Facebook Changes Some Like Buttons to Show News Feed Story Previews

Facebook is testing a change of the interface of Like buttons that allow comments, such that users are shown a preview of the story that will be published, complete with image and caption. Previously, users only saw a text input field for adding their comment. This tested interface let users comment with confidence, knowing they won’t be repeating what’s already included in the caption or image.

If Facebook rolls out Like story previews, it could result in users publishing more compelling stories that would send additional referral traffic to sites that implement Like buttons with commenting functionality. Alternatively, seeing a preview of their story could lead users to think twice and retract their Like, especially if sites don’t properly use Open Graph meta tags to populate stories with the right images or text.

While the change is relatively subtle, there’s a large potential impact since over 2.5 million websites have implemented Facebook’s social plugin including the Like button. If Facebook finds the change significantly increases Like button clicks or referral traffic driven by their news feed stories, it might roll the change out to all Like Buttons.

At the end of February, Facebook made a significant modification to all implementations of the Like button. Each click of one began generating a full news feed story, rather than the one-line activity feed story that was less visible, less, compelling, and which drove fewer clicks. Before, a full story was only published if users added a comment via a drop-down input field upon clicking Like.

For reference, users are given the option to add a comment after clicking any Like button built off of XFBML, or any iframe Like button using the standard layout style with a minimum width of 400 pixels. Only the alternative button_count and box_count iframe layouts, or standard layouts smaller than 400 pixels don’t give users the option to comment. For more information on implementing the Like button on websites and publishing additional news feed stories to those that click them, check out our Facebook Marketing Bible entries, “The Like Button Style Guide“, “How to Choose Open Graph Tags That Maximize the Value of Your Like Buttons“, and “The Like Button Placement Guide“.

Now, when users click Like buttons with the option to comment that are part of the test, they’ll see a hover card-style popup with a text input field, and a preview of what will be shared including the story’s headline, URL, and caption. The story previews are similar to the publisher pop up users see that Facebook requires applications to show when they prompt users to post a story.

Similar to those previews, but different from what happens when users copy and paste a URL into Facebook’s standard news feed publisher, users aren’t allowed to edit the any of the pre-populated text or choose a different image.

The preview is important to making sure users only share what they intend to. For instance, if users clicked a Like button on a news story with multiple image, the Like story preview will show them which image will be included in their post.

The Like story previews increase transparency in sharing, which Facebook encourages across the board. Giving users more confidence in clicking the Like button is a good thing, whether it increases or decreases clicks, but its Facebook’s choice whether to roll the previews out further.

[Thanks to Amit Lavi for the tip]