Facebook Likes to Show Instead of Tell

Facebook’s modus operandi has often been to take real world interactions and replicate them online, this time they have rolled out a change in their “Like” buttons that lets you show rather than tell.

And just in case you’ve been living under a rock as far as Facebook is concerned: A like button is a button supplied by Facebook that website owners and bloggers can place on their sites that gives users the ability to ‘like’ their content which then notifies their Facebook friends about it.

So what has Facebook changed?

Facebook is now using open graph to allow owners of like buttons to add a title, link, URL, image and description (in addition to the previous text line: “John Doe likes a link”) so that they have more real estate and higher prominence in news feeds.

The news feed is seen by the users’ friends and the information (image, text, etc) is defined by the owner of the website that the like button is on – for now.  By adding the meta tags to the HTML source code they can be picked up and used by Facebook, even though they won’t appear on the webpage itself.

New Display Changes for Likes:

  • To have their stories displayed this way on Facebook, it appears that site owners must implement Facebook meta tags in the source code with the 6 default meta tags filled out as well as the description meta tag which is optional but recommended.
  • Webmasters can now specify the target URL of the Like button, very handy for websites such as e-commerce ones where product URLs might change regularly, but where the products themselves would remain the same overall. By specifying a definite Like URL, webmasters can transfer Likes from a URL to another by keeping the target URL (in the FB meta tag) of the Like button identical.
  • Websites can tell Facebook exactly what to display, which probably won’t last long given the potential to spam the metadata as at the moment. It’s possible that you could ‘like’ an article about chocolate only to find that the story that shows up on your Facebook page is for Viagra or webcam shows – yikes!

Here’s what the meta tags look like in the source code:

It’s also possible that, from an SEO perspective, search engines may look at meta tags as most websites would be reluctant to spam meta tags that users will be able to see and search engines will know this.  Having said that, it’s still very early days for these changes and it’s yet to be seen what, if any, SEO impact they could have.

So now, instead of simply ‘telling’ your friends about this cool thing you saw you can now show it to them, making it more likely they’ll check it out and pass it along.


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