Improve site previews on social media by unfurling webpages

🌱October 31, 2021.
seedling 🌱
1 minute read ⏱

Use OpenGraph meta tags to provide page previews on social media

You built a website to share something valuable with people. If other people find it valuable, they will share it too, on:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Slack
  • LinkedIn

…and other platforms!

To maximize your click-through rates for social media shares, give social media users a great first impression. To help social media platforms present your content to their users, you need to help them unfurl your pages. This is done using 2 simple APIs: Facebook Open Graph HTML Markup and Twitter Cards.

Most platforms use the Open Graph API. It has 5 properties you need to know about:

  1. og:type specifies what type of content is the focus of a page. There are 6 options:
    • website - this is also the default option if no type is specified
    • article
    • profile
    • video
    • music
    • book
  2. og:url specifies your website’s Canonical URL. Think of this as the address for your front door.
  3. og:title is the title page title. This should be contextual and specific to each page. Think article title, not site title.
  4. og:description is a brief description of the page content. Use it to help people make a quick decision about if they are interested in the content. It’s a great place for a hook.
  5. og:image is used to specify a preview/thumbnail image for the page. This could be as simple as the header graphic for the page.

I wrote this note while adding unfurling content to Here’s the Open Graph code I added to the <head> of my homepage:

<meta property="og:type" content="website"/>
<meta property="og:url" content="" />
<meta property="og:title" content="Allan Deutsch" />
<meta property="og:description" content="Learning, thinking, and building in public. Notes on product, technology, and business." />

The Twitter Cards API is pretty similar. twitter:url, twitter:title, twitter:description, and twitter:image serve the same purpose as their og: counterparts. Instead of a type property, Twitter uses twitter:card which specifies a card type. There are four options:

  1. summary is used for most types of content, like blog posts, articles, websites, etc. It should provide a preview of the page content prior to a click-through. Including an image is optional.
  2. summary_large_image is similar to to summary, but with a focus on visual content.
  3. app is used for driving conversions on a mobile app.
  4. player is used to provide a media player for audio or video content.

Twitter has two other additional fields that are broadly applicable:

  1. twitter:site is used for the twitter account associated with the site - for example a link to a YouTube video would use @YouTube.
  2. twitter:creator is for the author/creator of the content on the page. This would be the YouTuber who made the video, or the author of a specific article or blog post.

On I use this code in my <head> tag:

<meta property="twitter:card" content="summary"/>
<meta property="twitter:url" content="" />
<meta property="twitter:title" content="Allan Deutsch" />
<meta property="twitter:description" content="Learning, thinking, and building in public. Notes on product, technology, and business." />
<meta property="twitter:site" content="@AllanDeutsch" />
<meta property="twitter:creator" content="@AllanDeutsch" />

Setting up Open Graph and Twitter Cards for a site improves the experience for existing users and helps reach new ones.