Facebook Changed How Links Are Displayed — This is bigger than you think

by Chad Wittman on Jan 17, 2013

While most of the industry has been focused on Facebook’s new Graph Search, a quiet and new change to Facebook has taken place. Facebook has expanded the size of the thumbnail images for Links.

At first, this appears to be a small and seemingly unimportant change.

Don’t be fooled by it’s size, it’s a bigger deal than you may think.

We know that Facebook does extensive tests, examining different variables, and how it impacts bottom line usage of the site.

We also know that Facebook is in a continual effort to drive traffic and engagement. Facebook is reportedly attempting to allow users to discover more great content from the news feed, especially from links within the news feed.

Why Is This Important?

From an EdgeRank perspective, this is in important. Photos have become the go-to engagement driver in the news feed.

Typically, photos are more “fun” and more in line with what consumers chose to engage with. However, this has created an ecosystem of memes and irrelevant Page content.

Page’s are posting photos, just to post photos. I’ve spoken with some of the largest and most successful brands on Facebook and many of them have a photo only policy. If Facebook wants to mature, and not become a meme graveyard reminiscent of the current Reddit, they need to figure out a way to cut back on these memes and irrelevant photos in the news feed.

Making links more visually attractive can be one step toward that endgame.

The Game Of Engagement

Facebook analyzes the news feed continually to improve engagement.

Photos dominate engagement, but I’ve been sitting on a theory for sometime with an alternative reason for photos receiving above average engagement. Increased average engagement on photos could be the result of more visual real estate in the news feed. This could be a classic example of correlation, not causation (that photos achieve more engagement due to their content type, as opposed to their screen real estate). It is very difficult the separate the two, and it’s hard to know if Facebook has actually done the research.

The new format takes up roughly 33% more space than the original Link:

Will this cause an increase in engagement by 33%?

My guess is not quite, but I am expecting an increase in engagement for the Link content type.

Brands that heavily post links should be excited for this new change, as Facebook may have just handed you an increase in your engagement.

This should also serve as a reminder to make sure all of your brand’s content has high quality images to be used in the news feed. If people are going to take the time to link to it, make sure it encourages clicks.

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Co-Founder & VP of Product at Dolly, an iPhone and Android app that is like Uber meets U-Haul or Lyft for Moving. Former Founder of EdgeRank Checker (acquired by Socialbakers)...