Should Facebook Pages Post Links in Text Updates and Photo Descriptions?

Facebook Links

UPDATE: Facebook has updated it’s algorithm yet again… about three times. But the bottom line is this: Experiment, gather data and do what works best for YOUR objectives and YOUR audience!

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If you’ve been a Facebook page administrator for a while, you remember when Facebook decided that link posts shared by a page were not as important to fans. So they worked the edge rank so that link posts were the least likely to be shown to a large number of the page’s fans. I think the most drastic change happened around September of 2011, if I remember it correctly.

The thing about trying to control behavior, whether it’s done by Facebook, government officials or parents, is that the people they’re trying to control almost always find a way around the attempt.

“Young lady, you are not going out of the house like that!” “OK, I’ll just hide these clothes in my backpack until I’m out of the house.”

“Sugary drinks cannot be sold in large containers because the general public can’t be trusted to eat/drink healthily.” “OK, I’ll just buy two smaller containers of sugary soda.”

“Link posts are not the most engaging Facebook posts, so we’ll rank them lower in the edgerank.” (Translation: “We want people to stay on Facebook instead of being led off to your site. We’ll make sure they become the least effective post type.”) So the marketer says, “OK, I’ll just put links in text posts and photo descriptions. We want our clicks.”

I don’t blame them, Facebook is in it to make a profit (at least after their IPO), just like you and me. But I wish they would just be upfront about it.

Are you one who says, “Facebook is not about click throughs and ROI, it’s all about engagement“? Go away. I’m sort of kidding, but that kind of one-dimensional thinking is not going to get your business any results. Social media is about engagement, but then you have to work those followers down the funnel or they never mean anything.

There are several shortcuts marketers have found to make sure they make their click-through goals.

  • Post 3-4 “engagement” posts, then follow up with a link post link. Presumably, the heightened engagement on the first few posts will catapult your reach for the link post.

That may have worked for a while. But in my recent study of stats for several pages, large and small, it seems engagement on previous posts has been moved to the bottom of the criteria for how far a post reaches. The number one indicator I see for the reach metric (not for click or engagement) is post type.

  • Put the link in a photo description. This was the hot ticket back when Facebook showed images in the news feed more than any other post type. Guaranteed clicks and shares, especially if it looked something like this:

Facebook Like Image

Recently however, Facebook has decided to curb the photos’ reach in favor of plain text posts. Partly due to instances like the above image. Although photos still  garner a decent reach, it’s usually only about half the reach of plain text, in my experience. All page audiences are different, so you may see different results.

  • Put the link in a plain text post by removing the preview before clicking “post.”

Aha! You see? Whatever Facebook does to get marketers to stop posting links, we will find a way! People I respect, like Jon Loomer have argued that posting links the original way, while not garnering as much reach, will still yield the best click/engagement rate results. He says you should refrain from posting links with images or text posts.

I have to disagree with him, gauging solely on my own stats over the past six months. But as Scott Stratten says, “The only metric that matters is what your own audience does.”

My links within text posts get at least 3 times the click rate of links in photo descriptions – sometimes up to 6-7 times as many clicks per user reached. Text posts only reach about 2 times more users than photo posts. There are many variables, such as the writing quality of the update, subject matter, or photo quality. Traditional link posts? I don’t even bother, the reach and click-rate is nominal.

Here’s the typical breakdown for the pages I administrate (with anywhere from a couple hundred fans to over 600,000). Keep in mind that if a page has a ton of fans, they reach a lower percentage of them on each post. I guess that’s the law of diminishing returns at work.

I looked at the last six months of data, and ranked each post type with three criteria. I use this ranking to decide which type of post to use for promoting content, among several other criteria. I suggest you look at your data and do the same. It may turn out different than mine, and you can make the best decisions for YOUR page.

Post Type Reach Rank Engagement Rank Click Rate Rank
Text 1 2 1
Photo 2 1 2
Link 3 3 3
Video 4 4 4

In conclusion, I will continue to post my Facebook links within photo descriptions or text posts because my data shows it’s effective. And when Facebook changes their rules again, I’ll read the data and make adjustments accordingly. I’m very curious to see how Facebook’s new News Feed will affect reach and engagement. Hopefully, link posts will rise to the level of being useful again for my pages.

How about you? Do you post your Facebook links the traditional way?

P.S. Want to find out the one thing I will NEVER do?  The link is in the first comment of this blog post.

About Sarah Pinnix

Sarah Pinnix is a blogger, vlogger, new media marketing coach, and mom of three. She plots her world domination schemes from a small town in the NC Mountains. She is now full-time Social Media Marketing Specialist for an international non-profit organization.

Comments

  1. PSYCH! I will never put a link in the first comment. Only because it doesn’t work for my pages – at all. But hey, if it works for you I won’t judge!

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ’0 which is not a hashcash value.

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  2. I’m a lazy Facebooker, so I’ll probably always just link the old-fashioned way. As soon as I change my ways, Facebook will change theirs, anyway. :)

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  3. Great info!

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  4. My biggest beef is that it drives people to do unnatural behavior. For instance, the “see the link in comments” thing that people are doing so much now. That irks me. It is off-putting. Why not just let updates fly and let the community decide (by like, click, comment) what has value and what doesn’t. I actually do MUCH of my reading by seeing shared posts on Facebook.

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  5. Yeah, Kelby. I see what you’re saying. I definitely think links in text updates are not unnatural. It’s kind of like a tweet. And for Photos, it makes sense to say “Here’s a photo… if you want more information about the subject, click …” But I do have to stop at the link in the comments.

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  6. I’ve solved my problem by urging people to follow me on other social media venues.

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    Sarah Pinnix Reply:

    That’s definitely one solution, Cindy. Unfortunately, Facebook click through rate, and especially conversion rate are so high compared to the other networks for me, I can’t leave them behind. But I do advocate pushing Facebook fans to email marketing lists, and rss-email subscriptions.

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  7. The main thing here is that you found what worked for you!

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    Sarah Pinnix Reply:

    Definitely! But knowing Facebook, it will change next week :)

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Tell me what you think!