back in that direction. Coming soon, when you share a link on your Facebook Page, you will no longer be able to alter things like the headline, the link description, or the image that is attached to that link.

Facebook isn’t foolish – they know that publishers have relied on being able to alter those pieces, and they’re committed to a solution that works for everyone. Let’s take a look at what you can do now to make sure your site is Open Graph optimized and ready for this change. It’s not nearly as difficult as one might think.

What is Open Graph?

Even if you aren’t familiar with the term “open graph,” if you are on Facebook, you’ve seen it in action. Putting it simply, the Open Graph Protocol is what tells Facebook how to display information from your website. At a minimum, it tells it how to pull in the page title, the type (video, audio, image), the image URL that represents what you’re sharing, and the URL itself. It is how Facebook pulls in the description of the page you are sharing.

Open Graph puts you in control with regard to how your links look when they are shared on Facebook. If you do not have Open Graph tags on your post or site, Facebook’s crawler is going to crawl your page or post, look for what it thinks might work, and then use whatever information it pulls on its own.

The Facebook Link Preview Parts That Are Changing

While it may be review for many readers, I wanted to take the time to go over the parts of the link preview so that some of the more visual amongst us have a solid grasp about what is pulled in from Facebook Open Graph Link ExampleOpen Graph tags on Facebook. In this image example, you can see that I simply put in the link to this site as a potential post and the link preview populated.

The image of my logo is pulled in because that is what I have in my settings as the default image. If I don’t manually specify an image to override that logo image, my website settings will default to using this image when Facebook crawls my Open Graph data.

Right below that it says “The Marketographer”. This is the page title of my homepage.  This is pulled in when my page is shared by anyone on Facebook. While I can change this title now when sharing to Facebook (and make that change in Facebook itself), once the new changes have been implemented, I will only be able to change that title on website for future posts and pages.

Right below that is the description of my page. This is also in my Open Graph data. This, too, is something we have been able to change on Facebook, but will only be able to change on our sites going forward.

Search Results

Looking at the search results image to the right, you’ll see that the information above is entirely the same as the information in my Open Graph. For the majority of small businesses and photographers, this will be the case. Usually your website defaults to having whatever the meta data is for the page function as the Open Graph information given to Facebook.

When You Want Specific Open Graph Information

If you have gotten in the habit of blogging and just changing any of the above information when you share your posts, you need to change your habit. I use WordPress and the Yoast SEO plugin on my sites. So the next example is going to include screenshots of those tools. Everyone has a different content management system, so if you aren’t sure if you need to make changes, you should reach out to them (Squarespace, Wix, etc) for detailed instructions if needed.

Once the changes have been implemented, the way you’ll be able to change what your URL looks like in Facebook is via your website itself.  Go through all of your Pages that are static (i.e., you don’t change them regularly and make sure your metadata reads the way you’d like it to. For most people who have their page titles and descriptions already written with keywords and in order, no change will be needed. Those pages will continue to populate the way they should, much like my Marketographer screenshot above.

With blog posts, however, you want to create a URL preview that is written well for Facebook. Now, you can create one description that works well for Facebook and for your longer-term SEO goals. That would be the easiest, but there are people (myself included), who like to use different styles of writing for different audiences. For example, Facebook audiences and Twitter audiences are quite different in the way they consume and share.

With Yoast SEO as my plug-in on my WordPress site, I can easily write the descriptions I want for SEO and my social networks before I publish my post. Then, whenever that link is shared on it’s respective place, the specified copy and image will populate as it should.

Facebook Preview in YoastHere is how my post looks now that I’ve written it and I’ve made the changes to my title and description. This is the title and description that search engines will pull up and if I didn’t want to change anything for Facebook or Twitter, this is what would pull up as the link as well. It used to be that you could leave this alone, then share the link to Facebook and make changes there before publishing the post. That’s the part that is going away. So, I decided to change the way this post will look on Facebook. Changing Facebook Metadata As you can see in this next screenshot, I chose to make the copy a little more enticing, so that a reader who might not be as familiar will be able to see what the post is about within a quick glance. To do this in Yoast, I simply click on the sharing area and it does the work for me. Now that I have this information designated, when this link is shared on Facebook, this title and description will override the basic metadata that Google will show, and show this one instead.

