Q: I’ve been hearing that I should add social media meta tags to my website. What are these and what do they do?
A: Like everything else in the social marketing space, social media meta tags are evolving rapidly.
We recommend using the Open Graph format for social media meta tags.
The basic meta tags are title, description, and image:
<meta property=”og:title” content=”The title of my page” />
<meta property=”og:description” content=”A description of my page” />
<meta property=”og:image” content=”http://www.example.com/thumbnail-location” />
Use these tags to specify the title, description and thumbnail image that appear when your page is shared in Facebook, as seen here:
Why use the tags?
If the OG tags aren’t present, then the share items will typically default to the page title (<title> tag), meta description, and images found on the page. Will the defaults look OK most of the time? Sure, but you may want to add a little more pep to your social media descriptions. For example, “I just watched this awesome video on ZappySite. Check it out!” could be a good social media description but wouldn’t make sense as a meta description. The tags are also a great way to control which thumbnail image is selected for your page – and there is no need for the thumbnail to actually be displayed on the page.
Video tags and Facebook whitelisting
For pages containing Flash videos, you can use additional special video tags. These tags look like the following:
<meta property=”og:video” content=”video url (.swf only)”/>
<meta name=”video_height” content=”300″/>
<meta name=”video_width” content=”400″/>
<meta name=”video_type” content=”application/x-shockwave-flash” />
<meta name=”medium” content=”video” />
To properly utilize video tags, your domain must be whitelisted with Facebook so that the video can play within the news stream in Facebook (request whitelisting here). The combination of whitelisting and video tags will result in all shares of that page placing a video thumbnail (including play button) within the user’s news stream.
Video tags effectively override the standard “share” experience: people will no longer click on the link directly to your site. Instead, they will stay within Facebook and play the video there. This probably makes sense if your video serves as an advertisement for your company, or if going viral is your main goal. If you would prefer for people to watch videos on your own site, this approach is not for you.
Video tags are also recognized by Google, and we have seen use of Open Graph video tags resulting in video thumbnails within Google’s listings.
Here, we’ve described the use of meta tags to control how your page looks when it is shared in Facebook. In a future post, we’ll address other powerful features of social media tags. Have a pressing social media question? Ask us in the comments!