Yoast Metadata for Twitter

I know a lot of photographers don’t like to use Twitter, but I do, so I’ve also clicked on the Twitter tab to create different copy for that audience, as well.  Twitter has limited characters, and I know that my audience there is likely to remember the days when we couldn’t modify link previews anyway. Hence, I’ve chosen copy that acknowledges that.

You can see in both of these that I could also upload a new image if I wanted to, but I like the image I’ve chosen for the post, so I’m leaving that blank. All the social sites will pull in that default image. However, if you do want to use a specific image for your post and you don’t want Facebook to pull in the first image in your blog post by default, you should upload the image that you want Facebook to show here. Don’t forget that image choice is a HUGE factor in how well your content performs on Facebook.

Key Takeaways on Modifying Facebook Links

Changing your Facebook link information before you publish your blog post will take about the same time (at least in WordPress with Yoast) on the backend as it did in Facebook itself. It’s really a minor change that shouldn’t create much, if any, extra work for photographers and small businesses.

For the most part, this will only affect your blog posts and shouldn’t mean anything for your static website pages. But, it’s still a good reminder to go back and make sure that your static pages reflect what you want to be shown on social networks when and if they are shared. Make sure that the copy used is social media friendly, and that the images are what you like.

As a bonus tip, remember that you can always paste your links into the Facebook Link Debugger and see how Facebook itself views your open graph data when a link is shared. This tool should be your first stop if you ever find yourself asking, “Why does this page look like this when I share it on Facebook?”



An Intro to UTM Tags in Photography Marketing

When it comes to photography marketing, a lot of photographers struggle with how to get started. I don’t blame them. If marketing isn’t your first language, there is a lot of information to absorb and it isn’t always easy to understand what to prioritize.  One of the ways to help make those priorities more clear is to look at your data.

Website Analytics for Photographers

My favorite analytics platform is Google Analytics. It’s free, and once you get started you’ll find it fairly straightforward to use. Most content management systems (CMSs) have their own analytics solutions, as well. For example, if you use WordPress (as I do), you might have Jetpack installed and you can see your site stats at a glance when you log-in to the Dashboard.

Built-in analytics are great for a glance every now and then, but for your measuring and decision making, it’s important to get comfortable with something more robust. Google Analytics also syncs with your website management tools, like Search Console and Google Adwords. You might not use all of those services, but in the event that you do later on, everything can be integrated.

Measuring Photography Marketing Efforts in Social Media

There are a lot of data points to consider in looking at your analytics, but this post is going to focus on UTM tags. UTM tags are easy to use and they work seamlessly with Google Analytics to help you understand where your traffic is coming from, how that traffic is getting there, and why those visitors are arriving at your site.

This is especially important when it comes to social media traffic. For example, if you just look at the facebook referral trafficSource/Medium column, you can see any number of referrals from the same site. In this example, you see that there are four different versions of Facebook referrals showing up in Google Analytics. While we can add those all up and come up with a number of visitors that are on our sites, it doesn’t tell us any more information.

This is where UTM tags shine. UTM stands for “Urchin Tracking Module” and it adds pieces of information to your URLs that help you identify the way your traffic is coming into your site. These tags can be high-level and show you where your traffic is coming from or they can be hyper-detailed, and allow you to track how much revenue comes from a specific blog post or tweet. I personally love using this kind of data to reconcile data from what one social network is telling me in their analytics with what is happening on my site. For example, Facebook Ads insights might tell me how many clicks they’re sending to my site, but UTM tracking and analytics might prove that an ad that drives the least amount of traffic also converts the highest amount of revenue. Or, that I get more email signups from traffic that comes via Twitter than Facebook. UTM tags can also tell me which photo on Instagram is driving the most traffic, or which blog post is responsible for the majority of my inquiries.

In short, there is a wealth of information derived from tracking your traffic. A little bit of foundational work in the beginning will your photography marketing efforts much simpler as time goes on. 

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Photography Marketing: Increasing Facebook Reach

It’s true, Facebook organic reach isn’t what it used to be. While it is certainly frustrating, the reality is that it isn’t all that different from any other aspect of photography marketing. Think about it for a bit; every marketing tactic eventually morphs and we have to adapt. I’ve been working in Facebook marketing for business for almost 10 years now. The suggestions I have below are lessons learned, many of them from my own mistakes, over that time.

As someone who has been there, I’d like to encourage you to channel the energy you have with frustration into creating solutions. Today’s post is about that – looking at creative ways to increase your organic Facebook reach.

The best piece of advice I can give you is this: Don’t beat the algorithm – impress it. You can’t change the algorithm, but you can work within it’s confines. Just like SEO, social media is equal parts arts and science. If you live by the rule that your strategy should be centered around providing the best user experience, you’ll probably be okay.

Why Facebook Reach Has Changed

In order to tackle any challenge, you have to understand what is happening to create the challenge. Think about how many Facebook friends you have and think about all the Pages you like on Facebook. On average, there are about 1,500 different posts competing for a spot in a user’s News Feed. For some people, there could be as many as 15,000 Pages publish an astonishing 3 million links per hour on Facebook. When you start thinking about the numbers, you realize that the decline in reach is logical.

Put yourself in the position of a Facebook user and not a Facebook Page owner and think about what your experience would be like if you saw almost every update from almost every friend and every Page that you liked. The entire platform would be frustrating and soon it wouldn’t be an effective place to market, paid or otherwise.

Track Your Facebook Insights – Make Strategic Decisions

Are you using data to make strategic decisions about your Facebook posts? Sure, what we observe is incidental, but it isn’t until you start reviewing the numbers over time that you get a true sense of what you can accomplish. If we just go by what we see on a daily basis, it’s easy to trick your mind with a set of facts that aren’t really facts. Data doesn’t lie, however, so it’s important to use Facebook Insights (and hopefully Google Analytics) regularly – at least monthly.

Some of the metrics you should be paying attention to: time of day your fans are most active, the posts with the most engagement, and the posts that caused more people to hide or unlike your page, or that were marked as spam. Believe it or not, you can usually learn more from when people have a negative reaction to your posts than you can when they love a post.

Build Facebook Community and Engagement

Many of the photography marketing I see is “push marketing.” Photographers use Facebook as a way to push, push, push at their audience without providing anything of value to their following. What I mean by “push” is that their Facebook Page is a spot where they only promote. They don’t use the platform to receive (pull) from their audience. It isn’t a community feeling with dialogue – it’s a one-way conversation (a/k/a push messaging) about what services the photographer offered, photos of sessions they completed, and maybe a couple of blog posts on their own blog.

What if, instead of always talking about yourself and your business, you started offering additional value? We take for granted the education we have in our photography businesses, easily forgetting that to our clients, we’re the experts.  Try sharing stories and links that add value for your clients:

  • Link to a Pinterest board with ideas for how to dress for a family session
  • Share blog posts from other photographers that you found interesting or valuable. Add your own feedback as the status update (and be secure enough to know that it’s okay to show others’ work)
  • Ask for their feedback about what kind of sessions they’d like in the future; everyone likes being heard
  • When sharing a photo from a session, compliment the subject and educate the others. For example, “We loved how relaxed the whole family is in this shot, allowing us to capture them as they usually are. Booking an extra half hour allows everyone to feel less rushed, less pressure, and get a little more comfortable in front of the camera so we can get shots like this one!”

Fan Abandonment Decreases Your Facebook Reach

One of the other mistakes I see in photography pages on Facebook is what I call “fan abandonment.” Photographers will post something, but then never respond to the person who comments. There are a few benefits to staying engaged. The first and foremost reason is that it’s polite. How would you feel if you gave someone a compliment and they didn’t thank you or respond?

The second reason is that the Facebook algorithm looks at engagement rates to determine it’s time decay and freshness factors. It doesn’t care if the response is from the Page or another person – it’s a response. Even commenting with something like a “thank you” on a comment helps increase that engagement factor. Don’t abandon your fans when they take the time to comment on one of your posts.

“Be Interested and Interesting”

I’m a social introvert and if I’m being completely honest, in-person networking is something I struggle with. Once I’m at an event or workshop, I’m perfectly fine. The time leading up to it, though, can be a challenge. My other half is an extrovert and improviser who is energized by being around people. One of the best pieces of advice he gave me to help me become comfortable and in-the-zone a little faster is “Be interested and interesting.”

If you’ve read any Dale Carnegie, like How to Win Friends & Influence People, the concept will already be familiar. For me, I employ this whenever I’m just getting started at an event. I have a few questions that serve as my go-to questions to get a conversation started. They’re all about the other person, and during that time, I can look for little pieces of that conversation that connect us. Usually, I only make it to my second question before the conversation has naturally taken off.

The same concept applies to your Facebook Page: Are you sure that what you are about to post is actually interesting to the people who are going to see it?

Confession time – 75% of the time, the photographers I see struggling the most with their Facebook marketing are the ones who just aren’t being interesting. It’s a difficult thing to talk about, because the photographers themselves are interesting, their work is interesting, and they do have an interesting angle to share. Yet they just aren’t tapping into the minds of their clients.

As a photographer, I love looking at the work of other photographers. As a client, I’m not always that interested in photos of weddings or children or headshots. It’s not about me. It doesn’t help me with photos of me in the future. That said, as a client, I also tolerate a fair amount of photography marketing if the mix of what is posted does somehow pertain to me, my family, my photos, my future sessions, etc.

Don’t be surprised if people do not ooh and ahh over every photo you post. Think of your Facebook photos the way you would your portfolio: choose one or two of the very best images from each session or wedding or every travel stop. Evoke emotion. I don’t even look at every photo my sister posts of my super-loved niece and nephew sometimes. Chances are I am not going to look at every photo in an album full of Joe Schmoe and his family either.

Facebook Video, Facebook Video, Facebook Video!

One of my favorite tactics for jump-starting a photographer’s organic reach on Facebook is to get them on the video bandwagon. Not that long ago, Facebook really revamped their video platform while at the same time downgrading links shared from YouTube and Vimeo. Video is (more and more) an important part of photography marketing.

With a jillion different apps available or a site like Animoto, you can create a nice highlight reel and upload it as a video to Facebook. Because Facebook is really pushing their video services, the algorithm has native video ranking higher than photos or links. You can use still photos in the video, as well.

Here are some video ideas to share with your audience:

  • Favorite photos from the month, capped at about 20-30 seconds
  • Highlights from a season (wedding season, mini sessions, holidays)
  • Yearly highlights
  • Your own photo tips – (i.e, Hey clients, here’s how to get decent point-and-shoot composition!)

These suggestions are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Facebook strategy and using it to promote your work. Remember, there are a million ways you can capitalize on the power of Facebook. Even $25-50 a month can bring in thousands of dollars in revenue per year, if you understand how to utilize psychographic targeting and grow your fan base. You can also use it to grow your email marketing list, do competitive research, test out different promotions – the opportunities abound. But like anything in marketing, we have to adapt to the changes and implement creative solutions.

SEO Basics for Photographers: Keyword Research

For a few reasons, one of my favorite disciplines in digital marketing is SEO. A little self-education in SEO can go a long way, for one. When done well, SEO can help reduce the amount of money you spend on other areas of marketing, like pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, Facebook Ads, and so on. When I work with photographers, one of the common misconceptions is that SEO is primarily about keywords.

Keywords are an important part of SEO, but they are far from being the biggest component to effective SEO. I think a lot of photographers want to learn more about the practice of SEO, but are overwhelmed by all of the technical jargon. This post is the first in a series I’m calling “SEO Basics for Photographers,” in which I’ll walk you through learning SEO, but with a photography focus. Hopefully being able to see how it works for your business will make SEO a little more valuable and lot easier to tackle.

The Infinite Value of Keyword Research and the Keyword Mistakes Most Photographers Make

Keyword research is one of the best things you can do for your photography business. By diving into keyword research, you will learn which terms and phrases you should be targeting in your SEO, but you can also learn a wealth of information about your customers in the process. You don’t just want people to visit your website, you want the right kind of people to visit your website. It’s better to have 1000 people per month who are highly likely to book with you, than it is to have 10,000 people who might not be the right fit. Keyword research provides business intelligence that can help you make better decisions about what products you’re offering, when to put a certain type of session up for promotion, and what part of your business brings in your ideal clients.

Most the mistakes that photographers make with their keywords are:

  • Aiming to rank for keywords that are too general and broad (“wedding photography,” “senior portraits”)
  • Keywords with too much competition, so it’s fighting an uphill battle
  • Keywords with a search volume that is too low
  • Trying to rank for just one keyword at a time, and not going after multiple themes or keywords

Understanding Where Keywords “Fit” in the SEO Landscape

When it comes to SEO, there are two major areas into which the technical factors fit: on-page SEO, and off-page SEO. On-page SEO factors are things like having properly optimized images, the content on your page, how you link to other parts of your website, and yes, what keywords are used.